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CD Reviews: Jazz CDs.

Byline: Reviewed by Peter Bacon

Branford Marsalis Jazz CD of the week Branford Marsalis Quartet -Romare Bearden Revealed (Marsalis Music/Rounder 11661-3306-2) The saxophone-playing Marsalis strays into the territory normally occupied by his trumpet-playing brother Wynton with this disc inspired by the artist Romare Bearden.

Bearden made collage pictures inspired by the jazz life and jazz musicians, and they are a graphic representation of the way jazz musicians cut and paste the tradition, their influences and their own original ideas to create fresh improvisations.

Branford starts with Duke Ellington's I'm Slappin' Seventh Avenue and Jelly Roll Morton's Jungle Blues, evoking the earlier half of the 20th century before taking on a more 1950s cool mood with Seabreeze, partly composed by Bearden.

He jumps into contemporary jazz before going all the way back to James P Johnson's Carolina Shout. He augments his solid quartet of Joey Calderazzo, Eric Revis and Jeff 'Tain' Watts with guest appearances from Wynton, guitaristDoug Wamble and pianist Harry Connick Jr among others.

In fact Jungle Blues is almost entirely a family affair with other brothers Delfeayo and Jason on trombone and drums respectively, and father Ellis on piano.

Branford continues to confuse and confound. I remember his being billed to appear at the North Sea Jazz Festival a few years ago in duet with his father (they had not long before recorded a gentle ballad album of duets). Instead the saxophonist took the stage with bass and drums and proceeded to subject his audience to a gruelling sax trio workout that had half of them running for cover after the first number.

This one should draw back the more conservative fans, but it has something for everyone, namely timeless music of the highest quality, played with a good deal of deeper feelings. HHHH

To buy this CD for pounds 14.99, including post and packing, call our Music Line on 01634 832 789 Arild Andersen -The Triangle (ECM 038 1212) Take a bass player from Oslo, a pianist from Athens and a drummer from London and you get a triangular musical meeting which just about encapsulates the universality of European jazz in the 21st century.

The pianist is Vassilis Tsabropoulis, a classical player who came late to jazz; the drummer is John Marshall, whose bands have included Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated, Ian Carr's Nucleus and Soft Machine.

Add Andersen's bass stints with just about anyone you care to mention, and on both sides of the Atlantic, and what we have is a three-way musical conversation that takes in all styles, from a funky Andersen original like Saturday, to Tsabropoulis's arrangement of a Ravel Pavane.

I'm not sure if the bassist has played much with Keith Jarrett but he seems to have picked up his slightly annoying habit of humming along with his improvisations, and not in a particularly tuneful way, either.

Aside from those faint distractions, this is a surprisingly rollicking sort of an album for one on the cerebral German label and led by aScandinavian. Still stereotypes are there to be rollicked, I suppose. HHH

To buy this CD for pounds 14.99, including post and packing, call our Music Line on 01634 832 789 Cheryl Bentyne -Talk Of The Town (Telarc CD-83583) Bentyne is better known as the most recently added quarter of Manhattan Transfer, though when I say recent, that's relative: she's been with them for 25 years.

Singled out, and with classy accompaniment from the likes of Kenny Barron, John Patitucci, Lewis Nash, Don Alias and David 'Fathead' Newman, with added vocal support from two members of Take Six, she sails effortlessly through a programme of quality tunes.

You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To has that Ella feel, taken at a fast swing pace with some neat scat at the end.

One of the most apt songs is Farmer's Market, the Art Farmer improvisation given lyrics by Annie Ross. Bentyne shares Ross's vocal agility, honed by years in a vocal group dedicated to replicating instrumentalists as well as 'just' singing songs.

