Sunday, May 31, 2015

Billy Mitchell: 1926-2000 - A Tribute

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


Billy Mitchell’s musical story is a tale of two cities: Kansas City, Missouri where he was born and Detroit, Michigan where he grew up.


What the tenor saxophonist inherited from K.C. and the Motor City can be heard every time he takes a chorus. This inheritance is the roots of the Jazz tradition.


Mention Kansas City and Bennie Moten, Walter Page’s Blue Devils and Count Basie come to mind.


Bill Mitchell was a driving force and major influence during this post WWII Detroit modern jazz explosion.


Incubating in the Detroit of Billy Mitchell’s youth were a number of future great Jazz musicians including the Jones Brothers - Thad, Hank and Elvin - Yusef Lateef, Frank Foster,Tommy Flanagan, Barry Harris, and Paul Chambers


"I had a band at the Blue Bird," Mitchell recalled in a conversation with Jazz author Bob Blumenthal. "It was a quartet until Thad sat in one night. The next night, he was working with us permanently. We recorded for Dee Gee Records, which was jointly owned by Dizzy Gillespie and Dave Usher. At that time, Terry Pollard was in the band — she was later replaced by Tommy Flanagan — and she played vibes and piano. When she took a vibes solo on the recording session, Thad comped for her on piano. Elvin was in the band at that time, too. In fact, Elvin had never played in a professional band before that."


The Mitchell session is a rare one, having last appeared in the '50s on a Savoy anthology called SWING, NOT SPRING, and the details are obscure. Discographies have given 1948 as its date, though Mitchell confirms that it was more likely done in 1951 or '52.”


Billy was to become best known for his work in the 1950’s and 60’s with Dizzy Gillespie’s Big Band and The Count Basie Orchestra. He also performed with the Clarke-Boland Big Band in Europe on several occasions.


Mitchell and trombonist Al Grey left Basie in late 1961 and formed the Al Grey/Billy Mitchell Sextet, which won the Downbeat Award for best new jazz band of 1962! This band also officially introduced vibraphone future star Bobby Hutcherson. Barry Kernfeld noted in The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz that this “... ensemble, in its use of swinging riffs and bop improvisation, captured in a small group context the essence of Basie’s orchestral approach.


Besides leaving and rejoining Basie's band several times in the 60's, Billy was an important figure on Long Island (his home) and Manhattan in the educational area of jazz; he was mentor and friend to alto saxophonist Charles McPherson and also worked for a time in Los Angeles where he and influenced LA trombonist/composer-arranger Richard Pulin.


With his bright, bouncy, on-the-beat improvisations, Billy has always personified Joyous Jazz to me. Jazz that’s not complicated and swings in a straight-ahead manner. It’s fun to play the music this way and equally as much fun to listen to it without having to reach for it.


Sonny Stitt, Lucky Thompson, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Johnny Griffin, Gene Ammons, Arnett Cobb, David “Fathead” Newman, Harold Land, Paul Gonsalves - the list of big-toned bluesy tenor saxophonists is as endless as it is endlessly satisfying.



Saturday, May 30, 2015

Debut Records - Part 1

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.



“The new phase of independent labels, in which for the first time the musicians themselves took a major role in ownership and management, seems to have gathered momentum at the turn of the decade (of the shortlived 1940s companies, only Mezz Mezzrow's King Jazz and bassist Al Hall's Wax labels came into this category). With the major companies' interest in jazz at a new low after the second A.P.M. strike, first Dave Brubeck had helped start the Fantasy label in 1950, then in 1951 Dizzy Gillespie (Dee Gee) and Lennie Tristano (Jazz Records) had created their own outlets, as did Woody Herman (Mars) around the same time that Debut was founded. Also, despite still being contracted to Columbia, Duke Ellington had in 1950 formed the Mercer label to record small-group tracks which would not tempt the major companies, and he it was too who a decade earlier had set the precedent of an independent publishing company (Tempo Music) for his less commercial compositions.”
- Brian Priestley, Mingus: A Critical Biography

Aside from functioning as a platform to share the pleasure of my interest in Jazz and its makers, this blog also serves as a catalyst to search out aspects of the music that have been largely unfamiliar to me in my pre-blog days.


A case in point is Debut Records which like so many other small, record companies had ceased to operate before I developed an awareness of what a rich source these short-lived “boutique” labels were for important recorded Jazz, especially in terms of the work of underrepresented artists.


