In the earlier days of this website, publisher Ricci had inaugurated my multiple CD Reviews "Bailey's Bundles." This column has been dormant for some time and now I am resurrecting it. Music writers are inundated with music for review. I think that it is important to respond to as many submissions as possible. Columns like "Bailey's Bundles" enable me to address more music, hopefully providing the submitting artists the consideration and exposure they, and the reading/listening public deserve. So, here are a dozen recent releases that warrant your listening attention.
David Benoit and Russ Freeman
The Benoit / Freeman Project II
(Peak Records 8525)
Ten years ago contemporary jazz darlings David Benoit and Russ Freeman released The Benoit / Freeman Project (GRP, 1994) to favorable reviews. It was a superb Smooth Jazz offering with broad appeal. The Benoit / Freeman Project II has even more to offer in the way of appeal. Both Benoit and Freeman have made their fair share of forgettable recordings, but The Benoit / Freeman Project II is not one of them. Like all Smooth Jazz, this recording is plushly produced and engineered, with all rough edges sanded smooth and all wrinkles ironed out. The grand sum of this production is a sumptuous presentation of Russ Freeman's nylon-string guitar in particular and his plectral offerings in general and Benoit's liquid electric piano. The lion's share of the pieces are written by the pair, with Freeman favoring Latin shades ("Club Havana") while Benoit prefers the urban edge ("Stiletto Heels"). This recording will please both fans of Benoit and Freeman and Smooth Jazz.
Uri Caine Trio
Live at the Village Vanguard
(Winter & Winter 910 102)
Uri Caine is a very busy man. Aside from being one of the most in-demand pianist working, Mr. Caine has multiple projects of his own that range from classical, jazz, jazzical , avant-garde...and the straight-ahead jazz piano trio and it is in this format that Caine chooses to record at NYC's fabled Village Vanguard. Joined by bassist Drew Guess and drummer Ben Perowsky, Caine plows his uniquely cerebral way through an assembly of six originals and four standards that prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Uri Caine is the most important jazz pianist since Herbie Hancock. Caine and trio open the disc with an angular and lengthy reading of Wayne Shorter's "Nefertiti." Caine bounces through "I Thought About You," playing Harlem Stride, Chicago Boogie, and NYC Loft all at once. The pianist's own "Stiletto" is craggy Free jazz with a brain. Live at the Village Vanguard is Uri Caine's best straight-jazz offering since Blue Wail.
Monk 'Round the World
On the heels of the well-received Monk in Paris: Live At the Olympia , Monk 'Round the World further reveals the treasure trove of unreleased material in the Thelonious Monk Archives. While not as neat a package as Live at the Olympia , 'Round the World nevertheless delivers historic performances of six of Monk's most enduring compositions, all featuring Monk's favorite reed man, Charlie Rouse. These performances are culled from concerts in Monterey, Paris, Copenhagen, and Stockholm in the early 1960s. the sound of the recordings range from excellent to good, with the Stockholm "Bemsha Swing" and "Hackensack" Being outstanding in every way. Bright spots include drum solos by Frank Dunlop in "Bemsha Swing" and Charlie Rouse's Trio turn on "Hackensack." "Blue Monk" provides some superb walking blues bass by Butch Warren. Monk is Monkquirky and brilliant, both attributes being illustrated on the enclosed DVD of Monk London performances of "Rhythm A Ning," "Nutty," "Criss Cross."
Frank Vignola / Joe Ascione
The Frank and Joe Show: 33 & 1/3
The Frank and Joe Show is a gentle throwback to the small-group swing music of the 1920's and '30s. Vignola is a superb guitarist in the mold of John and Bucky Pizzarelli, Howard Alden, and the Gypsy himself. Joe Ascione plays a light brand of percussion, just enough to be apparent and ensure the propulsion of this vibrant music. The pair sports some pretty clever company for the recording. Janis Siegel turns in a perfectly retro "Don't Fence Me In" while Jane Monheit turns up the humidity with a perfectly wicked "Besame Much." Dr. John hams it up on "Sheik of Araby," while supplying his trademark piano playing. The two principals tip their hats to the contemporary of canon by taking serious passes and The Doobie Brothers, "Long Train Runnin'" and Gilbert O'Sullivan's "Alone Again (Naturally)".
Bucky Pizzarelli / Howard Alden
Hot Club of 52nd Street