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CD OF THE WEEK: JAZZ CD OF THE WEEK.

Byline: Peter Bacon

ANDY BEY Tuesdays In Chinatown (N-Coded Music): Andy Bey doesn't count the music in with a 1-2-3, but with some quiet exhaled breaths. The opening title track brings the warm intimacy and fast vibrato of this veteran singer compellingly to the fore, his own quiet piano and the fluegelhorn of John Sneider punctuating the verses.

He does interesting things with Sting's Fragile, though a liberty or two too many with the melody line. Here the instrumental setting varies to take in acoustic guitar and trombone/conch shells from the incomparable Steve Turre.

Bey is one of the few non-Brazilians who sounds convincing singing in Portuguese and his gruff, hushed interpretation of Milton Nascimento's Saidas e Bandeiras is a peach.

He also presents the famous Bix Beiderbecke tune In A Mist complete with lyrics. Gorgeous horn arrangements on both of these by Geri Allen.

HHHH

CARMEN LUNDY This Is ... (Justin Time): Carmen Lundy shares drummers with Andy Bey - the always classy Victor Lewis.

With all those wonderful songs from the Great American Songbook, as it's come to be known, it's a daring singer who chooses to write all her own material. And fine material it is, too.

Lundy varies the mood, from the excitement of new love in All Day, All Night to the blue tones of Now That He's Gone, and she's assisted by some marvellous players, including the hugely under-rated alto saxophonist Bobby Watson.

Lundy has a wide range of styles too, able to combine the classic jazz singing style which is epitomised by Sarah Vaughan with the more modern R 'n' B and blues inflections.

She leaves some effective spaces in the arrangments too, and takes some tunes slowly, so any vocal inadequacies would stand out. They don't because there aren't any. HHHH

SUSANNE ABBUEHL April (ECM): Quiet and slow is how Swiss singer likes her music. On this disc, sparsely accompanied by piano, clarinet and drums, she tackles Carla Bley's tunes and sets a few e e cummings poems to music.

Like many ECM albums, this one suffers from a unity of mood and pace that can make an hour of music stretch the concentration span, but, again like many ECM discs, there are rich rewards to be had for the committed.

Abbuehl is a highly trained singer with not just a European conservatory background - she has also studied intensively in India. This brings a grace and precision to her phrasing.

She's stronger on her own songs, turning 'Round Midnight into another barely moving soung of mourning, with harmonium for accompaniment.

One for the reflective listener. HHH

JAZZ REISSUE CD OF THE WEEK

ELLA FITZGERALD Sings The Harold Arlen Song Book (Verve Master Edition): And then, of course, there's the singer who sets the standard on standards, as it were.

Between August 1960 and January 1961 Ella went into an LA studio with Billy May and his orchestra and recorded enough from the mighty pen of Harold Arlen to fill two CDs, now elegantly packaged together for our delight.

Arlen, the Buffalo-born son of a Jewish cantor, ranks up there alongside George Gershwin for raising the popular song to such a dignified status. Listen to Blues In the Night or Stormy Weather or Ill Wind.

And then he could get as light-hearted as you like, with songs like I've Got The World On A String and Get Happy.

And that's before we get to Over The Rainbow or, wait for it, Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead.

It's possible to argue that Judy Garland's is the definitive Over The Rainbow, or Frank Sinatra's the ultimate One For My Baby (And One More For The Road), but that could be because we're more familiar with those versions - it's difficult to accept anyone could top Ella in this area.

And it's striking, listening to such familiar material again, how free she is with the tunes while never departing from their essence. It's a lesson so many singers who have come along since would do well to learn. HHHHH

WORLD MUSIC CD OF THE WEEK

MISIA Ritual (Erato): The foremost contemporary Portuguese fado singer certainly has respect for the roots of her art. Misia celebrates the grande dame of fado, Amalia Rodrigues, with a tune specially commissioned from the composer, Carlos Goncalves, who contributed greatly to Amalia's last years. And the lyrics of the tune, Xaile de Silencio, are a poem sent to Misia on the day of Rodrigues' death. It includes the words: 'what a shawl of silence you left us/what a strange way of living'.

To many, this 'strange way of living' is altogether too serious, too tragic, to bear in music. The emotions are just too intense, too embarrassing to listen to.

But fado is remarkable in its elevation of the blues to almost operatic intensity, and Misia is certainly a worthy keeper of the flame.

Against a simple backing of guitar, bass and some piano, she sings of love and loss, of two moons, both crossed, with that heart-breaking saudade (longing) which characterises the genre. Magical and exhausting in equal measure. HHHHH

PIANO CD OF THE WEEK

JOANNA MACGREGOR Play (Sound Circus): Here's someone who really does play in the cracks between stereoptypical styles - and makes sure her music gets heard by putting it out on her own label.

It's difficult to explain the range of music on show without listing every track, but here's a taster: Alasdair Nicolson's 42nd St Stomp is a contemporary classical take on the jazz tune; Astor Piazzolla's Libertango is a piano transcript of a bandoneon piece with the composer's voice talking in the background; and Strumming is a live duet performed with the tragically now deceased South African jazz pianist Moses Molelekwa.

And that's not to mention the Ligeti, the Talvin Singh, the Nancarrow, the Willliam Byrd, the John Dowland and the Charles Ives.

Macgregor seems able to do nearly everything except swing, so there is a slightly awkward jumpiness where jazz rhythms and improvisation are attempted. But then, she does everything else so astoundingly well, what does it really matter? HHHH

Peter Bacon
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jan 12, 2002
Words:1018
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