“COOL WATER” by GREG MURPHY (Whaling City Sound)
Pianist Murphy is based in New York City and this album was inspired by a 2019 trip to Nairobi, where – and this is a great detail – he was going to play hockey with the Kenyan Ice Lions. The format is built around Murphy’s core trio, with Eric Wheeler on bass and Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums, with seven guests appearing here and there. Murphy wrote seven of the dozen tunes, but he’s not bound by genre, as you learn quickly after a John Coltrane-influenced take on “Chim Chim Cher-ee” from “Mary Poppins” opens the album, and is soon followed by a breezy run through Steely Dan’s “Green Earrings” with guest singer Ku-umba Frank Lacy. But Murphy’s originals really stand out, from the soaring melody of “My Life” to the smooth drive of “Friendship,” where Bill Ware’s vibes and David Kikoski’s synth lines enhance the sound. The title cut is “Enkare Nairobi,” which translates roughly as “cool water,” and derives from a Maasai greeting that was sung to Murphy on his arrival, making a buoyant, triumphant march highlighted by T.K. Blue’s flute accents. Just when you might think the sweet, slow cover of “Body and Soul” is a predictable vehicle, Murphy follows it up with a rousing jaunt through the Isley Brothers’ hit “Coolin’ Me Out.” Murphy played a lot with Coltrane sideman Rashied Ali, so his own “Cuttin’ Trane’s Corners” is surely well informed, although it may be more a tribute to Coltrane pianist McCoy Tyner with its vivid, percussive melodicism, but that’s high praise indeed.
“SERENDIPITY” by JOHN STEIN (Whaling City Music)
Guitarist Stein retired from teaching at Berklee College of Music with the intention of focusing more on his performing career, starting with last year’s fine “Watershed” album. The pandemic cut his touring plans to promote that album but led to this excellent effort. Signed to play at the annual AHA New Bedford Fest in late summer 2020, the lockdown canceled that festival, but Stein and his trio played a live show for online listeners at the empty New Bedford Art Museum and this album is a recording made then. Stein plays with a superbly fat tone and wonderful articulation and his rhythm section of bassist Ed Lucie and drummer Mike Connors is outstanding. “Alfie’s Theme,” by Sonny Rollins, becomes a finger-popping canter, while the trio maintains the quirky fun behind Thelonious Monk’s “Well You Needn’t.” Stein’s own “Elvin” is the kind of buoyant strut the late Elvin Jones would love and Jobim’s ballad “How Insensitive” has never been done better.
“HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT” by DINO GOVONI (Whaling City Sound)
Longtime Berklee College of Music faculty member Govoni performs here with quintet and quartet arrangements surrounding his nonpareil sax. The quintet includes pianist Henry Hey, trumpeter Alex Sipiagin, bassist Michael Pope and drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts, and it is a magnificent ensemble. “Thinkers Anonymous” is a treat, a sort of samba in 7/4 time, while the sax-trumpet interplay on the bop sprint “Cobalt” is invigorating. But Govoni and his band also excel at slower stuff, like the sublime melody of the smoky ballad “Ask Again” or the easy rolling momentum of “Edge Walker.” This is Govoni’s first album in almost a decade, although he has played on many other musicians works, and this is proof he should record more often.
2021 O’S PLACE REVIEWS FOR: Whaling City Sound
Just Passing Thru
O’s Notes: Saxophonist, composer and producer Miles Donahue presents a fine contemporary jazz
set with Just Passing Through. Bassist Joe Santerre gets in the mix on “Living Room Blues”
before Donahue soothes us on song “Killing Me Softly”, the lone cover. Guest Mike Stern (g)
adds fusion elements to “7-9-65” and the funky “Railroaded”. We also enjoyed the cool vibe of
“Donny’s Groove” and “A Man of Few Words”.
O’s Notes: Cool Water is a good title for this mix of mostly original, modern jazz. Murphy does a
great job throughout the set providing support and tickling the ivory while leading the band. He
mixes in a taste of contemporary jazz on “My Life” featuring vocals from percussionist Kaïssa
Doumbe Moulongo and Ku-umba Frank Lacy. Lacy appears later singing and playing trombone
on “Coolin’ Me Out”. We loved the dynamics and the bass solo from Eric Wheeler on “Free Fur
Nina” and then with the bow on “Body and Soul”. We liked the spirit of the groove shining on
“Cuttin’ Trane’s Corners” where drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts comes alive as well!
