Ricardo Pinheiro is an original interpreter of standards, both in conception and sound. Fusion is also part of his palette and the way that the guitarist from Lisbon, Portugal transformed the Disney tune When You Wish Upon A Star into a psychedelic drone on Triplicity was something else. But Caruma is one step beyond, a meditative record of solo guitar and the voices of Theo Bleckmann and Mônica Salmaso. Caruma was released on Greg Osby’s Inner Circle Music in November, 2020.

Close in spirit to the ECM label but a singular effort, Pinheiro Pinheiro explains that “Caruma is Portuguese for pine needle. The album springs from the inspiration of living in the countryside, in the middle of the Sintra woods. All the songs are related to atmospheric, photographic and emotional substance drawn from connections with nature.”

Elegance, restraint and stillness abound. Angelic voices mingle with the oblique melodies and overdubbed soundscapes by Pinheiro, like four legs entwined beneath silken sheets. Bleckmann subtly follows and builds on the lines of Pinheiro, Salmaso prefers mellow recitation of poetry. In between the electric guitar-driven songs, the acoustic Caruma stands out as a melancholic folk tune. The ambient climax of Resina evokes images of moorland shrouded in fog, bats in dark caves, where perhaps also dwell hobgoblins…

Mar Picardo introduces the element of fire. Rhythmic and improv-wise it has the tinge of King Crimson. Surprise tune of a surprising album.

Ricardo Pinheiro

Go to the website of Ricardo Pinheiro here.

Nick Hempton Band at GB’s Juke Joint


Live from GB’s Juke Joint in New York City, lockdown-audience of camera men and engineer, comes saxophonist Nick Hempton and his band featuring guitarist Peter Bernstein, organist Kyle Koehler and drummer Fukushi Tainaka. Having a ball. Nick Hempton, typically sharp-dressed jazz cat out there to entertain folks with sophisticated and accessible hard bop, presents tunes from both his latest release Night Owl and forthcoming album, nameless to date.

Hempton puts myriad edgy dots on his fluent tenor sentences, embellishing his husky sound with mischievous smears and slurs here, witty halve valve shenanigans there (wit is reflected as well through his stage manner, notably the introduction of the masked band: “.. the very handsome Kyle Koehler – Please control yourself, people!”) Hempton’s soulful tenor ignites cooker Back On The Dole, the lightly groovin’ Latin-tinged The Cove Crawl and the blues-based Night Owl (shuffle) and Tenth Street Turnaround (fat bounce), the latter highlighting the agile Koehler, who finds his most intense and crunchy groove of the evening.

The band hits its tightest pocket on Short Shrift, crisp, up-tempo cooker featuring a nifty and archetypical stop-time device. Short Shrift and Ellington’s ballad It Shouldn’t Happen To A Dream feature Hempton on alto sax, equally adept as on tenor, simultaneously lyrical and meaty and with hip inflections of the blues especially on It Shouldn’t Happen To A Dream. The ballad reading by ace guitarist Peter Bernstein, enthusiastic and in fine form throughout, is especially touching and reveals a passion for one of his great forebears, Grant Green.

In his own way Hempton extends the uplifting vibe of giant fellows like Gene Ammons, Sonny Stitt, Stanley Turrentine, their mixture of heat and excellence. Timeless real jazz, hopefully to be enjoyed again in a live audience setting as soon as possible.

Nick Hempton Band

Nick Hempton (tenor and alto saxophone)
Peter Bernstein (guitar)
Kyle Koehler (organ)
Fukushi Tainaka (drums)

Live stream recorded on December 28 at GB’s Juke Joint, New York City.

Go to Nick Hempton’s website here.

Find the GB’s Juke Joint show on demand here

Reflections Of The Eternal Line


Swiss drummer Florian Arbenz cooperated with Kirk Lightsey, Bennie Maupin, Dave Liebman, Bruno Rousselet, among others. Rooted in classical percussion and fascinated by world rhythm, Arbenz is part of VEIN Trio and Convergence, the latter a band that grew out of interest in Cuban, Brazilian and West-African rhythm and was founded twenty-years ago by saxophonist Greg Osby.

Osby and Arbenz enjoy a special rapport and have cooperated for more than two decades. (Upon visiting New York and seeing performances of Osby in the early ‘90s, Arbenz is stated as saying, “From that moment on I wanted to play ‘Osby ‘s sort of music’”) However, they never found the time to record until this year. The result is Reflections Of The Eternal Line, bringing to life the art work of Stephen Spicher, who contributed the enticing visual art of the album and moreover opened up his work shop as studio.

At the core of the styles of Arbenz and Osby, one on a variety of percussion beside the kit as kalimba and gong, the other on alto and soprano sax, is a clever, continuing suggestion of harmonic texture. Suggestion, melodiousness and mystique pervade obliquely groove-oriented passages but most of all spheric pieces as Truth, Chant and The Passion Of Light, which benefit from a sense of stillness and introversion. Please Stand By features Osby as a modern-day successor to Yusef Lateef.

