Jazz, January 2024

hfnalbum.pngVeronica Swift
Veronica Swift
Mack Avenue MAC1202; LP: MAC1202LP

Fabulously talented, uniquely versatile, Veronica Swift no longer wants to be identified only as a jazz singer. To start with here, she echoes Ella's 'Squatty Roo' in a brilliant scatting intro to a high-speed 'I Am What I Am', which then dissolves into baroque counterpoint. Next, as she loves to sing rock, she puts everything but the 'f' word into the Nine Inch Nails Song 'Closer'. Then in 'Do Nothing Til You Hear From Me' she emulates Janis Joplin, as Ellington's nimble melody and chords are replaced by a grinding rock-band blues, organ and horns poured into the mix too. By the end of this album, Swift has essayed every vocal style from opera to bossa to musette, often disconcertingly, but always with aplomb. SH


Mulgrew Miller
Solo In Barcelona
Storyville 1018537

Inspired originally by Oscar Peterson, the late pianist combined influences from Tatum to Tyner into his own mainstream style. After an early-1980s stint with Art Blakey he recorded prolifically, and would often play solo when on tour. But until now only Solo, recorded at the French Jazz en Tête festival in 2000, has captured him in this mode. Now we can hear him, in concert in Barcelona four years later, with a great mix of jazz standards (Gillespie's 'Tour De Force' and 'Woody 'N' You', John Lewis's 'Milestones') and ballads ('Misty' and Cole Porter's 'I Love You'). His 14-minute compendium of blues styles, 'Excursions In Blue', is really engaging too. SH


Shear Brass
Celebrating Sir George Shearing
Ubuntu music UBU0137; LP: UBU0137LP

A labour of love, with a family connection. Carl Gorham plays drums but is better known as a TV screenwriter. He is a great-nephew of Shearing, and his grandfather helped the pianist organise his move to the USA in the 1940s. For Shear Brass, Gorham enlisted Jools Holland trumpeter Jason McDiarmid, who came up with arrangements of 11 Shearing compositions for a brass front line, and assembled an impressive septet to swing through them. Fine and classy vocals come from Louise Marshall and Sarah Moule, and on 'Lullaby Of Birdland', by Gorham's daughter Romy Sipek, Shearing's great-great niece. This is a nostalgic but spirited and happy album. SH


Chris Botti
Vol 1
Blue Note 5516586; LP: 5516587

Here the stellar trumpeter of the pop world crosses back over to small-group jazz, with fine musicians and still some special guests. 'Danny Boy' provides a sentimental opener, and we do get John Splithoff singing 'Paris' along with an instrumental take on Coldplay's 'Fix You', but there's a lot of Miles Davis. Botti is the unbeatable exponent of that seminal muted sound, waltzing gently through 'Someday My Prince Will Come', rhapsodic on 'Old Folks' and superb on 'Blue In Green'. He chooses open horn for 'My Funny Valentine', though, and this has an amazing solo from violinist Joshua Bell. Sonically, it's a warm bath, but Botti's mastery shines through. SH