Looking for a last-minute stocking stuffer for the jazz lover in your life, or some new music to be the soundtrack of your New Year's gathering? CapRadio Jazz Director Gary Vercelli gives his take on new music from Gregory Porter, Gary Peacock and Tom Harrell.
Gregory Porter: Nat “King” Cole And Me
Gregory Porter, who was born in Sacramento and raised by a strong-willed mother in Bakersfield, grew up idolizing Nat “King” Cole. In recent years, Porter has established himself as, arguably, the most distinctively original voice in jazz. On this 12-song tribute to Cole, Porter’s clear diction and powerful baritone bring back memories of Cole’s classics while simultaneously proving Gregory has found his own voice. The 70-piece orchestra is capably arranged by Vince Mendoza.
Standout tunes include “Nature Boy,” “L-O-V-E,” and “Pick Yourself Up.” Porter is able to establish his own stamp on these, a legend saluting a legend. The only flaw in this collection is that a few songs, including “Mona Lisa” are actually over-orchestrated. It sounds to me like the orchestra is fighting for the listener’s attention rather than supporting Gregory.
If you thought you never wanted to hear another version of “The Christmas Song,” think again. Gregory Porter’s tribute to Nat Cole is the ideal stocking stuffer.
Gary Peacock: Tangents
Veteran bassist Gary Peacock is no stranger to the piano trio format, having worked with Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette in one of the premiere trios of the jazz idiom for over 30 years. On his most recent ECM outing, Peacock makes a personal statement as a virtuoso bassist and prolific composer. Gary is joined by pianist Marc Copland and drummer Joey Barron. Together, they explore originals, such as the Ornette Coleman-inspired “Rumblin’,” on which Gary states the melody with the angular support of Copeland’s piano providing an interesting juxtaposition on this up-tempo cooker.
Peacock spent some reflective time in Japan in the ‘60’s, studying Zen, and the introspective sensitivities he developed there continue to imbue his work. Take, for example, the trio’s gentle reading of “The Love Theme from Spartacus,” on which Copeland and Peacock again trade solo duties in a lyrical fashion. Now in his early 80’s, Gary Peacock continues to drink from the fountain of youth. I believe, in his case, the music keeps him vibrant and active.
Tom Harrell: Moving Picture
On his previous High Note CDS, trumpeter Tom Harrell has worked in various band configurations. These included a sextet with two bassists, a quintet with fellow trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, and a classically-inspired group featuring strings. Here, Tom cooks things down to basics: a quartet featuring Danny Grissett on acoustic and electric piano. Sometimes, less is more, and here the results are indeed impressive.
Harrell’s solos sparkle in this uncluttered environment. Grissett’s work on Fender Rhodes provides the perfect canvas for Tom’s inspiring solos. Harrell’s compositions are sometimes quite simple, but always engaging. Take, for example, his reggae-inspired “Montego Bay.” It features a buoyant melody that leaves you feeling upbeat. On the title composition, “Moving Picture,” Tom overdubs his trumpet parts, giving the illusion of a larger group, but never compromising the intimate setting established throughout this collection.