JAZZ ALBUM REVIEWS : Dave Murdy the Recording Artist Can Take a Bow : A ’53 Shorty Rogers performance in Newport Beach succeeds on modern terms; Doug MacDonald turns in a first-rate session; Pete Jolly’s ‘Gems’ sparkles.
* * *1/2 DAVE MURDY “That Goes to Show Ya!”
Time Is Records Under guitarist Murdy’s leadership, this is a hard-swinging session by a group of all-Orange-County-based musicians. Murdy’s drive and narrative sense owes to no single influence. Rather, it derives from a balanced cross-section of guitarists including Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass and even John Scofield.
With the work of keyboardist Peggy Duquesnel, who seems a bit more reserved on this recording than she does live, of bassist Art Davis, who provides an intelligent, rhythmic pulse (and who wrote the liner notes) and with the mix-it-up sound of drummer Kevin Tullius, the disc achieves a propulsive straightforwardness that Murdy rides with all the skill of an experienced surfer caught inside.
Another plus: The album offers a rare chance to hear alto saxophonist Eric Marienthal in a mainstream situation. Marienthal, the Chick Corea reed man, acquits himself well, balancing his usual fire with more considered moments of grace and substance. Murdy shows himself to be a competent, if not inventive, composer.
The upbeat title tune sails ahead on his devil-may-care solo, an almost unbroken string of clever lines with the occasional harmonic touch. “Song for Peg” is tender without being overly sweet. Murdy also offers chops aplenty on such typical proving-ground material as Charlie Parker’s “Confirmation” and John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps.” A remarkable first effort.
* * * *1/2 SHORTY ROGERS “Shorty Rogers Big Band Volume 1"
Time Is Records This album--recorded live at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Newport Beach in 1953--is, despite its sonic shortcomings, notable on two counts.
Foremost, it’s a showcase for the writing skills of Rogers, the trumpeter-fluegelhornist who broke new ground with the Lighthouse All Stars and his Giants group and who also contributed to the jazz scores for “The Wild One” (with Marlon Brando) and “The Man With the Golden Arm” (with Frank Sinatra as a junk-torn jazzer). Just fewer than half the 13 cuts are originals, and, although the liner notes give no clue, Rogers confirmed recently that the arrangements of tunes such as “How High the Moon,” “Perdido” and Cole Porter’s “Why Shouldn’t I” are his. The standards are bright and brassy, and the originals are fresh, wily affairs whose playful inventiveness seem years ahead of their time.
The album also spotlights early performances from such now well-known musicians as trumpeter Maynard Ferguson; trombonist Bob Enevoldsen, and saxophonists Bill Perkins, Jack Montrose, Herb Geller and Bill Holman. Unfortunately, the notes give no clue as to who’s soloing where.
Worse, a tune identified as Rogers’ “Tales of an African Lobster” is, Rogers says, actually the late Norman (Tiny) Kahn’s “3 Cents Plain.”
Pianist Lorraine Geller spices up “How High the Moon” and Ellington’s “C Jam Blues” with solid chordal work and suggestive bits of off-tempo play; drummer Chuck Flores works the cymbals to colorful advantage on Roger’s “Infinity Promenade,” and Rogers’ soft but convincing sound shines throughout. The recording’s technological drawbacks give it a distant archival quality, but the music succeeds on modern terms, thanks to Rogers’ compositional talents.
* * * * DOUG MACDONALD The Doug MacDonald Quartet
Maybe it takes one to know one. John Anello Jr., the man behind Cexton records of Santa Ana, plays a little guitar himself, which might explain why he signed up the under-appreciated MacDonald for a session. MacDonald has played gigs with Stan Getz, George Shearing, Sarah Vaughan and Buddy Rich since moving to L.A. from Las Vegas in 1983. He has a strong, confident sound that, as the liner notes suggest, has a lot in common with the late Grant Green. His rich bluesy style implies a saxophonist’s attack, full of long, stirring lines and up-register accents. On this date, he teams with the sterling rhythm section of bassist Ray Brown, drummer Jake Hanna and pianist Ross Tompkins in a separate-but-equal showcase of fine interplay and individual efforts. Tompkins, from “The Tonight Show,” is highlighted on “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square,” on which he tracks the bass with single left-hand notes as he intertwines delicate chords with the guitarist’s melodic statement. MacDonald, minus the rhythm section, takes an introspective turn on “Without You,” and Brown’s buttery arco saltando work neatly brackets “Beautiful Love.” The laid-back mood of this date, practically unbroken until the closer--a smoking “Chinatown, My Chinatown"--tends to detract from this otherwise first-rate session.
* * *1/2 THE PETE JOLLY TRIO “Gems: The 25th Anniversary
Holt Recordings “Gems,” from San Juan Capistrano-based Holt Recordings, marks a quarter-century relationship between Los Angeles-based pianist Jolly, bassist Chuck Berghofer and drummer Nick Martinis. Jolly--who has recorded with Shorty Rogers, Buddy Collette and Art Pepper over the years--is a satisfyingly poetic keyboardist, and this album is a good document of his wise and warm style. The disc, a collection of familiar and not-so-familiar standards, demonstrates how much understanding develops between musicians who have spent this much time with one another. Martinis constructs tempos with an ever-changing variety of sounds, and Berghofer forgoes the attention-grabbing, up-register antics popular with the new generation of bassists to lay down a solid yet stimulating foundation. Jolly, who does a wonderful job of storytelling during his own improvisations, shows plenty of empathy in support of his compatriots, thickening his sound with clever chording and appropriate embellishment. He climbs invitingly from the melody of “Without Your Love” as he builds a rich chordal pattern that swells in dynamic intensity. “Gems” is an aptly titled release that defines how a piano trio should work.
* Ratings are based on a scale of one star (poor) to five stars (a classic), with three stars denoting a solid recommendation.