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Gryphon Diablo 300

Either WayNaïve NJ623611
Format: CD

Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****

The subtitle of this latest album from French jazz singer Anne Ducros is intriguing. From Marilyn to Ella? What’s the connection?

In 1955, Ella Fitzgerald was not allowed to play the prestigious Mocambo club in Hollywood because of her race. Enter Marilyn Monroe. Fitzgerald told it this way: "I owe Marilyn Monroe a real debt. . . . [S]he personally called the owner of the Mocambo, and told him she wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front table every night. She told him -- and it was true, due to Marilyn’s superstar status -- that the press would go wild. The owner said yes, and Marilyn was there, front table, every night. The press went overboard. After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again. She was an unusual woman -- a little ahead of her times. And she didn’t know it."

Little Girl BlueRecords BCP-6028
Format: LP

Musical Performance: ****1/2
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****1/2

Little Girl Blue was Nina Simone’s first recording, made in 1958, when she was 24. It was her only full album of songs for Bethlehem Records. The label’s other Simone title, Nina Simone and Her Friends, comprises four tunes remaining from the earlier record’s sessions, and four songs each sung by Chris Conner and Carmen McRae. Simone had left Bethlehem for Colpix Records by then, and was unaware that Bethlehem was going to issue another title under her name. She had sold the rights to Little Girl Blue back to them for $3000.

All Around ManOpus3 CD 23001
Format: Hybrid Stereo SACD

Musical Performance: ****1/2
Sound Quality: *****
Overall Enjoyment: ****1/2

Unsuspecting listeners such as I might put on this disc and think that Bottleneck John must be one of America’s newest, greatest blues singers, up from the Deep South. I stand by “newest” and “greatest,” but Bottleneck John was born Johan Eliasson, in Sweden. Fifteen years ago he heard an Eric Bibb album, went acoustic, and developed an authentic blues style of his own.

Saturday Morning: La Buissonne Studio SessionsJazz Village JV570027
Format: CD

Musical Performance: *****
Sound Quality: *****
Overall Enjoyment: *****

What a force of nature Ahmad Jamal is! At age 83, he could easily coast on his reputation and extensive discography, playing rote shows to appreciative audiences. Instead, he continues to push himself and, in the process, astonish jazz fans by making rhythmically challenging, harmonically audacious recordings. Saturday Morning is, by my count, his 62nd album as a leader, and it follows last year’s powerful Blue Moon. This time Jamal took his quartet -- Reginald Veal on bass, Herlin Riley on drums, and Manolo Badrena on percussion -- into La Buissonne Studio, in France, for 11 tracks that crackle with energy and inventiveness.

ResonanceMandala MR103
Format: CD

Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****

Though new variations certainly occur, jazz groups large and small mostly take one of several well-established forms. For a trio, we expect piano, bass, and drums. We expect a big band to have reeds, brass, and a rhythm section. Resonance is having none of this -- this unique octet boasts a flute, saxophone, violin, viola, and cello, and a rhythm section of piano, bass, and drums.

GismontipascoalAdventure Music AM1078 2
Format: CD

Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****

The mandolinist Hamilton de Holanda is a virtuoso who, like many other Brazilian jazz performers, incorporates his country’s folk-music traditions into his work. He has recorded some of my favorite music over the last few years, and I’m pleased to call attention to Gismontipascoal, a collaboration with pianist André Mehmari. The disc is a tribute to two of their countrymen, Egberto Gismonti and Hermeto Pascoal, who join them on one track each. The remaining tracks are duets that demonstrate the richness of the compositions and the talents of the musicians.

Inspiration: A Tribute to Nat King ColeConcord CRE-34268-2
Format: CD

Musical Performance: ****1/2
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****

When Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, and others were alive and working, big-band vocal albums like this one used to be released with great regularity. But only a choice few were so finely crafted. George Benson is revered as a guitarist, but he also sings, and this album is evidence that he should be highly regarded for that talent as well.

I Thought About YouConcord Picante CJA-34191-02
Format: CD

Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****

Eliane Elias says, of her new disc, “I Thought About You was inspired by Chet Baker and in that sense it is a tribute to Chet, it was a natural fit for me to play, to sing music inspired by Chet because I am an instrumentalist and a singer, as Chet was.” Baker’s singing was sometimes close to a whisper, with a relaxed ease and a playful sense of time. The 14 tunes Elias chose for this disc are songs Baker covered over the years, and most are standards. She hasn’t simply performed them as Baker did, however. Instead, his spirit infuses the tracks with the cool precision he brought to both his singing and his trumpet playing.

Todo Corazón: The Tango AlbumJazzheads JH1198
Format: CD

Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****

Mark Weinstein insists on doing things his own way. The bassist and trombonist took time off from music to earn a PhD in philosophy, and when he returned to music, his instrument was the flute, his technique and sound entirely self taught.

Plays BondDo Music DMRCD 012
Format: CD

Musical Performance ****
Sound Quality ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****1/2

The James Bond movie series, now 50 years old, is probably as vital today as it was in the Sean Connery years. My son and I agree that Daniel Craig is the best Bond since Connery, and that the last three films are some of the most enjoyable the series has produced in years. The music in the films is almost as iconic as the main character, especially the themes composed by the late John Barry. But pop tunes written for them by other songwriters have also found their way into our collective memories.