Tue. Oct 27th, 2020

Music Review | 7/1980

Cheryl Lynn

On Stage

Making one of the most auspicious musical career debuts in recent history, Cheryl Lynn jumped from virtual obscurity to the top of the charts. But she had yet to jump from the charts to the stage. I never could quite understand what the problem was: Did her sudden success intimidate her? Was she simply unable to reproduce the multi-octave vocal dynamics that made her studio recordings so thrilling?

When I heard that she was to perform at Melons disco, I jumped at the opportunity of solving what I thought to be a curious mystery. She was to go on stage at 3 a.m. My doubts again heightened around 3:30 when there was no sign of the lady at the packed disco. It wasn’t until 5:40 a.m., when the club was half empty, that Cheryl Lynn at long last took to the tiny Melon’s stage to sing live to a pre-recorded tape — a practice very common in disco’s. But nonetheless, her disco-oriented performance was a pleasant surprise.

Performing her four hit singles from Got To Be Real to the current Keep It Hot, Cheryl not only matched the vitality and stunning vocal ranges of her vinyl outings demonstrated a power and control that was quite astounding. Her performance, limited as it may have been, confirmed my confidence in her talents. She should appear at a concert hall which, for the audience’s sake, Should be sometime before daybreak.

Ever since his 1958 recording of Poinciana became the jazz hit of that decade, Ahmad Jamal has been looked upon as a consistent source of fluently mellow contemporary and avant-garde keyboard interpretations, and original compositions. Ahmad is still in fine form, whether introducing one of his newer pennings like Fiesta or giving his own stylings to new jazz/fusion pieces as he does with Steely Dan’s Black Cow em that group’s acclaimed AJA LPs.

Making his first appearance at Fat Tuesdays, reed-thin Jamal mesmerized his audience and was a total pleasure to listen to. He has broken away from his classic trio format that made him famous, and is now accompanied by bass, drums and guitar, providing a fuller matrix of sound for his piano intricacies. Seated at a Steinway grand, Ahmad presented a luxuriously slow version of Errol Garner’s Misty, even though Poinciana was conspicuously absent Seem his current repertoire.

Jamal told ROUTES that he has recently changed record labels, moving from 20th Century to Motown, who will issue his first LP for the company in late summer Ahmad Jamal is now in his fourth decade as a consistent craftsman and a consummate jazz star.

Classical Corner

The Symphony Space on the Upper West Side recently hosted The Brooklyn Philharmonia Community Concert Series under the baton of music director, Tania Leon. The series, now in its fourth season, seeks to display the music of some truly gifted contemporary composers. Louis Ballard’s Incident at Wounded Knee opened the concert. This is a beautiful symphonic work in four movements: Procession, Prayer, Blood and War, and Ritual. Ballard prefaced the performance of his work, saying that it was written from the heart. It was indeed. Structurally sound and harmonically as well as rhythmically unique, one could almost immediately identify with the emotions of the composer.

Arthur Paxton‘s Blood Lines was a clever display of the musical adventures of the French horn, as it was musically enticed to leave the woodwind section, where it was out of place, and rejoin the brass section where it rightfully belonged.

Tania Leon‘s Concerto Crioll for Piano and Timpani was quite charming with its syncopated rhythms and colorful harmonies, neatly divided into three movements, Animoso, Andante Rubato, and With Temperament.

The contemporary concert also included Sketches—Set — I by Ed Bland, choreographed and danced by Marilyn Worrell and Tzi Ma, and Dick Griffin’s World Rhythms, which took us on a musical trip around the world. Although there was some occasional scampering in the violin section, the orchestra, for the most part, played well.

Tania Leon is to be commended for bringing us new and different music, which many of her contemporaries might shy away from.

Salt Peanuts, the new Lower Eastside club, recently presented George Coleman, an extremely talented Saxophonist, who is more popular abroad than at home. Just back from a three-month tour of Europe, Coleman, accompanied by Idris Muhammad (drums), Danny Moore (fluegelhorn), Harold Mabern (piano), and Jameel Nasahh (bass).