O’s Notes: Reed master Greg Abate celebrates the music of the legendary pianist Kenny
Barron with Kenny Barron on piano, Dezron Douglas (b) and Johnathan Blake (d). This songbook
is 14 of Kenny’s best compositions over two discs. There’s a jovial groove that swings on “Cooks
Bay” with Greg varying the mood shifting from sax to flute. There is sweet sax harmony on
“Innocence”, passion on “Rain” and a hard swing on “Voyage”, just a few of the highlights.
O’s Notes: Guitarist and composer Jim Robitaille leads the way in this soft-fusion session with
bassist Bill Miele and Chris Poudrier on drums. The music is all original except for three covers
notably the cool, mellow version of Lennon/McCartney’s “Here, There and Everywhere”. They
serve up a taste of Latin on “When We Passed” and Miele adds a fine solo on “Chance Meeting”
to wrap up the set.
Only Love Will Stay
O’s Notes: Serbian guitarist Rale Micic leads most melodies with a relaxing groove that feels just
right. Jared Gold complements him on the B3 with drumming duties split between Johnathan
Blake and Geoff Clapp. The pandemic forced Micic to slow down, reflect, and try new things, as
illustrated on Only Love Will Stay. Highlights are “How Deep Is The Ocean”, “Riverdale”, “Lipe
Cvatu” and “Better Days Ahead”.
O’s Notes: Guitarist John Stein reflects on the dark light cast on the arts over the past two years
with a set that invites hope. Serendipity opens with a blues feeling on “Alfie’s Theme”, then a
dash of calypso “On Green Dolphin Street” before bouncing around through the rest of the
session. While Stein dominates on guitar, bassist Ed Lucie anchors the trio and drummer Mike
Connors trades riffs with him on “Labor Of Love”. It’s a cool recording arising from the wrath of
A Song of Hope
O’s Notes: Tenor saxophonist Eric Wyatt leads the charge with an excellent band that sizzles and
pops throughout the session. We enjoyed their cover of “Fragile” featuring vocalist Samara Joy,
the funky “Fur Live”, “Contemplation” and Watts’ rousing drum solo on “Of Things To Come
Rtk”, a duet with Wyatt. We also enjoyed “One For Hakim” featuring the entire band, a strong
showing for trumpeter Theo Croker, Wyatt and the fierce rhythm section: Donald Vega (p), Eric
Wheeler (b) and Jeff Watts (d).
Dave Zinno Unisphere
O’s Notes: Bassist Dave Zinno is back with Unisphere, his band that includes Mike Tucker (t-sax),
Eric Benny Bloom (t), Leo Genovese (keyboards), Tim Ray (p), Rafael Barata (d, perc) and
special guest Rafael Rocha (tb). Zinno immediately asserts himself on the opening title track with
a rousing intro. They play vigorous Modern Jazz blending Brazilian and American jazz that
leaves us feeling energized. After slowing down briefly on “Beatriz” they return to the feverish
pace. You can feel Zinno’s presence throughout the session but Tucker and Bloom also make hay
on “Melancholy Daydream” and on the mysterious “Nile” making Fetish a balanced effort.
Songs From My Father
O’s Notes: The pandemic put drummer/composer Gerry Gibbs 9th album on hold but a series of
discussions and fate led to him making Songs From My Father, an album dedicated to his father,
vibraphonist/composer Terry Gibbs. There are four distinct Thrasher Dream Trios: with 1. the late
Chick Corea (p) and Ron Carter (b), 2. Kenny Barron (p) and Buster Williams (b), 3. Patrice
Rushen (p) and Larry Goldings (B3), and 4. Geoff Keezer (p) and Christian McBride (b). Gerry
plays drums and percussion on all 19 tracks (2 discs). There’s an upbeat contemporary Latin vibe
on “Townhouse 3”, heavy swing on “Bopstacle Course” and “4 A.M.” They take a breath on
“Lonely Dreams”, a ballad before ending disc 1 with “Hey Chick” featuring vibraphonist Terry
Gibbs. Disc 2 ends with “Tango for Terry” composed by Chick for the elder Gibbs. This was
Corea’s last recording, adding to the allure of this historic recording.