Reviews / Recordings
Michael J. Renner Paul A. Harris, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
"JAY HUNGERFORD PRESENTS THE KEYS TO THE CITY"
The debut recording by local jazz bassist, composer and teacher Jay Hungerford is a multifaceted showcase of top St. Louis talent.
Using the intimate piano/bass format, Hungerford features 14 area pianists in duets covering the classic American repertoire of Gershwin, Porter, Berlin and Joplin. Interspersed are three original compositions, including two of Hungerford's: "Ode to Pettiford" with Carolbeth True providing precisely crafted solos, and "Why Ask Why," featuring Kim Portnoy's delicate but beguiling touch.
By the very nature of their professionalism, each of these pianists is capable of various styles. But here they focus on interpretations as filtered through their individual voices.
For instance, when Reggie Thomas plays "Emily," his masterful improvisational technique shines. The visceral, percussive style of Ptah Williams adds new energy to the standard "Gone With The Wind." Traditionalists Jean Kittrell, Herb Drury and Jimmy Williams keep things squarely in the melodic mainstream, whether it's a bop-flavored interpretation or Joplin rag. Russ David's composition, "Opus One," is a stirring piece full of rapid flourishes and varied tempos.
Other performances include a spry reharmonization of "Amazing Grace" by Gary Fiorino, beautiful ballad work by Dave Venn on "The Heather On The Hill," Pat Joyce's classically inspired rendition of "Pick Yourself Up" and Jan Ammerman's sensitive reading of "I Got It Bad And That Ain't Good."
Throughout the recording, of course, are Hungerford's precise and subtle bass lines. On the reflective "Polka Dots and Moonbeams," however, his rich playing is prominently featured. For a grand survey of St. Louis jazz talent, this is the recording to own.
Michael J. Renner "SISTER DRUM"
From the Great Wall of Sound comes Dadawa, a Chinese pop star who took a turn toward the mystical in the early '90s. On her North American debut disc, she collaborates with composer-arranger He Xuntian to shape a lively, dense, almost Spector-esque audio montage.
Its diverse facets include Cantonese and Mandarin folk music and droning Tibetan Buddhist chants, along with massive percussion effects, Chinese woodwinds, synthesizers and her own marvelous, free-ranging voice - one that calls to mind Icelandic pop singer Bjork.
The international music press has been pointing up Dadawa's musical resemblance to Celtic sound sculptress Enya. But Dadawa's settings of ancient native sounds interwoven with contemporary ones also recall the music of American recording artists such as R. Carlos Nakai, Coyote Oldman and Robert Sunsinger, who offer pop-accented treatments of American Indian themes.
Throughout, "Sister Drum" conveys mystery and - despite the sheer musical mass of the mix - an enticing sense of intimacy. …