The musicians worked at an often frenzied tempo, seemingly seeking to recreate here the responses they were so used to abroad. Mabern displayed heavy Tyner — influenced improvisational piano technique and had little trouble adapting to Muhammad’s afro-rhythmic percussion embellishments. The crowd inside was pleased with the sophisticated structures of the group, while many pedestrians stopped to peek through the window and stayed glued to the panes throughout the entire set.

Maynard Ferguson, the horn man who’s paid his dues, brought his big band into the Village Gate recently, basking in the fame he has received since his successful Rocky score. Ferguson’s current direction is decidedly a pop-age, blues-influenced, crossover style of big band jazz. At the Gate, Ferguson displayed a strength not usually heard in his more commercial jaunts. His twelve-piece band had the usual sprinkling of standouts, even though the band was spreading itself thin. So thin, in fact, that by the end of the set, all I could remember was the solo from the “Rocky” theme.

Tito Puente
Tito Puente

Another big band leader, Tito Puente, packed his eighteen piece ensemble into Gerald’s club. Skeptics weren’t sure that 18 musicians would fit into the cozy Queens nightclub, but Puente, with his pop renditions of classic Stevie Wonder and Earth, Wind and Fire compositions, successfully introduced many newcomers to the sounds of Latin jazz. Oye’ Como Va, always a crowd pleaser, served as the vehicle to let Puente and Company really shine. And shine they did. By the end of the last set the sun was rising in the East.

Pianist-composer Horace Silver checked into the Bottom Line recently. Silver, one of the few true disciples of the Bud Powell style of jazz piano, has stripped away much of the multi-tone complexity of bop in favor of a more direct blues-based approach. Even though the group got off to a less than inspiring start, Silver later exposed his extraordinary left hand fingering and fluid right hand ascents into the higher keys. Silver is not the kind of pianist who rambles up and down the keyboard. Instead, he stays within one octave to explore all the musical possibilities. And he does so well.

Off Stage

The longest radiothon in the history of American broadcasting was aired on WNJR in Newark and raised almost $40,000 for the victims of sickle cell anemia. The 36-hour event, held at Newark’s Symphony Hall, featured performances by Crown Heights Affair, Terri Gonzalez, and Cheryl Lynn. According to Dick Campbell, Executive Director of the Sickle Cell Foundation of Greater New York, Negotiations are already underway for a major project in New York City.

Patrice Rushen is back on the West Coast after recently concluding her concert tour. She says she’s unwinding, but is keeping busy with session work and is writing material for her third album scheduled for release on the Elektra label.

Disco troubadour Sylvester is putting together a band for his upcoming tour designed to promote his new album due out any day now.

Evelyn Champagne King
Evelyn Champagne King

RCA recording artist, Evelyn Champagne King, is back in the studio and hopes to duplicate some of the ingredients that made her first album Smooth Talk a standout success. Her second album, Music Box, was widely regarded as Champale.

Songwriters Ashford and Simpson are producing the next album for Teddy Pendergrass. At the same time Nick and Valerie are in the studio putting the finishing touches on their own album.

The Blackbyrds haven’t released a new album since their legal battle with mentor Donald Byrd, but are in Fantasy Records’s studio with producer George Duke.

A Taste of Honey hope to redeem themselves after releasing last year’s dud Another Taste. Their creative abilities will undoubtedly be put to the test for this third release on the Capitol label.

Popular recording group Rose Royce will have to do without former lead vocalist Gwen Dickey. who was dissatisfied with the group’s progress and bowed out to pursue 2 sole career.

Nile Rogers and Bernard Edwards are flooding the airwaves with that undefinable sound that has helped them enjoy the good times. Clones of their formula are currently being sung by Sister Sledge, Diana Ross and Sheila and B. Devotion. Chic’s former lead singer, Norma Jean, was supposed to be on the list, but nothing has yet been released. Will Chic burn out before their next album?

