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Jazz CD Reviews BLUEBERRY ASH Andrew Butt Trio + Independent

✶✶✶✶ Blueberry Ash is predominantly an album of original compositions by saxophonist Andrew Butt. Pleasingly it contains one added gem, the tune Love song from Apache written by David Raskin and Johnny Mercer, a rarely recorded tune which was a favourite of the great Coleman Hawkins, whose rendition on his album Today and now is a true masterpiece in jazz history, and may have inspired Andrew Butt to want to include it here. He certainly does it justice; and so he should. Brisbane based Butt is a Churchill Fellow, an award winning leader and a saxophonist

MIRRORS Louis Stapleton louisstapleton.bandcamp.com/album/mirrors

✶✶✶✶✶ Louis Stapleton is an award winning (Sparda Jazz Award, Young Munich Jazz Prize) gifted Australian THE SHADOW OF YOUR SMILE: HOMMAGE TO JAPAN Roberta Gambarini Groovin’ High FNCJ -5553

✶✶✶✶✶ Pardon my bias, but I believe Roberta Gambarini is today’s premier jazz vocalist. On hearing her first American album (Easy to love, 2006) I realised this was a special talent, a view reinforced on hearing You are there (2007), a sublime duet session with Hank Jones, the perfect pianist with a touch like silk, delicate and flawless. Jones, who worked with Ella Fitzgerald for five years, was lavish in his praise of Gambarini: ‘The best new singer in 60 years! The best since Ella’ and even ‘the new Ella’. With her impeccable timing and intonation, critics have crowned Gambarini the natural 44

November 2017

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who has performed as a jazz soloist with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. His compositions have been performed and recorded by a variety of artists including his own musical groups. On this outing he is accompanied by the stylish guitar work of Toby Wren, whose solo on I love boiled eggs is a standout, and the brilliant pianism and extended soloing of Kellee Green on all tracks, where her flowing lines and colourful chords seem to be as natural as breathing. The trio is augmented by a variety of bassists, drummers and horn players. These musicians blend into the mix extremely well and their contributions are first rate along side the saxophone of Butt as he cruises through this horn fest with enthusiasm, pianist, composer and arranger who studied under the German heavyweight jazz musicians Hubert Nuss and Florian Ross. This recording was funded with prize money from the above awards. Stapleton’s music contains influences from his hero jazz artists, John Taylor, Aaron Parks and Alan Broadbent, and is emblazoned with his tight, clean and virtuosic pianism. Composed during his time in Germany, with a definite nod to his previous advanced classical piano studies, Stapleton is accompanied on this outing by some extremely talented musicians from Cologne, bandleaders in their own right: Oliver Lutz on bass, Fabian Arends on drumset and the prodigious Philipp Braemswig on four of the tracks on guitar. A more simpatico quartet of musical explorers is difficult to imagine; and evident throughout is Stapleton’s dedication to serious musical discipline. On the track 13th successor to Ella, Sarah Vaughan and Carmen McRae in interpreting the Great American songbook, the music of legendary songsmiths such as Gershwin, Porter and Arlen. The Italian-born Gambarini has come a long way since arriving in the United States in 1998 with a scholarship from the New England Conservatory in Boston. Yet this expensive Japanese import is only her sixth album! Named one of the best jazz vocal albums of 2013, it shows her warm timbre and instrumental approach to singing with superb scatting and improvisational skills. However, for me it is the ballads which are the highlight: the title track by Johnny Mandel and the Gershwin classics: Someone to watch over me and Embraceable you. The backing could not be bettered with long-time accompanist, pianist George Cables, bassist John Webber

faultless technique and impeccable feels. This is an uplifting and frankly heartfelt reflection of the time Butt has spent absorbing both the past and future of jazz, while sporting a wonderful collection of tunes. - Barry O’Sullivan Floor an up-tempo Stapleton establishes the active conversational sound of the trio with the guitarist, the pianist often writing long lines which the other players follow while weaving in and out. The standout ballads Rialto and Departures are compositional gems, with the improvisation sufficiently songlike, melting into the melody and showcasing Stapleton’s high distinction skills. The trio and guest guitarist deliver the sound of modern creative music, attaining a beauty and personality too rarely heard in contemporary jazz, with impressive playing and solos from Lutz throughout and the impeccable restraint and technique of Arends on drums. - Barry O’Sullivan

and drummer Victor Lewis; Justin Robinson (alto saxophone and flute) is added on some tracks. The tracks with Cable bring out the best in her. This is a jazz singer! - Kevin Jones

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