ALBUM REVIEWS : *** 1/2 ED BICKERT & LORNE LOFSKY “This is New” <i> Concord Jazz : </i>
Two prominent Toronto guitarists--Bickert, 57, and Lofsky, 36--join with two of Canada’s best rhythm purveyors, bassist Neal Swainson and drummer Jerry Fuller, for a low-key collaboration on tunes mainly written by fellow jazzmen (Wes Montgomery, Cedar Walton, Horace Silver, Steve Swallow). Each has a solo track; Lofsky’s harmonic grace is well displayed in the Ellington-Strayhorn “Star Crossed Lovers.” Both men deal ingeniously with Charlie Parker’s contrapuntal theme “Ah Leu Cha.” A superior sampling of north-of-the-border jazz.
*** CLEVELAND WATKISS “Green Chimneys” Verve
Is Watkiss Britain’s answer to Bobby McFerrin? The evidence is mixed. His self-overdubbed ensembles come off well; as a group he’s impressive, but as a scat soloist he is derivative, as are some of his quasi-Hendricks lyrics. He is backed by some of England’s best young (and mainly black) jazzmen; Courtney Pine and Steve Williamson play saxes on three tunes. The various rhythm sections try their best to swing, succeeding at times. Watkiss has potential; give him a chance--this is his first outing.
*** JACK TEAGARDEN “That’s a Serious Thing” RCA Bluebird
No doubt about it, Teagarden (1905-64) was the definitive trombone of his day and a splendid, Texas-twanged singer. Sadly, he was hampered too often by inept colleagues (the abysmal saxophonist Mezz Mezzrow), stupid songs (“I’se a Muggin’ ”) and pompous pseudo-jazz or dance bands (Paul Whiteman, Roger Wolfe Kahn). Of the 21 cuts, only the last eight--made between 1938 and 1947--do him justice without unhappy trappings: an all-star date, a session of his own, and two tracks with Louis Armstrong, followed by a fine Bud Freeman clambake. But even some of the weakest items have valuable moments by Joe Venuti, Fats Waller, Benny Goodman et al.
** 1/2 MARLON JORDON “For You Only” Columbia
Branford Marsalis helps to shore up the debut of a very young trumpeter in an egregious example of oversell and overkill. To credit this youth with “a heart-racing hymn to the fearless warriors of this Native American music” (just for playing “Cherokee” in eighth notes) and with “a swirling vortex of idealism, passion, and hard swing” is embarrassing. (Did a relative write these notes?) Sure, he’s very promising indeed, and he is in high-powered company; but the first four minutes of “Stardust,” in which he plods through the verse and chorus dead straight, are boredom incarnate. Still, Jordon has plenty of time to mature--he’s only 18.