New music from Erroll Garner, Kiefer Sutherland
Owls Head — Erroll Garner: Ready Take One (Octave/Legacy CD, 66:01). Just three months shy of the 40th anniversary of his death on Jan. 2, 1977, jazz pianist Garner has a new studio album out, featuring six previously unheard original compositions. It has been almost 25 years since there has been a studio album from Garner, who is known for co-writing the standard, "Misty," and his outdoor concert album, "Concert By the Sea," first issued in 1955 and recently released in an expanded edition by Legacy Recordings. In 1957, Garner was the first jazz soloist to win the Gran Prix de Disque in Paris and, in 1959, he was the first musician to play a solo jazz concert at Carnegie Hall.
These 14 newly-released, previously unheard studio performances were recorded during seven sessions in 1967, 1969 and 1971. Providing backup are drummers Jimmie Smith and Joe Cocuzzo; bassists Earnest McCarty Jr., Ike Isaacs, George Duvivier and Larry Gales; and percussionist Jose Mangual. Also heard on the recordings is Garner's longtime manager Martha Glaser, with her calls of "Ready take one" (with an occasional "take two").
The six originals include the ballad "Back To You," which has a "Misty" echo in its bridge; the upbeat, happy-sounding "Chase Me"; the blues of "Down Wylie Avenue"; and "Wild Music," which has a rubato intro that appears to be a tribute to Rachmaninoff, before the piece picks up speed and launches trickles of notes. The disc closes with his fifth released version of "Misty," this time recorded in Paris with lots of cascading notes. (Johnny Burke wrote lyrics for "Misty," helping to make the piece the classic it is.) There also are seven new interpretations of jazz and pop standards, including a much different take on Duke Ellington's "Caravan" than Garner played in "Concert By the Sea." There also is a jaunty version of Cole Porter's "Night and Day," a slow take on Ellington's "Satin Doll" that turns into an experimental exploration midway, and Bobby Hebb's hit "Sunny," played over a slight Latin beat. Garner's take on "I Want To Be Happy" (from the musical "No, No, Nannette"; woe be Red Sox fans) is very fast and very nice, as is his relaxed version of "I'm Confessin' (That I Love You)." According to Legacy, future Garner releases are in the works. Grade: A
Kiefer Sutherland: Down in a Hole (Ironworks/Warner Nashville CD, 44:51). The British-born Canadian actor, most noted for his role as Jack Bauer in the "24" series and now starring in TV's "Designated Survivor," has issued his first solo album, with all songs penned by he and producer Jude Cole. (Cole has produced his own albums as well as four by Lifehouse and two by Beth Orton.) The album has a country slant, but I would not call it out-and-out country. It is, however, surprisingly good, and I like how Sutherland loves a lot of rock guitar. That can be heard in the lead-off track, the rocker "Can't Stay Away." Sutherland's gravelly baritone is put to good use here.
There's a slower start to "Truth in Your Eyes," which leans more towards country, as does the later "Not Enough Whiskey" (his woman is out with someone else), a country lament with pedal steel. Both are highlights, as is another rocker, "Going Home," in which the singer is fall-down drunk ("Got nowhere to run, nowhere to hide/God knows that I tried"). Guitarist Jason Wade helped write the latter. The use of piano and backing chorus is nice on "Calling Out Your Name," and there is a nice instrumental break on "My Best Friend," which is a goodbye to the past. Perhaps the overall highlight is the title track, a rocker with a heavier, morbid beat. Sutherland also takes the viewpoint of a death row prisoner on "Shirley Jean." Grade: B+
Matthew Skoller: Blues Immigrant (Tongue 'N' Groove CD, 43:48). Skoller is one of Chicago's most respected harp blowers and Blues bandleaders. Originally from New York, he relocated to the Windy City in 1987. Since the move he has been a sideman in several bands including Jimmy Rodgers Blues Band, Big Daddy Kinsey and the Kinsey Report, Big Time Sarah and the BTS Express, Deitra Farr Blues Band and others.
Ten of the 11 tracks on this CD, Skoller's fifth, were co-written by Skoller and Vincent Butcher, with both men co-producing the album. The musicians are Skoller (harmonica, vocals), Johnny Iguana (keyboards), Felton Crews (Bass; has played with Miles Davis, Otis Rush, Junior Wells and others), Giles Corey (guitar), Eddie Taylor Jr. (guitar; son of guitar legend Eddie Taylor), Marc Wilson (drums; played with Marcia Ball, Nappy Brown) and backing vocalists Mike Avery and Stevie Robinson. Guests include lead guitarist Carlos Johnson and Brian Ritchie (The Violent Femmes) on shakuhachi flute.
