Saxophonist Paul Carlon leads a varied assortment of musicians in a salute to the music of Duke Ellington stalwart Billy Strayhorn in this new album. Instead of a straightforward jazz approach, Carlon has a concept. In some sense, it is an analogue to what some stage directors feel they need to do when staging Shakespeare. Hamlet has been done so often, you can’t just do it straight. How about setting it in a prison in Georgia?
Strayhorn’s music, so iconic, is like a Shakespeare play. What, he asks, would Strayhorn’s music sound like had he been born in Havana (a concept those of us in Western Pennsylvania might find less than thrilling)? This album is the answer—Strayhorn with a Cuban touch. Turns out that played straight or with Afro-Latin rhythms, Strayhorn’s music (even some of the less well known tunes) is as good as it gets.
Of the 10 songs on the album, probably the best known is the classic “Take the A Train,” here played in a Cuban 6/8 rhythm and featuring solos from Mike Fahie on trombone and Dave Ambrosio on acoustic bass. Christelle Durandy does vocal work on five tracks, including “Day Dream,” “Passion Flower,” and “A Flower is a Lovesome Thing.” “Chelsea Bridge” gets some interesting solo work from trumpeter Alex Norris.
There is a back story that goes with this album.
More than a half century ago, pianist Amadie was stricken with a severe case of tendonitis, a condition that made playing an almost impossible task, almost but not quite. Over the years, Amadie learned to play through the pain. With the help of a number of surgeries he was able to build up his strength. He was able to record, but he had to do it on a piecemeal basis, with lots of time to rest between sessions. Then in 2008 he developed lung cancer. Still, in spite of all obstacles the desire to play is alive in the artist. How he managed it is difficult to comprehend, but he put it all together for this live concert, his first public performance in 54 years and more than likely his last.
Joined by Tony Marino on bass and Bill Goodwin on drums, Amadie works his way through a dozen standards from the Great American Songbook with the finesse a man who will not be denied. The set includes ballads like “Summertime,” “My Funny Valentine,” and “Softly, As the Morning Sunrise,” and some uptempo tunes like “This Can’t Be Love” and “Just in Time.” It is an effective selection of fine music.
This album is an emotional powerhouse. His playing is inspired and inspirational. The audience eats it up. The trio plays straight-ahead, mainstream jazz that never gets too far out. It is traditional music played in the traditional manner.
A veteran saxophonist and singer, Bob Mover has played with jazz greats past and present. His resume includes stints with the likes of Chet Baker, Charles Mingus, Lee Konitz and Esperanza Spalding, just to name a few. He has released nine albums as ensemble leader.
My Heart Tells Me is a two-disc set which has Mover working with both a quintet and sextet. Disc one is a set of nine standards, eight of which feature Mover as vocalist. It includes tunes like “So Near and Yet So Far,” “Gone With the Wind” and “By Myself.” Mover’s singing is fairly low key and in many respects his approach to a song reminds me a bit of Chet Baker. The one instrumental on this disc is a swinging take on Cole Porter’s “Get Out of Town.” In general the music on this disc is fairly mainstream.
Disc two, with a somewhat more adventurous bebop vibe, has seven tracks, six instrumentals and one vocal. Five of the songs are Mover originals. His vocal is a fine rendition of Kenny Dorham’s “Fair Weather,” but when push comes to shove, my own preference is for Mover on the sax. This second disc is filled with his excellent solo work, as well as that of pianist Kenny Barron and Josh Evans on trumpet.