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Three fine new jazz albums worth hearing.

Music Reviews: Roger Davidson – ‘Temple of the Soul,’ Joe Ferrara – ‘The Tiger Walks My Dreams,’ Kevin Cline – ‘Make Up Your Mind’

Roger Davidson – Temple of the Soul

The biggest problem with Roger Davidson’s solo piano album, Temple of the Soul, is defining its genre. As the liner notes explains the album is a collection of rhapsodies and meditations “one-hundred percent improvised.” Call it jazz. On the other hand, if you skip the liner notes, close your eyes and listen, you could easily imagine yourself in a concert hall listening to a classical recital, and didn’t those classical composers improvise as well. Call it… call it what you will, brogerut make sure to call it beautiful,  imaginative, and transformative.

Roger Davidson is a masterful pianist, and this new album shows him at his creative best. He knows the literature of his instrument and he works with it and builds on it. The title piece that opens the album has passages that evoke Gershwin. You hear it again even more emphatically later on in “Blue Voyage.” “Ethereal Ocean,” which follows, has touches of Erik Satie. Indeed, the Satie sound can be heard in a few of the pieces. Davidson himself points out the influence of the Impressionists in “Fountains of Life,” and I hear it in the shimmering quality of “Forest Prayer.”

Jazz? Classical? Temple of the Soul is one beautiful album.

Joe Ferrara – The Tiger Walks My Dreams

Listening to Joe Ferrara sing with his big band, every once in a while you can imagine you’re hearing Frank Sinatra, but most of the time what you’re hearing is a singer with his own vocal ideas. Ferrara is not looking to the past; he’s not looking to “Dial-a-cliché.” The very fact that he’s singing the Morrissey song, instead of “My Way” or “My Kind of Town” shows him reaching for something new.

In his 10-tune album, including the Morrissey song, only four are covers. The covers don’t come out of the Great American Songbook. Instead he’s singing “Night Song” from Broadway’s Golden Boy, what his publicity calls a sci-fi samba arrangement of “The Big Hurt,” and a Tom Jones take on Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan’s “All the World is Green.” He has a big voice and he isn’t afraid to let it go.

Ferrara is recording with a 21-piece band. And the arrangements, by Tim Ouimette, are consistently varied and always interesting. “How Can It Be,” which opens the album, is a rapid-fire bopper with some lyrical horns behind. “Whiskey Island” captures the vibe of a ’40s black-and-white movie, while “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” plays games with the bossa nova.

Kevin Cline – Make Up Your Mind

If pianist, trombonist, composer Kevin Cline’s self-released album, Make Up Your Mind, proves only one truth, it is that there is a lot of jazz talent that most of us never get to hear out there, and that is our loss. The album is a set of 15 songs, 14 Cline originals and the evergreen, “My Funny Valentine.” Cline works with a variety of different musicians, most notably Bobby Shew who plays trumpet and flugelhorn on four tracks, Victor Garcia who does the same on three, and Jim Gailloreto who plays soprano and tenor sax on 10. Paul Zimmerman does vocals on a couple of tunes. Isha Maria Lewis adds a vocal highlight with her interpretation of “My Funny Valentine.”Kevin cline

Other highlights include the Latin flavored “Beware the Snake,” where he is joined by guitarist Dale Prasco, “Umbrella, Sunglasses & Gloves,” inspired (according to the liner notes) by rock horn bands like Chicago, and “Happy-Go-Lucky,” with a sound that reminds me of the days of the big bands, as does the title song. Shew does some sweet trumpet solo work on both, as does Cline on trombone.

Make Up Your Mind is an album filled with good listenable music, the kind of solid sound that sticks to the ribs like a good steak.

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