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What's New on WDCB... with Paul Abella

May 6th, 2024

Petra Van Nuis Dennis Luxion - From Me To You

Petra Van Nuis & Dennis Luxion – From Me to You (String Damper Records)

It should be a surprise to no one that a steady gig can make a real difference in how tight a group’s performances can be, and how many chances they’re willing to take, both in terms of material and how that material will be approached. For Petra Van Nuis and Dennis Luxion, their weekly Saturday late night gig at Le Piano is that steady gig. On From Me to You, it’s obvious that having their “Afterglow Set” is paying dividends. Not only do we hear them romp through standards written by Cole Porter (“Too Darn Hot”), Irving Berlin (“Got Lost in His Arms”) and Rodgers & Hart (“I Wish I Were in Love Again”), but we also hear some gems from the path less followed, like The Carpenters’ classic “Rainy Days and Mondays,” or Kris Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make it Through the Night.” The two most interesting cuts on From Me to You, though, are the two written by two recently departed Chicago mentors, Bob Dogan (“From Me to You”), and Marc Pompe (“Nothing”). Putting all of this material together in one set is an impressive feat, and that it all sounds of a piece is a credit to Luxion and Van Nuis.

Mike Clement - Hittin' It

Mike Clement – Hittin’ It! (Cellar Music)

New Orleans guitarist Mike Clement recently put out an album called Hittin’ It!, and it’s quite a jam from top to bottom. Joined by organist John Lee and the legendary drummer Herlin Riley, these three make an excellent racket throughout. Hittin’ It is an all-original affair, and Clement shows himself off to be a writer of some cool tunes, from the stratospheric swing of “Mr. Not So PC” to the blues mambo of “Hittin’ It” to the Ahmad Jamal-ish groove of “Cruisin’ High.” Of course, Herlin Riley’s propulsive grooves help these songs to reach their highest potential, and this disc makes me hope that we hear much, much more from John Lee on the B-3, because he’s sounding great here, too.

Jazz Defenders - Memory in Motion

The Jazz Defenders – Memory in Motion (ITI Records)

UK Jazz group, The Jazz Defenders, have recently released their second album, Memory in Motion. Led by keyboardist George Cooper, who plays piano, organ, electric piano and vibes, he’s joined by Nick Malcolm on trumpet, Jake McMurchie on saxophones, Will Harris on bass and Ian Matthews on drums. Together, they sound like they’re influenced heavily by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, with a hard swinging sound that sounds much bigger than its five pieces. “Meanderthal,” “The Long Haul,” and “Chasing Fantasies” is a really excellent one-two-three combo to get the album rolling properly, and it drives the Blakey comparison home. “Take a Minute” is a short, funky romp with an excellent bassline that would have sounded right at home on any number of British Acid Jazz compilations that were my lifeblood in the early 90s. “Fuffle Kershuffle,” outside of the silly name, sounds like exactly that. A Blakey shuffle a la “Moanin’” that makes it impossible not to bob your head and tap your feet. The Jazz Defenders have pulled off quite the feat on Memory in Motion: they’ve made their love of those classic early 60’s Jazz Messengers bands obvious without sounding at all derivative.

Jammin Jazz
McAninch Arts Center