The international impact of jazz, long a fait accompli , is reflected more and more frequently in the recorded product available in the United States. Purely by chance, the first four albums chosen for review this week were by artists who came to this country from Poland, New Zealand, England and Germany. But like their American counterparts, they have chosen many directions in their pursuit of a jazz-related image, as the following comments reveal.
"NAUGHTY BABY." Adam Makowicz. RCA Novus 3022-1-N. This all-Gershwin program, a potential problem for any performer who has heard the songs played endlessly, turns out to be a well-met challenge for the Polish pianist. He chooses to use two bass players on six of the 11 cuts; for the most part, it's Charlie Haden playing rhythm and Dave Holland soloing. The treatments often are unconventional: "They All Laughed" and "Maybe" are given a Latin tinge, "Embraceable You" is in half-meter, reduced to a 16-bar chorus, and "Rhapsody in Blue" is stripped of its usual pretentiousness. The title number is an unknown song never before recorded. Al Foster on drums completes the group in this admirable demonstration that Makowicz has much more going for him than his phenomenal technique: viz., imagination. 4 stars.
"ANOTHER TIME." Alan Broadbent Trio. Trend TRCD 546. The composing career of this Auckland-born pianist never quite gained altitude, despite some prestigious recordings of his work by Woody Herman. Today, he is better known as a free-lance Los Angeles pianist of taste and intelligence. Devoting himself here to the works of Rollins, Parker, Davis and Tristano, he leaves room for three pieces that offer evidence of his gifts as a melodic writer: the stately "East 32nd Requiem," the buoyant "Alison's Waltz" and the title tune. An admiring peer, Dave Frishberg, wrote the literate liner notes.3 1/2 stars.
"RIO NIGHTS." Victor Feldman. TBA 225. The main points of interest are the three cuts recorded the night before Feldman's sudden death last May. Backed by his son Trevor on drums and the nonpareil bassist John Patitucci, he played a "Basin Street Blues" that moved from slow and sneaky to hot and heavy; a Parker-like blues line, "Don't Ask Oscar," and a charming swinger, "You Gave Me The Runaround." The six other cuts are reissues of a 1977 semi-fusion date, with such first-rate studio musicians as Hubert Laws on flute and Harvey Mason on drums. Feldman not only was an admirable pianist but also a composer incapable of writing an uninteresting tune.3 1/2 stars.
"THE NEXT DAY." Leni Stern. Passport Jazz 88035. Press hype can be counterproductive. It was dangerous to call Stern, the Munich-born wife of guitarist Mike Stern, "the first lady of jazz guitar" when she does not yet seem to have found a firm sense of direction. (Besides, where does this leave Emily Remler?) Her compositions have little of melodic interest to offer. The backup band is notable for fine work by bassist Harvie Swartz and pianist Larry Willis, but Bob Berg's tenor sax tends to prolixity and boredom. 2 stars.
"SARAH VAUGHAN LIVE!" Mercury 832 572 2. Given the vast number of Vaughan records available, one can afford to be selective. There are dazzling moments here ("Green Dolphin Street," "I'll Be Seeing You"), but 11 of the 14 songs, all old standards, are backed only by a rhythm trio of lesser impact that those that have supported her more recently. There are moments of unneeded vocal pyrotechnics and of the forced coyness Vaughan affected more often then (1957-63) than now. Oddly, she is introduced at one point by Carmen Cavallaro, a cocktail-type pianist of the 1940s; happily, he doesn't play. So, if you will accept a consummate stylist in not-quite-flawless form, voila . 3 stars.
"LOVE IS A RUSH." Wilton Felder. MCA 42006. None of the influences attributed to Felder (Coltrane, Rollins, Shorter) can even be dimly detected in this typical Crusaders production. Instead of spontaneity, every last detail is carefully planned: the drum programming, the synthesizer settings, the arrangements of tunes by Felder or Joe Sample, all almost martial in their precision. Reichii Guillory applies her little-girl voice to two tunes. Instead of a hand in the advancement of jazz, Felder and Sample have a finger on the pulse of pop. 2 1/2 stars.
"SERIOUS SWINGERS." Bud Shank-Bill Perkins Quintet. Contemporary C 14031. Substitute looseness for rigidity, spontaneous creation for slogging preparation, and you have the difference between these two mature, limber sax soloists and Felder. Perkins' tenor is excellently framed in his own catchy "Nu Blues for B.B.," as is his partner's alto in a Shank original, "Blazing Paddles." The rhythm section (Alan Broadbent, Sherman Ferguson, John Heard) is top-of-the-crop. There is no pre- or post-recording, and the entire session was completed within a matter of hours. 4 stars.
"COMPACT JAZZ: CHARLIE PARKER." Verve CD 833-288-2. Most of these 1948-52 items were issued in the "Essential Charlie Parker" LP. Essential they remain, with 14 cuts, of which three were made at sessions with strings (among them the unforgettable "Just Friends") and one at a strange date with a Dave Lambert vocal group. But the rest are small combo items, with Miles Davis or Red Rodney on trumpet (one cut includes Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk). Though Bird may have been past his zenith by this time, such pieces as "Au Privave," "Star Eyes" and "K. C. Blues" are still classic reminders of the most influential horn player of his or almost any era. 5 stars.
"A SOUND INVESTMENT." Flip Phillips-Scott Hamilton Quintet. Concord Jazz CCD 433. This is not a "tenor battle," as such meetings of the saxophonic souls are often called, but rather a mutually agreeable teaming of like minds. Five of the tunes are by the veteran Phillips (among them two blues and his engaging old ballad "With Someone New"). The two tenors blend in close harmony on "Blues for the Midgets." An unlikely inclusion is "Maria Elena," which, we are reminded, was a pretty nice old song. Hamilton's regular rhythm section furnishes the easy-swinging accompaniment. 3 1/2 stars.