NEW RELEASES : **** ARTURO SANDOVAL “I Remember Clifford” <i> GRP</i>
Trumpeter Sandoval was a 6-year-old boy in Cuba when Clifford Brown, one of the key soloists in modern jazz, was killed in a car crash in 1956. Many years later the recordings of Brown (and of Dizzy Gillespie) inspired him. In this masterful updating of the legacy he brings his own personality to the works of the man who inspired him, along with much of Brown’s own essence.
The latter quality has been captured on five tracks by transcribing Brown solos and harmonizing them for a trumpet “choir,” with Sandoval overdubbing the parts. The breathtaking “Cherokee” best exemplifies this technical coup.
Sandoval’s original “I Left This Space for You” and Benny Golson’s lovely title tribute to Brown, along with such Brown standards as “Joy Spring” and “Sandu,” sustain the same creative level, with a distinctive blend of craftsmanship and virtuosity. Ernie Watts is the featured saxophonist, and Kenny Kirkland plays several ace piano solos.
** 1/2 Ryan Kisor, “Minor Mutiny,” Columbia. With no liner notes to explain who he is, and no chance to stretch out on standards as he did so heroically when, at 17, he won the Thelonious Monk 1990 trumpet competition, Kisor is at a double disadvantage. Weighted down by his often uninvolving compositions, he seldom reveals his brilliance. The muted solos are strictly hand-me-down early Miles Davis. Kisor shares space with John Coltrane’s son Ravi on saxes and a rhythm section that features producer (read: overproducer) Jack DeJohnette, who must take some of the blame for what could have been a sensational debut.
*** 1/2, Rob McConnell, “Brassy and Sassy,” Concord. McConnell’s arrangements and valve trombone solos are centerpieces in another elegant 22-man set from North of the Border. Along with his own original, “Hey,” and his beguiling treatment of “Embraceable You,” there are touches of humor in Ron Collier’s treatment of Charlie Parker’s “Scrapple From the Apple” and much textural beauty in the other non-McConnell chart, Ian McDougall’s “Blue Surge Suit(e).” There’s also evidence that guitarist Ed Bickert and pianist Don Thompson still rank among Canada’s most expressive jazz spokesmen.
New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four (excellent). A rating of five stars is reserved for classic reissues or retrospectives.