By the time I got hip to it, recorded Jazz was largely the business of big labels such as Columbia, RCA and Decca and labels that specialized in the music such as Blue Note, Prestige, Riverside, Argo, VeeJay, Emarcy, Pacific Jazz and Contemporary.


Some early research made me acutely aware that many smaller, early Modern Era [1945-1955] record companies including Black & White Records, Bop Records, Comet records, Jewel Records, Central Records, Treat Records, Dial Records and Treat Records along artist owned record companies such as Dee Gee [Dizzy Gillespie and Dave Usher] and Debut [Charles Mingus and Max Roach] were only in existence for very short periods of time.


So when I came across a 12-CD boxed set entitled Charles Mingus - The Complete Debut Recordings [Debut 12DCD-4402], I knew I best acquire it especially after reading this marketing pitch:


“This handsomely packaged and thoroughly annotated 12-CD set represents the most significant early work of Charles Mingus: his complete recorded output as leader and sideman for the Debut label.


The 169 selections (including 64 previously unissued tracks) showcase Mingus with artists such as Pepper Adams, Art Blakey, Paul Bley, Kenny Clarke, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, J. J. Johnson, Elvin Jones, Thad Jones, Hank Jones, Wynton Kelly, Jimmy Knepper, Lee Konitz, John Lewis, Charlie Parker, Oscar Pettiford, Bud Powell, Max Roach, Art Taylor, Mai Waldron, and Kai Winding. The 40-page booklet features an informative essay by Ira Gitler plus session notes, photos, and discographical details.


A musician-owned and -run record company, Debut had been conceived as a means for Mingus and his partner Max Roach to get their own compositions recorded. During Debut's seven-year existence, from 1951 to 1958, Mingus emerged as not only an indispensable player in company operations but a vital force in the music as well—a giant on his instrument, an innovator in composition and bandleading, a mentor to up-and-coming musicians.


More than a decade after his premature death in 1979, Charles Mingus's presence continues to be strongly felt. Posthumous recordings and ongoing performances of works such as Epitaph have served to keep his name and creative spirit very much alive.


Likewise, the music in this box represents a fundamental chapter in the history of a jazz visionary.


Produced by Ed Michel”


The detail booklet - about which more later in Parts 2 and 3 of this series on Debut - contained this announcement of Debut’s formation in the July 1952 edition of Metronome Magazine:


“CIGAR salesman William J. Brandt is conscious of the responsibility of fatherhood; so conscious that he visited the now defunct Downbeat Club in New York to find out where and how his son was spending his evenings. He found pianist Billy Taylor and bassist Charlie Mingus, enjoyed himself immensely and further found, before the evening was over, that he was co-owner of a new record company in partnership with Mingus who had convinced him that money spent at the bar could be better used to further the cause of jazz.


In this manner, the Debut label was born in April, 1952. Orthodoxy was never a watchword in the Mingus household and Debut and its operations were no exception to the rule. The first two sides, Portrait and Precognition, both written by Mingus, were products of his feeling that jazz was maturing to a point where it was ever approaching the complexities of classical music, that the main distinction between the two forms was the rhythmic content of jazz, and that jazz could be so written that a classical musician would swing just by correctly reading the music.


Just through his knowledge of the working musicians Mingus has managed to snare a good percentage of the best in jazz; names that sell in spite of their ability to play well. 

Vocalist Jackie Paris was the first Debut commercial hit with Portrait and with his Paris Blues and Make Believe. Max Roach is a consistent seller. The first volume of Jazz at Massey Hall, an on-the spot recording of Dizzy, Charlie Chan [pseudonym for Charlie Parker], Bud, Charlie Mingus and Max, was of more than passing musical interest and sold well to boot. The company's latest LP featuring trombonists Willie Dennis, J.J. Johnson. Kai Winding and Benny Green has some of the most exciting jazz of the year.


Because of a questionable union ruling that musicians cannot own record companies, Mingus was forced to sell the company to attorney Harold Lovett, this Fall, but the label's policy remains the same: a policy which is best described as pro musician and artistic qualities with loot gratefully accepted.


Behind all the successes and failures is Charlie's considerable talent both in writing and playing. In an art form where integrity is an essential element, and a manufacturing field where this element is most often sadly lacking, he fills a huge gap to the benefit of jazz, its artists and its followers. Debut is more than an entrance into the field of jazz, it is a portable concert hall filled with stellar attractions who play much of the best in modern music.—B.C.
METRONOME”


Some commentary, huh? I especially “liked” the part about the musicians’ union not allowing a musician to own a record company!