Skoller laments the closing of small Mom and Pop stores in "Big Box Store Blues," a tribute to and a rewriting of John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson's chestnut, "Welfare Store Blues." Standout track, "The Devil Ain't Got No Music," about the relationship between the blues and gospel music, was originally written for Lurrie Bell's album of the same name, which Skoller produced, and the song was nominated for Song of the Year by the Blues Foundation in 2012. The title track is the story of immigrants who have not quite reached the American dream, but it contains some humor in lines like, "I need a green card to play the Blues." "Only in the Blues" tells how a whole family works to support the musician. Songs of love lost are "Tear Collector" (quite nice) and "747." Ritchie's flute is featured on the uptempo "Story of Greed," another highlight, as is the bouncy, rocking "My Get It Done Woman," with prominent drums and a backing chorus. There are two instrumentals, including "Organ Mouth," with its gurgling organ, and the closing cover of Papa Lightfoot's "Blue Lights." Grade: B+
Gabrielle Louise: If the Static Clears (Sandalwood CD, 53:44). Colorado-based singer-songwriter-guitarist Louise was born in Newburgh, Maine, to parents who were traveling musicians. She attended 12 different schools before graduating high school. She recalls of her parents: "They carted the four of us around in an Airstream with wonderful rainbow curtains and all kinds of 'Save the Bears' and 'Save the Forests' pins all over the place." When she was 12, her father began playing lead guitar for country star Michael Martin Murphy, and she and her mother became the singing duo, Mother Gabrielle.
Louise has been described as eccentric, charismatic, thoughtful, literate and eclectic. She also is a poet, painter, prose writer and orator. This album was recorded in four live sessions at Kaleidoscope Studios in Union City, N.J. The rhythm section consists of drummer-percussionist Doug Yowell and upright and electric bassist Rob Jost (also French horn). Lead guitar and dobro are by David Kaye and backing vocals are by Brodie Kinder and Mel Williams. On the opening "Breathe Easy," she does just that, while "Cherish Sincerity" is more folk. The gentle "Someone Else's Life" reflects on her summers spent in Buenos Aires. Two of the highlights are "The Graveyard Ballet," which is a bit spooky in its sparseness, and "No Moon at All," which is about the turbulent love affair of pioneering Mexican artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.
Special guests include Megan Burtt on "Love on the Rocks," which is a bit bluesy; Jefferson Hamer on the melodic "Where Love Lives"; and the Colorado bluegrass band FY5 on the lighter "Waiting To Give." There is more Blues in "Another Round on Me," while highlight "Not Dead Enough to Bury" is the most rocking and has nice use of backing vocals. Grade: B+
James Horner and Simon Franglen: The Magnificent Seven, original motion picture soundtrack (Sony Classical CD, 76:46). Franglen, a Grammy-winning and Golden Globe-nominated composer who has worked on the scores of "Avatar," "Titanic," "Skyfall" and "Spectre," was a close friend of Horner's and worked with Horner on about a dozen of his film scores, including "Avatar" and "Titanic." After Horner did "Southpaw," director Antoine Fuqua approached Horner about "The Magnificent Seven, " a reworking of Akira Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai" masterpiece. Franglen says Horner knew he would have to write a score that related to Elmer Bernstein's much-loved theme for the 1960 version of "The Magnificent Seven" -- it is echoed here in the cue, "Volcano Springs" -- and the two were working on the new score, when Horner died in a private plane accident. (The original Bernstein theme can be heard on the digital version of the soundtrack.)
There is nice use of horns on the opening "Rose Creek Oppression" and much drama in "Seven Angels of Vengeance," which has fast clap-like percussion. Vocalization is used on "Street Slaughter" and, more softly, on "House of Judgment," while a sense of mystery is found in "Devil in the Church." There are swirling strings and a low bass on "Magic Trick," before a tolling bell comes in. One of the most rousing themes is found in "The Darkest Hour." Grade: B+
Howard Shore: Denial, original motion picture soundtrack (Howe CD). This is a warm score, one of Shore's best. The film is based on the acclaimed book, "Denial: Holocaust History on Trial" and recounts Deborah E. Lipstadt’s (Rachel Weisz) legal battle for historical truth against David Irving (Timothy Spall), who accused her of libel when she declared him a Holocaust denier. In the English legal system, in cases of libel, the burden of proof is on the defendant, therefore it was up to Lipstadt and her legal team, led by Richard Rampton (Tom Wilkinson), to prove the essential truth that the Holocaust occurred.
For the well-orchestrated score, Shore ("Lord of the Rings" trilogy, "The Hobbit," "Spotlight") conducted the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. "Atlanta 1994" opens the CD with nicely orchestrated strings, while the title track is sonorous. "The Letter" is atmospheric, while there are softer moments in "The Steps," "A Prayer" and "Krakov Square." "All Rise" features a bigger sound, while "Professor Van Pelt" is pretty. A bit of the main theme returns in "A Return to London," while "The Judgment" is expansive." Grade: A-