Cleveland's independent Telarc International, long a significant player in the classical music arena, has grown into one of the most respected jazz and blues labels in the country over the past few years, as well. The offerings below speak to their growing roster of major names in jazz.
Ray Brown Trio: Some Of My Best Friends Are ... The Trumpet Players (83495)
Bassist Ray Brown knows a little about working with trumpeters. He's shared stage and studio space with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Roy Eldridge, Sweets Edison and Clark Terry. An impressive cast of trumpeters has assembled for this wonderful set, too. Roy Hargrove is in for a take on Tadd Dameron's "Our Delight" and "Stairway to the Stars." Jon Faddis runs through the changes on "Bag's Groove" and Brown's "Original Jones". James Morrison delivers on "I Thought About You" and "When You Go." Terence Blanchard is on fire through "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You," played at a soaring pace, and equally bluesy on the closer, "Goodbye." Young Nicholas Payton is a show stealer on the melancholy "Violets For Your Furs," as well as on Joe Henderson's quick tempoed "The Kicker." If there's an emotional centerpiece to the set, it's Clark Terry's crystalline work on his own "Clark's Tune (Legacy)," though the fire he brings to Brown's "Itty Bitty Blues" proves he's still got chops to spare.
Throughout, Brown is tasteful, whether upfront (especially on "Bag's Groove") or laying back. Geoff Keezer's piano is extraordinary and Karriem Riggins' drumming is the essence of swinging. Loads of fun.
Al Dimeola: The Grand Passion (83481)
With his band World Sinfonia and a handful of esteemed guests, Dimeola has crafted one of the most dazzling collections of his career. Combining six originals with three from Astor Piazzola, the disc presents more like an extended work rather than a collection of separate compositions. The transitions are as seamless as the musical interplay is stunning.
Grand Slam -- Jim Hall, Joe Lovano, George Mraz, Lewis Nash (83485)
Recorded at the Regattabar in Cambridge, this collaboration is an adventurous conversation between some of the most respected names in jazz. That they stay out of each other's way while keeping the discourse lively is to be expected. Guitarist Hall and multi-reed player Lovano are the frontmen, but bassist Mraz and drummer Nash are just as surely the anchors. The seven song all original program is stellar.
Gerry Mulligan: The Art Of -- the Final Recordings (83517)
Baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan was in a category unto himself. These final recordings, from the last three years of his life, imbued with that instantly recognizable tone, are adventurous, challenging and riveting works. Brazilian numbers from the "Paraiso-Jazz Brazil" sessions share space with the extraordinary small band work with Grover Washington, Jr., John Scofield, Warren Vache, Dave Grusin and Ryan Kisor (talk about an eclectic assemblage!), from the "Dragonfly" disc, and the quartet of the "Dream A Little Dream" sessions. Far and away his take on Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Wave" is the tune worth the price of admission here, though there's nothing resembling a clinker in the bunch.
Oscar Peterson, Michel LeGrand: Trail of Dreams - A Canadian Suite (83500)
Oscar Peterson is one of a handful of the most important pianists in jazz history. Michel Legrand is in equally rarified company as a composer, conductor and arranger. This collection of twelve "soundscapes," built around impressions of a recreational trail that spans Canada benefits from the awesome guitar work of Ulf Wakenius, who will remind much of Joe Pass. Also on board is Niels Henning-Orsted Pederson, the bassist who worked often with Pass and Peterson, and drummer Martin Drew. There is an interesting juxtaposition between the strings and the small band work that makes this, typically for Peterson, an extraordinary piece of work. Legrand's contribution is inestimable. The results are absolutely mesmerizing.
John Pizzarelli: Let There Be Love (83518)
His forte is the jazz and pop standards of his dad, guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli's, day. Given that he plays guitar and sings so splendidly, it's a safe bet that he's going to chase Diana Krall into the bigger pop arena. His trio of pianist Ray Kennedy and bassist Martin Pizzarelli is augmented by a few guests -- including Bucky and clarinet master Ken Peplowski, but this is all about the singer. Pizzarelli has a wonderful voice that was made for cuddly evenings by the fire. Mixing Irving Berlin, Benny Goodman, and Harry Warren with originals and other gems, the program is first-rate. Pizzarelli is destined for the lights and the headlines, at least as much as Harry Connick, Jr. was a decade ago.
Ernest Ranglin: Modern Answers To Old Problems (83526)
Ernest Ranglin is a Jamaican guitarist of note. In addition to work with Bob Marley in the 1960s, and the Melodians later, his earliest experience was in jazz. This wonderful combo of jazz and Afro Pop is a melding of a variety of influences. "Outernational Incident," for instance, has a Herbie Hancock/Headhunters feels, while "Inflight," with Courtney Pine guesting on sax, has an almost South American feel to it and "Many Roots" has an African gait. Ranglin was awarded the Order of Distinction by the Jamaican government in 1973 for his contributions to music. Judging from this beautiful collection, they ain't heard nothing yet.
George Shearing: Reflections (1992-1998) (83513)
Mr. Shearing hit his popular prime years before he reached Telarc, but his output for the label has been strong and substantial, nonetheless. This 13 song program covers Charlie Parker, Nat Cole, Dave Brubeck, the Gershwins, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Lee Konitz, Don Redman and Horace Silver. Shearing is able to cover the diverse playlist with equal fire and passion end to end. He is joined throughout the set by a cast of extraordinary accompanist, with bassist Neil Swainson being the most consistent. The star of the show clearly is the pianist, though. The 81- year-old recorded the numbers here within the last nine years. He remains nimble fingered, spry and adventurous. The program is as tasteful a collection as anything he's recorded in the past 50 years.
McCoy Tyner: Jazz Roots (83507)
The cover declares "McCoy Tyner honors the jazz piano legends of the 20th century Art Tatum, Bud Powell and others." Lest we forget, Mr. Tyner is considered by many jazz fans to be among the jazz piano masters of the century his own self, so this is every bit amazing as it sounds unlikely. From the opening "A Night In Tunisia," played in the style of Bud Powell, to the closing Errol Garner tribute on "Misty," treats abound here. McCoy honors Monk, Bill Evans, Duke Ellington, Earl Hines, Art Tatum ("Sweet And Lovely," which certainly is), Fats Waller, W.C. Handy, and George Gershwin. There are also pieces played for Chic Corea and Keith Jarrett, and an absolutely wonderful "Lullaby of Birdland" for George Shearing. His "You Taught My Heart To Sing" is the centerpiece both as a tribute to his heroes and as a taste of why McCoy Tyner belongs on that list. Extraordinary disc.
Various Artists: A Love Affair - the Music of Ivan Lins (83496)
Ivan Lins is a Brazilian composer whose music has been widely covered across a wide musical spectrum. This tribute from jazz and pop fans may not appeal across the board to jazz fans, but if you adhere to the Ellington standard ("there's only two kinds of music -- good and bad"), here will be much to excite about this. Opening with Sting ("She Walks This Earth"), and closing with Lins singing "Somos Todos Iquais Nesta Noite," the 51 minute program features Vanessa Williams (singing "Love Dance," his most famous composition), Grover Washington, Jr., Chaka Khan, New York Voices, Freddy Cole, Dianna Reeves, Brenda Russell, Lisa Fischer & James 'D Train' Williams, and Peter White, this is a largely romantic (Chaka Khan shakes it up a bit) collection that will work well with candlelight and wine.