Dave Bennett – Don’t Be That Way
Clarinetist Dave Bennett channels his inner Benny Goodman as he revisits some of the classics of the swing era in his album Don’t Be That Way. Working on arrangements by Shelley Berger in a quintet featuring Tad Wood on piano, Paul Keller on bass, Pete Siers on drums and Reg Schwager on guitars, he runs through tunes not only identified with Goodman, but with Artie Shaw and Woody Herman as well. And if his interpretations won’t quite make you forget the good old days (after all, what is there today that can ever compare with the days of your youth), they will at the least bring back fond memories.
So while the ensemble does a swinging job on a tune like “Running Wild,” the sound on the iconic “Sing, Sing, Sing” seems a little thin and they only get moving about half way through the song. “St. James Infirmary” is almost dirge-like at the beginning, and Bennett’s vocal could use a little more grit, but the piano work is effective, as is the clarinet solo at the end. Like “Sing, Sing, Sing,” it really begins to move about half way through. “Slipped Disc,” which opens the album, is a winner, and “Begin the Beguine” and the Goodman sign-off, “Goodbye” are well done. The ensemble’s work on the Beatles’ “Yesterday” suggests it might not be a bad idea to spend a little more time with more contemporary work.
Warren Wolf – Wolfgang
Wolfgang is the second album from vibraphonist Warren Wolf. In his self-titled first album, he says he wanted to introduce himself as a leader; his second is intended to showcase his writing. Of the nine tracks on the CD, six are original compositions. They range from the lyrical “Sunrise” which opens the album to the hard-driving “Grand Central,” with all the frantic hustle of its New York namesake. His music focuses on memorable melody that swings.
Wolf works with two different quartets on seven tracks, and two—the title song and the final piece, the well-known light classic, “Le Carnaval de Venise”—are duets with pianist Aaron Diehl. Darryl Tookes contributes some vocalese on “Setembro,” a melody from Ivan Lins and Gilson Peranzzetta. There is also a funky take on the traditional “Frankie and Johnny.”
So there’s something old, and a lot that’s new. But old or new, Wolf’s music is audience-centered. He is not off in his own little world. His music is meant to connect.
Scott Hamilton – Swedish Ballads . . . & More
If Wolf and Bennett represent some of the newer voices in jazz, tenor sax player Scott Hamilton has been around for a while. He has played with some of the giants of swing, musicians like trumpeter Roy Eldridge and pianist Teddy Wilson. He is an old pro and his latest album Swedish Ballads . . . & More is a lyrical expression of his longtime love affair with the country and its music.
The album on which Hamilton is backed up by pianist Jan Lundgren, bassist Jesper Lundgaard and drummer Krestian Leth takes the listener on a tour through a variety of tunes that have an association with Sweden. Some are like “Dear Old Stockholm,” a traditional folk song which may already be familiar to American audiences from Stan Getz and Miles Davis recordings. Others, like Swedish songwriter Al Sandstrom’s “You Can’t Be in Love with a Dream” are probably less well-known and deserve some further attention.
Of the seven tracks on the album, highlights include the Quincy Jones composition “Stockholm Sweetnin’” and “Swing in F,” a tune included on Wilson’s Swedish Jazz My Way. The album closes with “Blues in Octaves” by Swedish pianist and composer Jan Johansson, who is identified in the liner notes as “one of the genuine heavyweights of Scandinavian jazz” and who died in 1969.
Hamilton is in fine form. His album is a pleasure to listen to.