By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Like a fox
Shelley Carrol with Members of the Duke Ellington Orchestra
It has been ascribed to many things--in particular the approaching millennium--but this increasing tendency by the human race to wax lunatic in word and deed is a bit frightening. First there were the space suicides in San Diego, and now people are lining up in droves to climb Mount Everest in celebration of Jon Krakauer's Into the Air--a real-life account of why such a mission practically ensures an icy doom.
But the biggest kooks of all may be Mark Elliot and Keith Foerster, two twentysomething white kids--SMU grads, of all things--who came up with the brainy concept of starting their own jazz record label. Is there a quicker route to chaos? Furthermore, the label--Leaning House--doesn't crank out commercial, Kenny G-styled diet-jazz noodlings. Instead it taps a gold mine of largely unknown local musicians who just happen to be world-class, real jazz players. Chief among them are Marchel Ivery, the 58-year-old Texas Tenor Who Never Was, and an array of youngsters: drummer Earl Harvin, pianist Dave Palmer, tenor saxophonist Shelley Carrol, and newly signed pianist Fred Sanders.
The label's catalog, which has steadily grown in stature and is now distributed nationally by Allegro, is further strengthened by the beautifully packaged new Ivery and Carrol releases. On Meets Joey DeFrancesco, Ivery kicks out a high-octane mixture of bubbling bop and blues. Producer Elliot, who has a knack for convincing big-shot musicians to contribute to his artists' sessions, anchors Ivery's squonking, dexterous, frisky tenor lines with DeFrancesco, a lightning-quick organist whose B-3 churns like a frothy wake behind some post-bop ski boat. The triumphant set moves from the playful virtuosity of "Blues Walk" and "Lester Leaps In" to cool and lowdown tunes like "Violets for Your Furs" and "Bag's Groove" to the smoothly poignant "Makin' Whoopee" and "Lover Man."
The texture on Carrol's CD is altogether more moody: a dead-of-night vibe that's at once warm and lonely, mournful and exuberant. With the sympathetic support of four ex-Ellington band members, Carrol can effortlessly romp--as on original compositions "Scrappy" and "Lone Star Shuffle" or Ivery's "Blues by Five." But on more sedate material--"Poor Butterfly" and the Ellington masterpieces "Heaven," "Thanks for the Beautiful Land on the Delta," and "A Flower is a Lovesome Thing"--Carrol's sax is a living, crying, laughing, breathing entity.
These are wonderful discs; maybe the Leaning House concept isn't so crazy after all.