Ed Michel, the producer of the boxed set offered these words as to its significance:


A producer's note on sound quality


The key to this package is the quality of the music Charles Mingus made available during his Debut years. Audiophile listeners are not likely to be enchanted with the quality of the sound heard here. Debut was an almost classic example of the small independent label, and most recordings were made under rushed circumstances, hardly ever under the best possible conditions or in the best available studios.


Moreover, over the years, the tapes were handled roughly almost from the beginning, and are frequently damaged, accounting for the several tape wows, slips, speed changes, level changes, and bumps which can be heard throughout these sides. Much of the remarkable music heard here was recorded in live performance, and some of the problems which can be heard are directly attributable to the often-chaotic conditions under which those recordings were made.


In some cases, no master tapes exist, and transfers had to be made from disc sources, 78 RPM, extended-play 45s, and LPs.


Charles Mingus viewed tape editing as a part of composition; unfortunately, many of the edits made in his music were all too audible, and, regrettably, since in most cases the original edited fragments no longer exist, there is no way to restore the missing pieces or smooth over these dubious edits without losing even more segments of the music.


The splendid engineers with whom I worked on this project did everything possible with current technology to remove the audio problems standing between the listener and the music, but in every case when there was a choice to be made between audio smoothness and loss of musical content, I chose to keep the music. It is my hope that this choice will not interfere overmuch with the listener's enjoyment of Mr. Mingus's work.


—Ed Michel”


After reading Ed’s producer note, one gets the impression that it is a miracle that so much of the music recorded for the Debut label even exists, all the more reason to highlight what we do know about it and its history.


The following video features Thad Jones on trumpet performing his original composition Ditty Bitty from his Debut LP with Frank Wess on tenor saxophone, Hank Jones on piano, Charlie Mingus on bass and Kenny Clarke on drums.


Friday, May 29, 2015

Red Garland: Graceful and Bluesy [From The Archives]

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


It seemed to be over so fast for William “Red” Garland.

One minute he’s making all those great Prestige and Columbia records as the pianist with the classic Miles Davis quintet that also featured tenor saxophonist John Coltrane, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer “Philly” Joe Jones, but after 1959, he seemed somehow to become relegated to total obscurity.

Bill Evans and then Wynton Kelly replaced him with Miles and, with the advent of the 1960’s, Jazz clubs began to close calling for great adjustments by those who continued to work in the music.

Red was not one of the Jazz musicians who successfully navigated the sea of changes that swept over the Jazz World, returning instead to Dallas and choosing to live in his father’s home in a state of virtual retirement.

The recordings that “Red” made with Miles and under his own name for Orrin Keepnews at Riverside Records during his brief period of ascendancy were my first introduction to what some referred to as an “East Coast Jazz rhythm section.”

Red along with Paul Chambers and “Philly” Joe Jones opened a whole new world for me of keeping time and playing behind horns in a style that was on top of the beat, hard driving and full of intensity.


The epitome of what Red, Paul and “Philly” Joe got going as a rhythm section was contained on their trio performance of Billy Boy on the Miles Davis Milestones LP. I practiced to it so often that I learned to play every accent, fill and solo that Philly Joe Jones plays on this track from memory.

Before he faded from the Jazz scene, Red also made a series of recordings for Prestige as a leader and as a sideman for John Coltrane that included, in addition to Chambers and Jones, bassists George Joyner, Sam Jones, Peck Morrison and Wendell Marshall, as well as, drummers Art Taylor, Specs Wright, Charlie Persip, Frank Gant and Larry Ridley.

But whether he was out front or just on the date, and irrespective of who joined him in the rhythm section, the “feel” and sound of Red’s approach to the piano remained essentially the same.

“Graceful yet unaffectedly bluesy, Red Garland's manner was flex­ible enough to accommodate the contrasting styles of both Miles Davis and John Coltrane in the Davis quintet of the mid-1950s. His many records as a leader, beginning at about the same period, display exactly the same qualities. His confessed influences of Tatum, Powell and Nat Cole seem less obvious than his debts to Erroll Garner and Ahmad Jamal, whose hit recording of Billy Boy from the early 1950’s seems to sum up everything that Garland would later go on to explore.

