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Various Artists: Jazz Hear and Now

Robert R. Calder

Various Artists

Jazz Hear and Now

Label: Jazz Alliance International

Jazz Alliance International is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the support of jazz music and jazz musicians: to the remedy of ignorance and the lack of information wealth of disinformation that fosters such ignorance; and to improving relationships / fostering co-operation between those involved. It is true -- as notes to a CD I reviewed long ago say -- that those who care about the music are all in it together. The English tenor-player and London club proprietor Ronnie Scott did declare that jazz musicians were among the last repositories of virtue. Part of his evidence was a magnum of champagne given him by a local (cough!) "businessman" who'd known Ronnie's musician father. Ronnie declared he'd open it to celebrate the wiping out of his debt at the bank. He's in his grave now and his partner runs a club with an unopened magnum of champagne in his office. But who did Ronnie Scott describe as "a wonderful jazz musician, a failed human being, though"?

Refer to the Jazz Alliance website for further information. There is a form for membership in the foldout CD liner. The nearest things I have to this CD came free through the post to encourage me to attend even more concerts than I'd planned to at one of my annual local European jazz festivals. There was a track apiece from a recent album by each artist to be featured that year -- except the famous black American chanteuse whose jazz credentials one doubted, whose copyrights are commercial, and whose engagement was to play in a big city hall. Well, so few people shelled out for the pricey tickets the cost of having engaged her damn near scuttled the prospects of subsequent festivals. Even the dedicated err.

This is a different sort of "festival". The CD's not free, but proceeds go to Jazz Alliance International and there are lots of pretty photos in the slip. The music comes from a swatch of different companies and is not a bad sampling of musicians whose quality has avoided the too frequent fate of obscurity.

Joe Lovano is lyrical on "Aisha" (from Flights of Fancy), Bill Charlap is unambitiously, melodiously mainstream on "Skylark" from the album Stardust. Dave Douglas is a master, but his representation is the most wide-market (approachable by) that I remember hearing from him. Harry Connick croons with big band, while Tony Bennett's with Ralph Sharon. Chanteuses include Nancy Wilson with Ramsey Lewis, Diana Krall with strings, and Jane Monheit presumably deserved to win the prize mentions. Her tenorist is Joel Frahm, the regular in her usual quartet, but from an album it has been said extends her repertoire and settings not ideally. There's also Cassandra Lewis with Regina Carter in Grappelli mode and appearing with Béla Fleck doing world music-into-jazz things with the once-hated banjo.

Actually, the banjo has resumed an interesting function in Czech jazz, played as a substitute for less portable percussion instruments by the mainstreamers who jam off an afternoon on the Charles Bridge in Prague. Ronnie Scott's banjo joke, though, would be in the worst possible taste given that Lewis-Carter-Fleck's "This Land" is like Kenny Werner's "America" from a benefit concert Jazz Alliance International mounted for the heroes and victims of September 11. I do have a feeling of emotional overload, and know American friends who could be very uneasy about those choices of tune for that night. But the fact that the song originates from that night might appeal to many of the people this disc seems to be aimed at, as all the particular selections featured have been devised by charity marketing.

Did I mention Brad Mehldau, Joshua Redman's quartet of tenor, organ, and two percussion, or Hancock-Brecker-Hargrove (play Miles and Coltrane)? "Misstery" by the latter is demanding alongside the rest of the tracks on this CD, but lyrical as befits this essay in easy listening with serious jazz credentials -- and in a cause rather more serious than the general impression of the music. Oh, and there's the Dave Holland Quintet also at their most appropriate to an exercise in popularisation. This would probably be a good gift for someone more into chanteuses and Connick the Southern Sinatra, and who'd never have bought an Ellington album if it hadn't had the original Sinatra singing.

Attempt to make converts.

And look up the website.

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