Several weeks ago a jazz best-seller list was topped by Nino Tempo's "Tenor Saxophone" (CD, Atlantic 82142-2), prompting a second listen. Same reaction, pleasant but predictable and pedestrian. I know this dates me, but while listening I was trying to determine what the album resembled. Of course, mellow Ted Nash of a couple of decades ago. But, then again, it was the early '60s when Tempo and his sister April Stevens won a Grammy with "Deep Purple." The same year, the Liverpool mopheads arrived on these shores and Tempo disappeared. Now he's resurfaced, and with the same producer, Ahmet Ertegun, he had 27 years ago. Nice story. Vocalists Roberta Flack and Rachele Cappelli contribute twice, Flack's rendition of Billy Preston's "You Are So Beautiful" being especially tasty.
- I wonder if George Benson will eventually be remembered in the same way as Nat King Cole is, a performer who first was known as a top-notch musician, but whose legacy is as a vocalist. Benson was hailed as the next Wes Montgomery, but with his latest effort, "Big Boss Band" (CD, Warner 926295-2), Benson's guitar is just a part of the Count Basie Orchestra. Benson says he promised the late Basie in 1983 "to do his music on an album such as this." The 10 cuts are not from Basie's songbook, as might be suggested, but there are such chestnuts as "Without a Song," "Skylark," "Green Dolphin Street" and "Walkin' My Baby Back Home." Arranger Frank Foster III has put together an excellent package, and Benson has a showcase in which he can display his vocal versatility.- Lou Rawls has a new release out for Blue Note (CD, 93841) called "It's Supposed To Be Fun." It is vintage Rawls, from the title song through "The Last Night of the World" from the show "Miss Saigon," the last of 14 cuts. Hank Crawford and Eddie Harris supply horn solos as Rawls strolls through the house.
- Alto saxman Kenny Garrett entered my collection with last year's "Prisoner of Love," his debut album with Atlantic (CD, 82046-2). He also plays keyboards, synth guitar, drums, percussion and even the whistle. Involved in two of the cuts is Miles Davis, with whose group Garrett now plays. The Detroit native played with the Duke Ellington Band after graduating from high school. After 31/2 years with that group, Garrett played with Mel Lewis, Danny Richmond, Woody Shaw, the late Art Blakey and then Miles. Not a bad run.
Garrett's latest album, "African Exchange Student" (Atlantic 82046-2), is more compact and frenetic, thanks to the backing of aggressive Mulgrew Miller on piano (one of the best, reminiscent of McCoy Tyner), bassist Ron Carter and drummer Elvin Jones. Says Garrett of Jones, "To me, Elvin is an `African exchange student' because of his ancestry and because of his musical feel; so I specifically chose the music to suit his style. That, in turn, led to an evocation of the whole Coltrane era, and from that point on the concept of the album began to take shape." The result is a joy.
- I have found myself listening more and more to Bobby Lyle's "The Journey" (cassette, Atlantic 82138-4). During his early years in Minneapolis, the pianist appeared with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and with Sly and the Family Stone. Can there be two more differing ends of the spectrum? Later he produced for Bette Midler, toured with Al Jarreau for two years, conducted for Anita Baker and guested with George Benson and others. During "The Journey," Lyle pays homage to Sarah Vaughn and Dexter Gordon with "Sassy" and "Blues for Dexter." Another cut is titled "Vina Mandela," and on the South African statesman's recent tour of the United States Lyle was asked to perform the song for Mandela. This is pretty nice stuff.
- Twenty years ago Klaus Doldinger's group was known as Motherhood. It has been rechristened Passport, and the latest release is titled "Balance of Happiness" (CD, Atlantic 82154-2). The German Doldinger has surrounded himself with a European lineup, Polish keyboard player Vladislav Sendecki and Japanese guitarist Paul Shigihara (all right, he's a little east of Germany) deserving of mention. Doldinger plays tenor and alto, but mostly soprano sax on this lyrical outing.