Tag Archives: Hot Winds

Five star reviews

An awful lot of awfully good CDs have landed on my desk recently, and I’ve found myself giving one five-star review after another. A coincidence of CDs worthy of so many stars only happens once in a blue moon (ask Patrick Moore), so I thought it might be worth reproducing the reviews I wrote for Scotland on Sunday’s Review section here:

Johnny Varro Featuring Ken Peplowski: Two Legends of Jazz (Arbors Records ARCD 19363) Describing anyone who’s still alive as a legend is perhaps ill-advised, but this CD is so good that it’s easy to see why the record company got a bit carried away. Veteran pianist Johnny Varro and clarinettist Ken Peplowski make an ace team; it’s always a treat to hear the dynamic Peplowski in a small group setting, and on the 15 imaginatively chosen tracks here he’s to be found in duos, trios and full quartet (with drummer Joe Ascione and bassist Frank Tate). Download: Out of Nowhere, Love Locked Out


Madeleine Peyroux: Bare Bones (Decca 6132732) The sultry yet fragile-voiced Madeleine Peyroux might be excused for her long absence since her last album by the fact that for this CD, she wrote all the songs. Ironically, the opener, Instead, has the catchy, old-timey flavour associated with the tracks on her breakthrough album, 2004’s Careless Love, but the majority of the 11 songs are intensely personal, astonishingly intimate-sounding ballads which highlight the range of influence on Peyroux’s music. It’s uneven, raw and, in a couple of spots, misjudged, but overall it’s as seductive as Peyroux’s previous releases. Download: River of Tears, To Love You All Over Again

(I actually gave the Peyroux album four stars when I first reviewed it, but have since upgraded it)


Marty Grosz: Hot Winds, The Classic Sessions (Arbors Records ARCD 19379) Opportunities to hear the great American rhythm guitarist and singer Marty Grosz in Scotland have been disappointingly rare in recent years, so this new CD is a welcome treat. The 79-year-old is in his element, playing his own imaginative arrangements with a tight, swinging unit known as the Hot Winds – featuring regular Grosz cohorts Dan Block (clarinet), Scott Robinson (various horns) and Vince Giordano (string bass, bass sax etc). In his witty notes, Grosz says he’s often asked what “hot jazz” is. Well, this CD is the definition. Download: Rent Party Blues, I Just Couldn’t Take It Baby


Duke Heitger and Bernd Lhotzky: Doin’ the Voom Voom (Arbors Records ARCD 19382) For some CD-buyers, the bigger the band, the better the value – but this album is proof that the opposite is true: less is definitely more, especially when you have players of the calibre of the US trumpeter Duke Heitger and the German piano whiz Bernd Lhotzky. The 17 tracks on this CD are an tantalising blend of standards and lesser-heard numbers exhumed from the back catalogue of Duke Ellington, James P Johnson and several obscure composers; the ballads are particularly sublime, and highlight the fact that Heitger and Lhotzky are a perfect musical match. Download: Doin’ the Voom Voom, How Long Has This Been Going On


Ken Peplowski Meets Alan Barnes: Doodle Oodle (Woodville Records WVCD127) Anyone who heard them together at the Lockerbie Jazz Festival last year will know that the American clarinettist and tenor saxophonist Ken Peplowski and Alan Barnes, the British clarinettist and player of several types of sax, make a brilliant team. That they relish each other’s musical company is evident in concert because one always invites the other to be a special guest, and it shines through just as strongly on this terrific CD, the ideal blend of unexpected tunes; swinging, lyrical playing and good, old-fashioned fun. Download: In Love in Vain, Shady Side*

* The  original Johnny Hodges-Gerry Mulligan recording of this Hodges composition is my all-time favourite single track – so I wasn’t sure how I would feel about a new version of it. However, Barnes and Peps’ version, with AB on alto and KP on tenor (rather than JH on alto and GM on baritone), stands up in its own right and actually complements the original. I know: I just played them back to back…



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Grosz Humour

Sometimes fate takes a hand – at just the right moment. There I was (well, here actually – at my desk), despairing about the choice of CDs awaiting me when I heard a dull thud in the hallway. It was the arrival of a package containing .. my salvation: the new CD by my favourite guitarist, singer and raconteur Marty Grosz. I knew I’d enjoy my reviewing..

And I did. This new album, Hot Winds – The Classic Sessions (Arbors Records), finds Grosz in fine form – and no wonder, he’s playing his own distinctive , fresh arrangements of mainly 1920s & 1930s tunes with five of his most like-minded pals (among them clarinettist Dan Block, bassist/bass saxist Vince Giordano and multi-instrumentalist Scott Robinson). This lot clearly enjoyed recording together Indeed, Grosz told me: “I had more fun with this group than any other I can think of.”

Mind you, fun is an integral part of jazz for Grosz and his devoted fans. He has always believed that audiences want to be entertained and that jazz shouldn’t be a po-faced affair. He grew up with swing bands whose leaders were characters and put on a show. Grosz’s USP is his razor-sharp wit which flourishes both in the solo setting – noone can introduce a song like him; an introduction can become a surreal stand-up routine – and alongside such favourite sparring partners as the clarinettist/saxophonist Ken Peplowski. (Together, they’re the Matthau and Lemmon of the jazz scene.)

If you’re lucky enough to find that Marty Grosz is playing at a jazz club near you, make sure you take along one of the un-converted: his music is about as accessible as you can get. And his “act” is the best tonic for these dreary times.

More on Grosz at a later date, but to read about the Hot  Winds recording session in depth, visit the Jazz Lives blog – www.jazzlives.wordpress.com

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