Daily jazz blog, Marlbank

Monty Alexander, D Day, Pee Wee ****

Piano icon Monty Alexander's best album since the super enjoyable Rocksteady with Ernest Ranglin 20 years ago and one of the best albums of the year to date - serious, heartfelt yet also full of a lot of a swinging Caribbean spirit and wherewithal …

Published: 2 Jun 2024. Updated: 28 days.

Piano icon Monty Alexander's best album since the super enjoyable Rocksteady with Ernest Ranglin 20 years ago and one of the best albums of the year to date - serious, heartfelt yet also full of a lot of a swinging Caribbean spirit and wherewithal - namechecking ''Mr Belafonte'' along the way on 'Day O' with Parisian audience participation captures this latter joyous aspect always present at a Monty concert best, the jazz Jamaican whipping out the melodica an instrument beloved of rocksteady pioneer Augustus Pablo. Turning 80 on yes Thursday - D-Day - a momentous day in world history when the price of failure in 1944 would have been hell on earth subjugation to the Nazis - the pianist tune selections here include a version of 1939's 'I’ll Never Smile Again,' and yin to the yang the inclusion of Charlie Chaplin classic 'Smile' that seems more than apt all ambivalence bearing in mind its bittersweet mood set aside as the album recalls a time when a smile was all that routed and ruined Europeans after years of war had left. Monty tunes 'Aggression,' 'Oh Why,' 'Restoration,' 'June 6,' and best of all the evanescent 'River of Piece' taken together are some of his best thematically conceived compositions in a long career. Not an angry album but instead full of tendresse Monty moved to the United States when he was 17 and became a favourite of Frank Sinatra's going on to play with jazz legends such as Milt Jackson, Dizzy Gillespie, Johnny Griffin and Benny Golson. D-Day pares things back and has US bassist Luke Sellick and London based US drummer Jason Brown.

  • Luke and Jason join Monty on his return to Ronnie Scott's on 24 June for a 5-night run

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Gerard Chumilla, Introducing Gerard Chumilla, Fresh Sound New Talent ***1/2

Another case of when more than half your studio playing mates are far better known than you as leader are. The point surely of someone making an introduction on your behalf. And tenor saxist Gerard Chumilla responds well to such a leg up. Shimmying …

Published: 2 Jun 2024. Updated: 48 days.

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Another case of when more than half your studio playing mates are far better known than you as leader are. The point surely of someone making an introduction on your behalf. And tenor saxist Gerard Chumilla responds well to such a leg up. Shimmying up the jazz ladder he is in his twenties and was born in the coastal town of Caldes d'Estrac, a half an hour's drive or so from Barcelona. Introducing is a Swiss studio recording made in Basel dating back to last year. More than simply an aural calling card it all hangs more than well together as a retro statement of some clout. Brad Mehldau trio bass legend Larry Grenadier with the newcomer plus another Mehldau connection also to hand, the Catalan player - and (like Larry) an Art of the Trio era eminence - Jorge Rossy on drums shape the soundbed.

Another relative unknown pianist Noé Sécula whose own Introducing album - which featured Chumilla on a Wayne Shorter piece 'Angola' on it - came out this year makes a fleeting and rather good appearance on 'Fearless Wanderer'.

Go down the rabbit hole and follow up your listening to Chumilla's album by putting on the full version of Jazz of Two Cities for extra insights into what Chumilla is partially drawing on and also pivot to the chord changes on 'All the Things You Are' (plus words!) of the Jerome Kern & Oscar Hammerstein classic interpreted gloriously by Sarah Vaughan contemporaneously. The Warne Marsh piece 'Dixie's Dilemma' heard on the Chumilla album is a contrafact - meaning, simply speaking, a new tune created and layered over the still smouldering ashes of another song's chords - of 'All the Things You Are.'

Well put together A&R-wise, tunes are Chumilla originals plus covers of Marsh's 'Dixie's Dilemma' from 1957's Jazz of Two Cities and 1940s Billy Strayhorn piece 'My Little Brown Book' plus the most recent of these tunes, Wayne Shorter's 'Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum' from 1966's Speak No Evil. Grenadier is on commanding form on 'Plato's Cave of Shadows' and there's plenty of sinuous soloing from Chumilla - nothing desperately dramatic but displaying a great feel and creating a convincingly authentic jazz mood. If you like and revere one of the tenors of our times Mark Turner - who himself first surfaced as a Warne Marshian when he was a much younger player - then you will appreciate a part of what Chumilla is trying to do way up in his register early on in the piece. The 'Dixie's Dilemma' interpretation is at the heart of what Chumilla is doing covering non-original material in the mix. While as a writer more work with a pianist seems clearly welcome and might well pay dividends given how well the 'Fearless Wanderer' track succeeds - also playlisted on marlbank today - the function of making the necessary introductions works so tantalisingly more than merely stress testing a known to be watertight formula. Think what Warners album Introducing Brad Mehldau did for the future jazz icon's career back in the 1990s - all at issuing label FSNT will surely be hoping Chumilla too will be a name player that one day everyone who needs to be properly aware of his prowess will know.