Rhythm Planet’s October Suite

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Vibraphonist Chien Chien Lu Photo courtesy of the artist

As fall progresses alongside the ongoing pandemic, I’ve been spending time checking out new CDs as well as what catches my ear on the radio. I’m always listening, Shazam at the ready. We feature some new and old faves this week, beginning with a set of jazz releases that stood out for me. Trombonist Conrad Herwig covers Horace Silver’s evergreen ballad “Peace” to kick us off. The music continues with Yves Montand’s classic live version of Jacques Prévert’s “Les feuilles mortes” which evolved into the popular song “Autumn Leaves.” The poetry of the original is stunning and profound. We then hear tenor saxophonist Javon Jackson’s version of “I’m Old Fashioned,” plus new sides from guitarist Tom Guarna and Poland-born pianist and hurdy-gurdy player Joachim Mencel, who give us a little Brooklyn slang with his piece “I’m Yo Man.”

L.A.-based Afro-Cuban band Mongorama opens the next set. Listen for a wonderful violin solo by the exceptionally-talented Dayren Santamaria. Trumpet master Diego Urcola follows with his rendition of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Con Alma.” Thelonious Monk played an unusual concert at Palo Alto High School way back in the 60’s, and some lucky spelunker dug it up for posterity.  We hear the quartet play one of my favorite Monk songs, “Well, You Needn’t.”

One of my favorite jazz pianists, Alan Broadbent, has just released a wonderful trio album featuring his regular sidemen Harvie S on bass and Billy Mintz, drums. I love trios because there is a perfect triangulation of sound between the three instruments. You can hear the influence of Lennie Tristano on “Lennie’s Pennies,” penned long ago by the innovative blind pianist. Even Mintz’s drumming reminds me of the automatic metronome Tristano used in his Atlantic recordings. 

I heard Latin soul/boogaloo crooner Ralfi Pagan sing “Ooo Baby Baby” on the radio and it blew my mind, so I had to share it. What a voice! And a new discovery from the Fania vaults.

Changing gears, we hear some previously unreleased material from the Italian superstar composer Ludovico Einaudi, followed by French songwriter R.Wan working with Malian great Salif Keita on the song “Des humains” (Humans). It’s a powerful statement about humanity. The Jagger Botchway Group, known for its work with the late Hugh Masekela, is next with a bouncy cut called “Moko Le Dzen.” Some of the music comes from long-buried DAT tapes Jagger Botchway found in his homeland of Ghana. 

I had to include a song featuring the late Toots Hibbert of Toots and the Maytals with Willie Nelson. I’d forgotten also that Nelson made a reggae record called Countryman years ago and it’s wonderful and unusual to hear them together. 

Classically-trained Taiwan-born, New York-based vibraphonist Chien Chien Lu performs an original arrangement of a traditional Taiwanese song called “Blossom in a Stormy Night.” I haven’t come across many female vibes players and have enjoyed her debut album as a leader called The Path. (Random thought – doesn’t being a mallet player involve a lot of equipment headaches if you travel—if you ever travel anytime soon, that is?)

Claire Daly, like Chien Chien Lu, is another rare species—she plays the baritone sax. We hear her play “Blues for Alice” from a new album dedicated to her inspiration, the late Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Daly also blows flute and sings on the album. After that we hear saxophonist Adam Kolker play “Lost” from a new album of classic Wayne Shorter compositions.

Ella Fitzgerald performed a set of historic shows in Berlin in the early 60’s. The first one was called “Mack the Knife,” which included her unbelievable scat solo on “How High the Moon.”  But we’ll actually hear her sing Irving Berlin’s “Cheek to Cheek” from a later show, recorded in Berlin at the Sportpalast on March 25, 1962. Verve Records recently released the historic concert on Ella: The Lost Berlin Tapes. Fitzgerald is truly at her greatest in this long-lost recording.

Venezuelan pianist Edward Simon has a new album out called 25 Years, which presents a retrospective of his work. We hear his cover of Violetta Para’s immortal song “Gracias a la Vida.” We close the playlist by remembering the late saxophonist and flutist Jon Gibson, the longtime reed player of the Philip Glass Ensemble. He died recently at the age of 80. We hear his beautiful song “Waltz” from his 1992 album In Good Company.

Rhythm Planet Playlist for October 20, 2020

  1. Conrad Herwig / “Peace” / Savant
  2. Yves Montand / “Les feuilles mortes” / Versailles
  3. Javon Jackson / “I’m Old Fashioned” / Solid Jackson Records
  4. Tom Guarna / “The Trion Re” / Destiny Records
  5. Joachim Mencel / “I’m Yo Man” / Origin Records
  6. Mongorama / “Mambo Mindoro” / Saungu Records
  7. Diego Urcola Quartet featuring Paquito D’Rivera / “Con Alma” / Sunnyside
  8. Thelonious Monk / “Well, You Needn’t – Live at Palo Alto High School” / Legacy Recordings
  9. Alan Broadbent Trio / “Lennie’s Pennies” / Savant
  10. Ralfi Pagan / “Ooo Baby Baby” / Fania
  11. Ludovico Einaudi / “Fuori Dal Mondo – Remastered 2020” / Decca (UMO)
  12. R.Wan featuring Salif Keita / “Des humains” / Poupaprod
  13. The Jagger Botchway Group / “Moko Le Dzen” / Cultures of Soul Records
  14. Toots & The Maytals / “Still Is Still Moving to Me” / V2
  15. Chien Chien Lu / “Blossom in a Stormy Night” / Chien Chien Lu
  16. The Claire Daly Band / “Blues for Alice” / Ride Symbol Records
  17. Adam Kolker / “Lost” / Sunnyside
  18. Ella Fitzgerald / “Cheek to Cheek – Live” / Verve
  19. Edward Simon / “Gracias a la Vida” / Ridgeway Records
  20. Jon Gibson & Martin Goldray / “Waltz” / Decca/London