Anyone who likes thumbs can find two of the most talented ones on Stanley Clarke‘s single We Supply. Clarke cowrote the song with Louis Johnson, the fast plucking thumb behind Stomp. Both are considered to be among the best of bass players…

Expect releases soon from George Benson, Candi Staton, Steely Dan, Bob Marley, the Doobie Brothers, Barkays, and Kool and the Gang…

Records

Teena Marie
Teena Marie

The biggest surprise to come out of the Motown stables recently is Teena Marie, who has left the punk/funk influence of Rick James to team up with producer Richard Rudolph, husband of the late, great Minnie Riperton.

Most of the album’s commendable songs are light years away from Xanadu, the place Teena takes us on Behind the Groove.

The songs are demanding, although one gets the distinct impression they could have been written for Minnie’s multi-octave voice. This applies especially to Teena’s Aladdin’s Lamp and Why Did I Fall In Love With You.

Teena may not have the range, but her voice is theatrical, which compensates and makes this album pleasant and thoroughly enjoyable.

Teena Marie: Lady T — Gordy GZW2R1

The first vinyl product has finally come off the assembly line of Jim Tyrell’s new record label, T-Electric. The group is Love Committee, the album is named after the group and the sound is somewhere between standard disco, the O’Jays and Archie Bell and the Drells.

Love Committee, thus lacks a distinct musical personality and you’ll have to remove all the bass from your sound system in order to enjoy the choice few moments of this over-produced album.

Love Committee: Love Committee—MCA 2233

The success of Stephanie Mills‘s last album has made her a conservative. In order not to knock over the apple cart, she has retained Mtume and Reggie Lucas as producers of her latest album, Sweet Sensation, and the sound is almost identical to her last one.

There’s nothing basically new here. The title cut, Sweet Sensation, is standard Mtume — firm bass, lazy tempo and an ad lib that goes on indefinitely.

The best cut on this album is Never Knew Love Like This Before, an angelic song where light and airy voices complement that instantly recognizable Mills resonance.

Stephanie should try some new sounds and new producers, lest she get boring and predictable.

Stephanie Mills: Sweet Sensation—20th Century Fox T-603

Jazz

Night Rider, an album that features Count Basie and Oscar Peterson, will not send shivers down your back, but it could give you hours of enjoyment.

Though timeless, the album is more enduring than endearing. Both men are capable of striding the light fantastic, yet they never seem to let themselves go.

Count Basie and Oscar Peterson: View Rider—Pablo 2310-843

One way to get more jazz for your money is to check out some of the twofer reissues and double sets currently available from Columbia and Fantasy/Prestige/Milestone. Columbia has just released a great set of swinging vocals by former Count Basie shouter: Jimmy Rushing, Mr. Five By Five (C2-36419), culled from the many sessions he made for the label in the late 50s, and including two previously unissued tracks. This is great stuff that has been out of the catalogs for much too long.

Also on Columbia, but not a reissue is an interesting set entitled, I Remember Bebop (C2-35381), featuring some of that idiom’s finest surviving pianists: Al Haig, Duke Jordan, Jobe Lewis, Barry Harris, Walter Bishop, Jr., Sadik Hakim, and Jimmie Rowles; the recordings were produced by Henri Renaud over two years ago, presumably with the French market in mind, but the message is still universal: Bop lives—at least in these 160 fingers.

Lovers of the rich, mellifluous Ben Webster sound will welcome a Milestone reissue, Travelin’ Light (M-47056), which consists of material from a Webster/Joe Zawinul Riverside date (some previously unissued material included) and a Bill Harris session of Joe Fantasy. The years are 1957 and 1963, when the Swing Era giant was still in top form; fans of Weather Report might find the relatively early work of Joe Zawinul interesting.

A great reissue set is Portrait (P-24092) on Prestige; it features two Charles Mingus groups with, collectively, Eric Dolphy, Charles McPherson. Clifford Jordan, Johnny Coles, Lonnie Hillyer, Dannie Richmond, and Jaki Byard. The material — mid-Sixties concert recordings — originally appeared on two Fantasy albums, the notes are by Jaki Byard (who participated on both occasions), and the music belongs in any representative collection of modern jazz.

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