All of the listed trio sessions feature the same virtues: deftly fin­gered left-hand runs over bouncy rhythms, coupled with block-chord phrasing which colored melodies in such a way that Gar­land saw no need to depart from them. Medium-up-tempo treatments alternate with stately ballads, and Chambers and Tay­lor are unfailingly swinging, if often constrained, partners. The later sessions feature a slightly greater empathy, but we find it very hard to choose a favorite among these records.” [Richard Cook and Brian Morton, Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, 6th Ed., p. 548].

In this excerpt from his interview with Len Lyons, “Red” described how it all began for him:

“When did you begin playing piano?

I didn't begin on piano. In fact, I never played the piano until I was in the army. You couldn't call me a child prodigy. I started on clarinet because my father wanted me to. It was his idea. He loved Benny Goodman, so he wanted me to play the clarinet. The truth is I've always wanted to play trumpet. At least I did then. At the dances we used to go to as kids, the brass section seemed to have the most fun. They'd sit there with the trumpets across their laps, clapping to the music.

I took up the piano when I ran across Lee Barnes, a pianist in the army band. He started teaching me how to play, and I soon grew to love it. He inspired me. Nobody had to tell me to practice because I was playing piano all day. Lee even wrote out exercises for me. When I left the army, I bought an exercise book by Theodore Presser, and that was a great help to me.


In 1945 I played my first gig on piano. It was with a tenor player, Bill Blocker, who had a quartet in Fort WorthTexas. We played mostly in the dance halls. During those years I was listening to Count Basie. He was my first favorite. He didn't have a lot of technique, but I thought he was very tasty. I started to copy him for a while. Then I began to copy Nat "King" Cole, who was more of a pianist than most people know. He was tasty, too, and he didn't have a bad technique. Then [trumpeter Oran] Hot Lips Page came to town with his band. We used to call him just Lips. Anyway, his piano player got fired while the band was down in Texas. I think it might have been because of drunkenness. Then Buster Smith, the alto saxophonist, came to my house at four o'clock in the morning to tell me to hurry and get dressed because Lips wanted me to go with him. I told him, no, I wasn't ready. I wasn't good enough yet. But they talked me into it anyway, and we toured all the way across the country into New York City.

When I got to New York, I ran into the tenor player Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, and I asked him where all the good piano players were. He told me Bud Powell was about the baddest cat in town. ‘Who's Bud Powell?’ I asked him. ‘Don't worry, you're going to find out,’ he told me. Well, one night I was working at Minton's with Max Roach, and I looked over toward the door, and in walked Bud. I could hardly play because of everything I had heard about him. I froze. Bud came over and started forcing me off the bench. ‘Let me play,’ he kept saying to me. ‘Let me play.’ Max was yelling to me, ‘No! Get him away. Keep him away from the piano.’ Max was afraid he was crazy or something and was going to ruin the gig. I got up anyway. I figured if Bud wanted to play that bad, I wasn't going to stand in his way. Well, he sat down at the piano and scared me to death-he played so much piano! I told Max, ‘I quit! Give him the job!"’See, Bud took my cool.

But a few days later I went over to Bud's house, and he showed me some things. In fact, I came back day after day to learn from him, and we became buddies. He was really friendly to me and the greatest influence on me of any pianist, except for Art Tatum. I still don't believe Art Tatum was real.

There was a club named Luckey's [Rendezvous], owned by Luckey Rob­erts, and it was just for piano players - no bass or drums allowed. There's where we'd separate the men from the boys, when you can't lean on the bass or drums. Art Tatum was a frequent visitor there, and I'd stand over his shoulder to watch what he was doing. One night he stood behind me as I was playing. ‘You're forcing,’ he told me. ‘You're forcing. Don't play the piano. Let the piano play itself.’ I was tight, so he gave me that piece of advice, and I've always remembered it. He gave me some arpeggios to work on, too, and I'm still working on them.

Then I was working in a small club in Boston with Coleman Hawkins when Miles [Davis] came in to hear me. He told me during the intermission that he wanted to get a group together with me on piano, Philly Joe, Curly Russell on bass, and Sonny Rollins on tenor. Two weeks later I heard Sonny couldn't get released from his rehabilitation program, so I left town for Phila­delphia. A while later I got a telegram from Miles asking me if I knew anyone in Philadelphia who could play tenor sax. I told him I knew a cat named John Coltrane, and Miles asked me, ‘Can he play?’ and I told him, ‘Sure he can.’ John and I met Miles in Baltimore. Meanwhile, Miles had found a kid out of Detroit, named Paul Chambers, and he played bass for us. Philly Joe was still on drums. We had never played together until the night of our first gig, so we got together about five in the afternoon and jammed. From the opening tune we clicked. We just clicked right away, and that was that. We stayed together from '55 to January 1959. I did a few trio gigs by myself and then went home, like I told you.” [The Great Jazz Pianists Speaking of Their Lives and Music, pp. 146-147].

