Rant’n’Roll: Moonkyung Lee, Nguyen Le & Ngo Hong Quang, Canadian Pleasures, Two Jasons, One Dead Legend & Philadelphia Freedom

Rant’n’Roll: Moonkyung Lee, Nguyen Le & Ngo Hong Quang, Canadian Pleasures, Two Jasons, One Dead Legend & Philadelphia Freedom

—by , April 19, 2017

04-19 Rant Nguyen Le & Ngo Hong Quang_by Dominique Borker

Tell Tchaikovsky the news! Moonkyung Lee, the violinist with a Ph.D, who plays the ax once owned by the late comedian Jack Benny, revamps Works For Violin & Orchestra (Navona Records) with the London Symphony, all by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky [1877-1993].

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Ha Noi Duo (ACT Music) by Nguyen Le and Ngo Hong Quang takes the music of Vietnam to new heights with the help of Paolo Fresu on trumpet and flugelhorn (ostensibly to make it all more worldbeat-palatable for western ears). Mieko Miyazaki plays the koto, a 13-stringed ax (the national instrument of Japan). Prabhu Edouard plays tablas, kanjira (basically a glorified tambourine from India) and pocket shaker (to make the sound salty with extra percussion). It all adds up to an exotic listen, one you won’t hear anywhere else. Le plays electric and acoustic guitar while Quang goes nuts on fiddle. If his vocals don’t turn you off, you’ll definitely dig the esoteric nature of this project. Hey, you can be the first in your neighborhood to host a party, turn this sucker up loud, and impress your friends and family (at the risk of having them all leave). Good in small doses.

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Guitarist/Composer/Producer/Arranger Baron Tymas wrote “Chicken On The Beach” after witnessing a brood of chickens in the Virgin Islands. His new self-released Montreal has eight long compositions utilizing his sidemen democratically to where they can all shine on piano, bass, drums, voice and trumpet. Now based in North Carolina, Tymas is a fluid player who has taken the essence of this great Canadian city and put it into jazz, like rush hour (“Orange et Vert”) or on the bus (“Take The 24”). The swing, post-bop, inherent soul and dizzying performances all around make Montreal a keeper.

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The University of Toronto Jazz Orchestra has self-released its Sweet Ruby Suite in honor of Canadian-born trumpeter Kenny Wheeler [1940-2014] who became a fixture on the U.K. jazz scene for decades. To that end, they’re joined by Wheeler collaborator Norma Winstone on vocals and American sax man David Liebman. The half-hour title track is an exercise in Ellingtonian flair. Five saxophonists, five trumpeters and four trombonists all vie for soloing supremacy ably backed by a piano/guitar/bass/drums rhythm section. Action aplenty! The university has also released a smaller ensemble, the University of Toronto 12Tet’s Trillium Falls which also swings hard.

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Violinist Jason Anick and pianist/mandolinist Jason Yeager are United on their Inner Circle Music debut. Stretching the genres to include post-bop, worldbeat, funk and even pop, they call their music “jazz without borders.” Their top-notch band includes bass, drums, percussion, alto sax, tenor sax and trumpet. Their originals soar with inventive panache while their beautifully picked covers include George Harrison’s “Something,” Miles Davis’s “All Blues” and two from Polish violinist Zbigniew Seifort. Straying into Israeli pop (“Achi”) and Argentinian folk (“La Segunda”) amid tributes to Billy Strayhorn (“Sweet Pea”) and Joshua Redman (“Well Red”), these two Jasons (both Berklee professors) are at the top of their game.

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The legendary pianist Bill Evans [1929-1980] influenced piano players of every generation since his untimely demise in New York City at the age of 51 from acute cocaine poisoning. This Jersey boy, born in Plainfield, sprung to stardom with Miles Davis, left to go solo, and rewrote the book on how to approach the piano. Known for his classic trios, he had the kind of touch—fleeting, darting—that made fans into fanatics. On A Monday Evening (Fantasy Records) is a rare find. Released for the first time, with no known bootlegs of such, complete with fellow legend Eddie Gomez on bass and Eliot Zimund on drums, from The Union Theater (Madison, Wisconsin) on 11/15/76, these eight tracks are yet another stunning example of this man’s genius. Don’t even blink at the cornball “Someday My Prince Will Come” from the 1937 Disney cartoon Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs. In Evans’s hands, it’s fit to swoon over. Ditto for Cole Porter’s 1954 “All Of You” and Jerome Kern’s 1946 “Up With The Lark.” There’s a slew of Evans originals too. This is some bigtime history.

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Eric Clapton calls him a genius. Caipi (Heartcore/Razdaz Recordz), by singer/songwriter/producer Kurt Rosenwinkel, 41, originally from Philly, has him on acoustic and electric guitars, drums, piano, percussion, synth, Casio, electric bass and piano on 11 of his originals. A member of vibraphonist Gary Burton’s band, he ultimately moved to Brooklyn, but not before being a professor at Germany’s Jazz Institute in East Berlin for nine years. He goes from ballads and samba to jazz and pop. Clapton chips in with a nifty solo on “Little Dream” and Pedro Martins sings Amanda Brecker’s “Kama” in Portuguese. The backing is sterling: tenor sax, four voices, violin and French Horn. Highly recommended.

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Project Freedom (Mack Avenue Records) by Joey DeFrancesco & The People is a stone groove where the ultra-respected Philadelphia proponent of the Hammond B-3 (now based in Phoenix) also gets to blow a little trumpet. He wrote seven of 11 and self-produced. Now add drums, sax and guitar. Stir slowly. Let it come to a boil. The four covers: opener “Imagine” is 41 seconds of John Lennon’s melody. “Lift Every Voice And Sing” is the 1905 song that’s been called “The Black National Anthem.” Sam Cooke’s 1964 “A Change Is Gonna Come” might be one of the most covered soul songs ever so it’s refreshing to hear it sans vocals. Benny Green wrote “So Near So Far” for Miles Davis in 1981. The originals hew closely to the spirit of Miles (DeFrancesco was a teenager when he played organ in one of Miles’ bands). After 41 years as a professional musician (he started when he was 10), Joey DeFrancesco is only now hitting his stride.


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