No album could have a more appropriate title than "Hot Stuff" (CD Enja R2 79654), the second effort by Barbara Dennerlein, a young, hard-driving organist from Munich. Her debut album for Enja was "Straight Ahead," which I have not heard. As a matter of fact, I had never heard of Dennerlein until "Hot Stuff" was recommended by a friend. One review said "Hot Stuff" was more dynamic than "Straight Ahead," which you would think because the imaginative Dennerlein goes full-speed ahead from the 10-minute title cut through the remaining eight. Briton Andy Sheppard plays an energetic tenor throughout, and Mitch Watkins is terrific on guitar. Drummer Mark Mondesir contributes the right touch. Seven of the nine cuts are Dennerlein compositions, the exceptions being Benny Golson's "Killer Joe" and the Feldman-Davis "Seven Steps to Heaven."Frank Morgan knows a good thing when he sees it. The 58-year-old Morgan was considered the bebop heir apparent to Charlie Parker when he was a teenager, then came wildly publicized drug problems and decades in prison. Morgan began his comeback with works on the Contemporary label such as "Bebop Lives," "Lament" and "Yardbird Suite." But it was his first outing for the Antilles Label - "Mood Indigo" (reviewed on this page several months ago) - that was the blockbuster. His latest album "A Lovesome Thing" (Antilles CD 422-848-213-2) is more of the same.
Morgan is profiled in the April edition of Downbeat and the author goes on his own fanciful flight when he describes Morgan's "saxophone seduction" as "lyrical, refined, unblushingly romantic, his alto sings a siren song, animating wordless tunes with the aching poetry of triumph and loss, fruition and desire."
Gee, I guess my emotions are a little more jaded than his, but I do feel this is another Morgan gem, thanks in part to one of my favorites, pianist George Cables, who is scheduled to do another duo album with Morgan in the future. Also backing Morgan are Roy Hargrove on trumpet, bassist David Williams and drummer Lewis Nash. And resurfacing after many years - at least for me - is singer Abbey Lincoln, who caresses "Ten Cents a Dance" and her own composition, "Wholey Earth."
Check the definition "mellow" in the dictionary and a picture of veteran guitarist Kenny Burrell should be next to it, at least for his album "Guiding Spirit" (Contemporary CD 14058-2). I purchased my first Burrell album about 30 years ago, and he has displayed verve and versatility throughout his career. But, on this outing, matched with vibist Jay Hoggard, Burrell is content to soothe jangled minds with such chestnuts as Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood." Monk's "In Walked Bud" is also noteworthy among the nine cuts. Pat Metheny and Gary Burton immediately pop into mind when thinking about the combination of guitar and vibes. Now add to that list Burrell and Hoggard. Hoggard has been considered a modernist, but on "Guiding Spirit" he shows he can handle traditionalist chores too. The album was recorded live at the Village Vanguard in New York, where Burrell first recorded live in 1959. The recording is in memory of Max Gordon, who operated the Village Vanguard for 54 years before his death in 1989 at the age of 86. Max would have been proud.
After hearing the first three cuts of "Midnight in San Juan" (Warner CD 26293-2), I expected the rest of the album to be predictable Earl Klugh. But then "She Never Said Why" suggested a little change of direction. By the time Klugh gets to the final two cuts, "Theme for a Rainy Day" and "Take You There," his guitar is cruising. Of course, the fact that Don Sebesky arranged and conducted both doesn't make that surprising. Toots Thieleman's harmonica is a feature on the two, with the latter also featuring the exceptional Elaine Elias on piano and Ron Carter on bass.