With the help of the crackerjack graphics team at CerraJazz LTD and the production facilities of StudioCerra, the editorial staff at JazzProfiles put together the following video tribute to Red with he along with Paul Chambers and “Philly Joe Jones” featured on their memorable performance of Billy Boy.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Brass Connection - "Giant Steps"

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


"I think this is a great album! Of the Trombone albums I have heard to date, -this is one of the most exciting."
- Slide Hampton, Jazz trombonist

"This record exposes a new breed of artist, both traditional and visionary.
The compositions and arrangements therein demand a great spontaneous effort and yet keep a sensitive awareness of fellow performers. Truly an outstanding tribute to Jazz of the '80s!"
- Sammy Nestico, arranger and composer

"Doug Hamilton has brought together some of the top musicians in North America. The musical colours painted by the trombones make this a rare and beautiful album."
- Phil MacKellar Host of CKFM's "All That Jazz"

“This is jazz-pure and simple. This is jazz that entertains and recharges the spirit. Here are forty minutes and eight tracks that define what jazz is all about: music that depends on its performers to transform themselves into spontaneous poets, expressing their personalities and imaginations through their instruments.
Here is a band composed of a trombone quintet and a rhythm section enriched by the addition of vibes and guitar that alternately swings or sighs and never loses its unerring beat. The swirl of tonal colours lends this album a haunting quality, both of the sounds of jazz remembered and perhaps a revelation of the sounds of jazz in the future." - Peter C. Newman Editor, Macleans Magazine

I developed this posting because I wanted to spend a little time with two of my favorites things - the sound of the Jazz trombone playing John Coltrane’s by now famous composition - Giant Steps. [If this statement calls to mind the lyric - “... these are just two of my favorite things,” then I confess to being a maker of bad puns.]

I have always been intrigued by the bass clef sound of the trombone, especially in combination [e.g.: Jay and Kai/J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding] or in a choir [e.g. the trombone section of a big band which is usually made up of three or four trombones including a bass trombone].

The rub against two trombones as the co-leads in a Jazz combo is that they do not generate enough contrasting sound by comparison with a trumpet and a tenor sax or a trumpet and an alto or baritone saxophone, which make up the more common front lines in a Jazz group. Put another way, the trombone’s range of sonorities [textures] on a tonal “palette” is limited.

Of course, the key to establishing sufficient contrast in two bass clef instruments is the way in which they are voiced [arranged].

I’m always on the lookout for cleverly orchestrated multi-trombone recordings which is basically how I stumbled upon The Brass Connection [Dark Orchid 652 - 02018; I’m not aware of a CD version of the recording].

The album features five Canadian trombonists - Doug Hamilton, Ian McDougall, Jerry Johnson, Bob Livingston and John Capon - with a rhythm section made up of guitarist Lorne Lofsky, pianist Frank Falco, Dave young on bass and Terry Clarke on drums. The versatile Don Thompson who plays bass vibes and piano with equal excellence, plays piano and vibes on some tracks and also arranged two of the eight tracks. The arrangements for the other six tracks on the album are by trombonists McDougall [three] Hamilton [two] and Johnson [one].

The LP is made up of an interesting mix of Jazz standards such as Dizzy Gillespie’s Tanga and Joe Henderson’s A Shade of Jade and the traditional Dear Old Stockholm combined with some intriguingly arranged original compositions including Ian McDougall’s Lightly Turning and Osteology and two beautiful ballads: Lee by Doug Hamilton and Quiet Steps by Don Thompson.

But the group’s version of John Coltrane’s Giant Steps is the outstanding track in my opinion and the one that caused me to run down to my local record shop [remember those?] when I first heard it on the local FM Jazz radio station [remember those?]. It’s probably a good thing that I sought out a copy right away as I doubt that the small audience for Jazz recordings caused a run on sales.

