In June I attended two CD release parties in New York City: trumpeter and vocalist Bria Skonberg’s on the 2nd, and reedmen Will and Peter Anderson’s on the 13th.
Bria Skonberg- With a Twist
Bria’s latest effort was produced by Sony Masterworks, as was her previous CD, and is titled With a Twist. It includes thirteen tunes, spanning almost 90 years, from “Back in Your Own Back Yard” (1928) and “My Baby Just Cares for Me” (1930) to three of Bria’s compositions written within the past year or so. Most readers know that Okeh was a major label in the 20s. Sony now owns the Okeh trademark, thus completing the circle between Bria’s familiarity with traditional jazz and her contemporary creations.
Most of Bria’s earlier CDs under her own name featured smaller ensembles, but this one has no fewer than sixteen instrumentalists, although most of them appear on only a few tracks. Some unusual instruments are at times present: piccolo, alto flute, cello, marimba, and bass trombone, in addition to the expected pieces. The release party started with a quintet, but eventually virtually all the instruments wound up on stage. Curiously, other than reedman Evan Arntzen, no regular members of her quintet are present on the CD (or at the party). Perhaps this was just a schedule conflict, as the tracks were recorded at three different studios in Brooklyn, Long Island, and Orlando.
What makes this album stand out, for me, is how Bria’s vocal talents have leapt by several orders of magnitude. Already a master on trumpet when I first heard her not long after she arrived in New York in 2010, she has honed her vocal chops to the point where an all-vocal album would be a welcome endeavor. Indeed, she sings on all but one track here, so we get to experience the full range of her skills, not only aurally but emotionally. Bria pulled out all the stops in producing this album. She remarked, “Sony gave me a generous budget, and I spent all of it.” And it was money well spent, to be sure. Her career continues to soar, and I can hardly wait for the next effort. Merely being picked up by Sony is “yu-u-u-ge.”
The only thing I was left wanting is a few paragraphs from Bria in the liner notes describing her thought processes in creating the album.
Will and Peter Anderson- Blues for Joe
Reed virtuosos and twin brothers Will and Peter Anderson have been favorites of mine since I first met them as recent graduates of the prestigious Juilliard School of Music. Their most recent CD, titled Blues for Joe, is a tribute to their private teacher, saxophonist Joe Temperley, who died in 2016. As it turned out, a little less than half the funds raised via Kickstarter for this project went toward production of the CD; the remainder of $11,500 was earmarked for a scholarship in Joe’s name at Juilliard. It will be awarded to two saxophone students in the fall.
Backing up the brothers on the recording and on this occasion were Peter Bianchi on organ, Kenny Washington on drums, and Peter Bernstein on guitar. Of the ten tunes on the CD, five were played at the party, and the brothers each composed four of the ten.
FYI, the other two titles on the CD are Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life” and the Johnny Green standard “Body and Soul.” The quintet stretches out on all ten tracks, the shortest running six minutes. Most of the songs not recorded but played this night were familiar Ellington compositions. The Duke was a favorite of Temperley; in fact, he had played in Ellington’s last band, replacing Harry Carney. One tune that was not familiar, to me, was “Single Petal of a Rose,” written for the then recently-crowned Queen Elizabeth II and featuring an exquisite clarinet solo by Peter.
Not only are Peter and Will masters of the clarinet and several varieties of saxes, they also excel on flute, a rarity in the jazz genre. They also show a refreshing humility in their on-stage conduct. I’ll shamelessly add a plug here for their month-long “Songbook Summit” at 59E59 (the venue takes its name from its address) in Manhattan this month, where each week, with a six-piece ensemble, they will feature the music of one of the composers of the “great American songbook.” Providing vocals for these shows will be the perfect choice—Molly Ryan.
Jazz Travels columnist Bill Hoffman is a retired management consultant and is the concert booker for the Tri-State Jazz Society in greater Philadelphia. Bill lives in Lancaster, PA.
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