A Rolls-Royce of a vocal album, and one the new girls on the block would do well to listen closely to, though just lacking that star quality to place it alongside Ella or Sarah or Rosemary Clooney. HHHH

To buy this CD for pounds 14.99, including post and packing, call our Music Line on 01634 832 789Tony Kinsey Quartet -Blue Circle (Jazz House JHCD 070) At the Ealing Jazz Festival in 2002, drummer Tony Kinsey was asked to play a tribute session to honour Bill Le Sage who had died not long before (the two were founder members of the Johnny Dankworth Seven, way back when.

For this gig, Kinsey has Pete King on alto, John Horler on piano and Alec Dankworth on bass, and they take no prisoners with a crisp, fast set including Cole Porter's I Love You, the Schwartz/Dietz classic Alone Together, Miles Davis's All Blues and Charlie Parker's Confirmation, as well as Bill Le Sage's own Last Resort.Kinsey manages to sound relaxed while hurrying everyone else along, King is his usual high-octane self, Horler is always supportive and Dankworth is tight as a drum (just what a bassist needs to be, ironically).

The disc has a warm and loving ambience, classic British no-nonsense jazz before an appreciative audience. HHH

To buy this CD for pounds 13.99, including post and packing, call our Music Line on 01634 832 789World CD of the week Ojos De Brujo -Bari (La Fabrica De Colores/Proper Music LFCCD-001) This Barcelona-based group sums up all that is most vibrant in modern world music, combining strong flamenco traditions with a wide-ranging spread of contemporary influences from hip-hop and funk to dub and reggae.

That it all ends up having a coherence and integrity is due to the all-encompassing instrumental virtuosity of the band and their unifying passion.

The band brims over with excitement in concert, as they showed on the main stage at last year's Womad Festival. On disc they are every bit as vibrant, with the female lead vocals cutting through a multi-layering of sounds which mix electronics and acoustic instruments without the joins showing.

If you have heard Manu Chao and the amazing Mexican band Los de Abajo, then you'll have some idea of what to expect from Ojos De Brujo -and you won't be disappointed.

They are winners of a Radio 3 Award for World Music and will be performing at the Poll Winners' Concert in Edinburgh next week. We can see them on BBC 4 next Friday evening or hear them on Radio 3 next Saturday. HHHHH

To buy this CD for pounds 14.99, including post and packing, call our Music Line on 01634 832 789 Oliver Mtukudzi -Tsivo (Revenge) (Sheer Sound, distrib New Note SLCD 049) Tuku, as he is fondly known by his followers,is the most eloquent spokesman for ordinary Zimbabweans. He is the grand not-so-old man of the country's music, and has been pumping out albums with an amazing consistency for over a quarter of a century. Since Zimbabwean independence he has produced two albums of new material every year.

We may not be able to appreciate fully the wise social messages that Tuku weaves subtly into his songs of love and hope (seldom woe and never despair), but the buoyant beat and the intricate instrumental displays as well as his deep, strong and characterful vocals are easily understood and universally accessible.

Tsivo is not quite up to the high standard of his last few South African recorded discs, but it's a timely update from one of Africa's finest songwriters and singer. It will certainly be warmly received by his many Zimbabwean fans in this country -and if the crowds who danced the night away at his Birmingham gig a couple of years back are anything to go by, there are quite a few of them. HHHH

To buy this CD for pounds 14.99, including post and packing, call our Music Line on 01634 832 789Various -Beginner's Guide To Cuba (Nascente NSBOX 006) Can there be any beginners left when it comes to Cuban music? Surely not, but then you don't need to be a novice to appreciate the value of a three-CD box of good music for under a tenner.

The first CD is called Classic Cuba and includes Buena Vista stars Compay Segundo, Ibrahim Ferrer and Omara Portuondo; the second is Jazzy Cuba and includes the cracking bands Irakere and NG La Banda; the third is Salsa Cuba and features Los Van Van and Pachito among others.

A party in a box. HHH

To buy this CD for pounds 10.99, including post and packing, call our Music Line on 01634 832 789
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Mar 13, 2004
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