What really gassed me about The Brass Connection’s version of Giant Steps was how Ian McDougall arranged the five ‘bones to come in right after the guitar solo by Lorne Lofsky playing Coltrane’s first two choruses from his solo on the original Giant Steps Atlantic LP. I mean, talk about running a musical obstacle course!


Ted Gioia in his The Jazz Standards offers this view of the challenges inherent in Coltrane’s masterpiece.

Giant Steps, first recorded by John Coltrane for his 1959 Atlantic album of the same name, quickly became famous in jazz circles — but more as an obstacle course than a favored jam session tune. The song Cherokee had played a similar role for the boppers of the early 19405, weeding out the wannabes not ready for the demands of modern jazz. Think of Giant Steps as Cherokee on steroids. [Emphasis, mine.]

True, Giant Steps was not as revolutionary as some of the more avant-garde offerings of the day. Coltrane's song stayed in 4/4 time, followed a i6-bar form, and did not veer outside the conventional boundaries of tonality. The chord progression borrowed many elements used previously by jazz players—listen to Richard Rodgers's bridge to the 1937 standard Have You Met Miss Jones? for
an important predecessor. Yet at Coltrane's brisk tempo and with a few of his own ingenious harmonic twists added to the mix, this musical steeplechase presented a stiff challenge to an unprepared soloist, circa 1959.

Ah, Coltrane was quite prepared  …. The saxophone titan, for his part, had developed some handy improvisational patterns to employ on the song, most notably a repeated phrase that draws on the opening four notes of the pentatonic scale. Coltrane relies on this motif repeatedly in his solo, and close study of his improvisation reveals a certain rote quality to it. Yet the overall effect is nonetheless impressive, perhaps even a bit unsettling. I tend to view Giant Steps less as a song, and more an exercise Coltrane developed as part of his own intense self-imposed musical education — one that he left behind after he had mastered it. ….

But the jazz world did not forget Giant Steps. Every serious jazz musician ought to learn and master it—not just because it might be called at the next gig, but simply for the mind-expanding lessons it imparts.” [pp.126-127]

The following video features The Brass Connection on - what else? - their version of Coltrane’s Giant Steps [You can hear them play the original Coltrane choruses beginning at around 2:28 minutes].


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Deborah Latz - "sur l'instant"

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


"Latz displays the expressive depth and masterful interpretive skills that mark her as one of the most gifted singers of her generation."
- New Yorker writer Steve Futterman in the album's liner notes

"Her voice rings with a fetching richness... I'm bewitched."
— Dan McClenaghan, All About Jazz

"Latz's vocal control and flexibility is not just on display for itself. She is not just a singer. She is a true performer."
- Kelly Koenig, Examiner.com

"Deborah is a beautiful singer and a great talent!"
- Shelia Jordan, vocalist

In our 5/5/2013 review of Deborah Latz’s CD Fig Tree, the editorial staff at JazzProfiles commented:

“Deborah Latz has something to say and she has the talent and the ability to say it.

Deborah Latz is not putting on airs, she’s not aping or miming or imitating, she is an accomplished Jazz vocalist in her own right.

She is “accomplished” in the fullest meaning of the word: highly trained, skillful, finished, complete, polished, refined, realized.

Deborah’s Jazz vocals have a presence and once you’ve been in their presence you're enraptured by it.

When she sings the lyrics to a tune, she infuses them with a strong mixture of emotion and intelligence. Her range is wide such that she handles everything from sincerity to humor with aplomb.

Her voice is rich; her enunciation is clear; she has a great sense of time. And depending on the mood she is trying to evoke, Deborah’s vocal style has just the right amount of punch and pop or just enough gentleness and tenderness. She is in command because she knows what she is doing and she knows what she wants to do.”

Three years later, all of these qualities are even more refined on Deborah’s new CD for June Moon Productions - sur l’instant [jmp 40515].

The music on sur l’instant is wonderfully entertaining. It comes together as an act of dedication and love by three people performing as one.

As the CD title denotes, an atmosphere of spontaneity and joie de vivre is the main ingredient in all nine of the disc’s well-balanced performances most of which have been arranged by Deborah.

And the musical itinerary of the CD takes us on a vocal Jazz journey through the Great American Songbook, Jazz Standards, Movie Themes, with a couple of lesser known Jazz tunes included to provide a glimpse of the unfamiliar.


Some background on how Deborah’s latest project evolved is contained in these opening paragraphs from Steve Futterman:

“Sometimes its necessary to scale back in order to make a grand statement.

