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Reviewed here are two new jazz releases and a different kind of tribute to Bill Evans.

Music Reviews: Jazz from Lauren Meccia, The Phil Chester Group, and Pat Hall

Lauren MecciaInside Your Eyes

Although an accomplished saxophonist, Lauren Meccia seems to limit her instrumental participation on Inside Your Eyes in favor of her prowess as a vocalist. While her vocals are winning, the one extensive sample of her work on the sax in “Atlantis” – an instrumental original from the album’s bassist Mike Frost – is enough to whet appetites for more. The bulk of the dynamic solo work on the album is in the able fingers of pianist Donald Vega.

_Inside_Your_Eyes_cover_c_Heather_SargentMeccia is equally at home scatting through a speedy “How High the Moon” (spiced with lyrics from the Charlie Parker contrafact “Ornithology” often rendered in vocalese by jazz singers), a hauntingly exotic rendition of “The Look of Love,” and a sexy “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” Besides standards like “Cheek to Cheek,” “Over the Rainbow,” and a witty take on “One Note Samba,” the set includes two original tracks from Vega—the title song and “If You Can Fly.”

Inside Your Eyes is scheduled for release January 6, 2015.

The Phil Chester Group Open Door Samba

Open Door Samba is a self-produced compendium from multi-sax man Phil Chester leading an ensemble called The Phil Chester Group through a generically mixed set of a dozen of his original compositions. Chester plays soprano, alto and tenor with a rhythm section that includes Bob Quaranta on piano, Ian Froman on drums, and bassists Joe Fitzgerald and Leo Huppert each working on six of the tunes. In addition to this typical instrumentation, there is Katie Jacoby on violin and Tomas Ulrich on cello.

Although the album title may suggest a Latin groove, it is really an eclectic set running from the lively title tune and the melodic “April Bossa” to the rambunctious “Round the Block” and the lyrical “Waltz for Fern.” What you get is almost an hour and a quarter of diverse, straightforward jazz. In total, it is an album long on good, if not particularly innovative, listening.

Open Door Samba is scheduled for release February 3, 2015.

Open DoorPat HallTime Remembered: The Music of Bill Evans

Fronting a quartet featuring the Hammond B-3 organ of Greg “Organ Monk” Lewis, the guitar of Marvin Sewell and Mike Campenni on drums, trombonist Pat Hall runs through a set of seven tunes on this release—four, including an epic reading of his “Waltz for Debby” are Evans originals. One is by his bassist bandmate Scott LaFaro (“Gloria’s Step”), one Evans favorite (“Elsa”) is from longtime collaborator Earl Zindars, and there’s a Rodgers and Hart classic, “Spring Is Here.”

Time_Remembered_Pat_HallIf nothing else, Hall’s chutzpah in creating a tribute to one of the truly great jazz pianists with a piano-less ensemble deserves credit for originality. Instead of taking the conventional route, flattering by imitation—certainly not the most creative of approaches—he honors a great jazz artist as a jazz artist should by using his work as a foundation to build something new. Creation rather than imitation. Let’s face it, if all you’re going to do is copy, why bother? We can better listen to the original.

From the very first tune “Gloria’s Step” through “Elsa” and “Time Remembered” to the album’s closer “Peri’s Scope,” this is an album that both showcases Hall’s virtuosity on the trombone and the vitality of Evans as a continuing inspiration for creative expression.

Time Remembered: The Music of Bill Evans was released in August.

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