On her fourth album, sur l'instant, vocalist Deborah Latz enjoys the company of two superb musicians, the pianist Alain Jean-Marie and the bassist Gilles Naturel. Gone are the drummers, guitarists and horn players that fleshed out the striking performances on her previous recordings. Yet by reducing the instrumentation, the focus is drawn ever more closely to the fine points of Latz's evolving art. Set in relief against her compatriot's sensitive and open-eared accompaniment, Latz displays the expressive depth and masterful interpretive skills that mark her as one of the most gifted singers of her generation.

Recorded over two days of sessions in Paris, sur l’instant unites the New York-based Latz with trusted players that she's collaborated with on each of her visits to France. Both Jean-Marie and Naturel contributed to arrangements that grew out of club dates preceding the recording.

The instinctive nature of the project reflects Latz's stated goal: to produce an album that demonstrates her deeply felt affinity for swing and the elemental three B's of jazz: Blues, Bebop and Ballads. A straightforward notion perhaps, but Latz has brought a distinct sense of personal wisdom to the game. ….”

Deborah put things even more succinctly:

“For several years it has been a dream of mine to record an album in Paris with two generous and remarkable musicians, Alain Jean-Marie and Gilles Naturel. Et voila we have done it!

Together we have discovered the essence of each tune “in the moment” (sur l’instant), and the result is an intimate and powerful musical conversation. I hope you enjoy it!!

Music is the elixir of Life!”


Ann Braithwaite and her fine team at Braithwaite and Katz Communications sent along the following media release in support of Deborah’s sur l'instant and to also announce that Deborah will be celebrating the new CD on Monday, June 1 at the Bar Next Door and Saturday, July 25 at Cornelia Street Cafe.

sur l'instant, the fourth album by the acclaimed jazz vocalist Deborah Latz, is indeed a jewel of "in the moment" artistry. Recorded in Paris, the recording finds the New York-based singer demonstrating the intimate second sight rapport she's established with two exceptional French musicians, the pianist Alain Jean-Marie and the bassist Gilles Naturel. This spare yet creatively inspiring setting spotlights Latz's subtle swing and dramatically alert delivery to its fullest while also displaying the uncommon gifts of her accompanists.

With a program that imaginatively draws on masterpiece compositions from the jazz repertoire rather than relying solely on typical American Songbook choices sur l'instant trains attention on an engaging swath of songs that have been too often overlooked by vocalists. Dave and lola Brubeck's "Weep No More," the jazz standard "Four" and John Coltrane's "Mr. P.C." (both songs outfitted with lyrics by Jon Hendricks), Abbey Lincoln's "Throw It Away" and Lincoln's adaptation of Thelonious Monk's "Blue Monk," as well as Alex North's "Love Theme From Spartacus" (with lyrics by Terry Callier) each take on thrilling new identities by way of Latz's nimble interpretations. The few evergreens - "All The Things You Are," "Nature Boy" and "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" - shed any patina of overfamiliarity thanks to Latz's thoughtful, revivifying renditions.

The notable contributions of Alain Jean-Marie (who can be heard to great effect on Abbey Lincoln's 1991 album, The World Is Falling Down), and his longtime bandmate, Gilles Naturel, weave together with the singer in a delightful musical trialogue.

While Latz's earlier albums each featured a full band, the pared down instrumentation of the new project allows the singer to focus even further on the intricacies and ensuing pleasures of swinging phrasing. No matter the tempo, whether delicately paced, comfortably mid-tempo or spiritedly charging, Latz is in full command. "I wanted to make a straight ahead recording that featured blues, bebop and swing," she says. "I had worked with Alain and Gilles each of the four times that I've played in France. On my last visit, we went into the studio after playing a few club dates. We didn't have any specific arrangements in mind, but it quickly turned into a real collaboration and the recording became a deep conversation between the three of us."

Employing her background in theater, Latz burrows deep to extract a song's core narrative. "With each interpretation I ask myself, 'Did you tell the story?' — that's the ultimate goal," the singer states. "I wanted the album to be about focus - to always ask 'What is this song?'"

Thanks to an assured singer at the top of her game and her symbiotically attuned support musicians, sur l'instant provides us with plenty of exciting and original answers.”

Here’s a link to Deborah’s websites: www.deborahlatz.com.

The following video features Deborah Latz performing the "Love Theme From Spartacus" with Alain Jean-Marie on piano and Gilles Naturel on bass which is the opening track on sur l'instant.