Challenging duo music seems to be a resurgent phenomenon. You could arrange an interesting evening schedule with albums such as Han Bennink/Joris Roelofs’ Icarus, Marcel Serierse/Tim Langedijk’s Telegrams and Florian Arbenz/Greg Osby’s Reflections Of The Eternal Line. Good company.

Dutch saxophonist Tineke Postma (who co-incidentally toured with Osby pré-Corona and performed with VEIN including Osby) is the European partner of the Arbenz duo project. Keep up to date on the website of Florian Arbenz here.

Find Convergence here.

Find Reflections Of The Eternal Line here.

RED NOLA (Sound Liaison 2020)


NOLA is one step further in the remarkable development of soul jazz outfit RED.

RED-NOLA-cover © De Zagerij ontwerpbureau



Ellister van der Molen (trumpet), Gideon Tazelaar (tenor saxophone), Bob Wijnen (organ), Wouter Kühne (drums)


in 2020 at Muziekcentrum van de Omroep in Hilversum


as Sound Liaison download in 2020

Track listing

It Ain’t My Fault
St. James Infirmary
Blues My Naughtie Sweetie Gives To Me
Just A Closer Walk With Thee
Tom Cat Blues
Monkey Puzzle
That’s A Plenty

Black is the color of my true love’s hair… but red is the color of passion, wild roses, wine wine wine spo-dee-o-dee and the glow of the red-light district… RED, the band of trumpeter Ellister van der Molen, organist Bob Wijnen, tenor saxophonist Gideon Tazelaar and drummer Wouter Kühne, buoyantly evokes the spirit of New Orleans, cradle of jazz, art form born out of sleaze, resilience and the blues on NOLA, RED’s follow-up to 2018’s debut album Ahooo!. It delivers on the promise of RED’s promotional motto of ‘vibrant, uplifting’ jazz.

Van der Molen and Wijnen spent one week in The Big Easy in November 2019 and have turned their experience into song. The album, which comes in a stylish EP-sized package of drawings by Quirine Reijman with enclosed hi-res download by audiophile label Sound Liaison, was recorded in front of a live audience at Muziekcentrum van de Omroep in Hilversum. Killer vintage sound and atmosphere that makes momma Van Gelder proud.

RED feeds off legends Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Jelly Roll Morton, James Black and The Meters with various interesting approaches, turning in the restrained march of St. James Infirmary that features joyful muted trumpet, a modernized Blues My Naughtie Sweetie Gives To Me reminding us of the minor-keyed Jazz Messengers gems and the party-hardy Tom Cat Blues. Furthermore, the traditional Just A Closer Walk With Thee has an intriguing modal feel and a maximum of ‘ton-sûr-ton’ coloring.

The band delights in funk jazz, Latin tinges and the original Van der Molen ballad, Sola, which translates as ‘lonely’. Van der Molen’s attempt, through lyrical blue-isms and crystalline, outgoing high notes, as a contemplation on both the melancholic and purifying aspects of loneliness, is highly engaging and successful. In her own words, ‘a real tearjerker’. Ain’t that the truth!

Good vibrations have been at the core of RED’s personality from its inception in 2017 but NOLA signifies a maturity arguably heretofore absent. Tazelaar’s pleasantly languid beat is reminiscent of the old tenor masters and his contributions are playful and marked by surprising tranquility. His full and warm tone matches well with Van der Molen’s sweet-sour sound and both revel in the company of the spirited Kühne and Wijnen, who slaughters a couple of turkeys with spirited and well-developed single Hammond organ lines. Wijnen’s concise solo intermezzo’s between songs heighten the tension of the main course.

Strong effort reminding us of the miraculous melting pot legacy of New’Awlins.

Check out the website of RED and find NOLA here.

Tom van der Zaal Time Will Tell (Self-Released 2019)


Not-quite-so-young lion alert: Tom van der Zaal’s hard bop gem Time Will Tell.

Tom van der Zaal - Time Will Tell


Tom van der Zaal (alto saxophone), Floriaan Wempe (tenor saxophone), Rob van Bavel (piano), Peter Bernstein (guitar), Matheus Nicolaiewsky (bass), Joost van Schaik (drums)


in 2019 at Fattoria Musica, Osnabrück


in 2019

Track listing

A Not So Beautiful Friendship
Favela Chic
Time Will Tell
The Ballpark Fence
The Gospel Song

The Netherlands is solid as regards to young reed and brass players that recreate the classic mainstream jazz aesthetic in their own image. Among a bunch that includes tenor saxophonists Florian Wempe and Gideon Tazelaar and trumpeters Gidon Nunez Vas and Ian Cleaver, Tom van der Zaal is one of the to-go-to alto saxophonists, a product of the rich heritage of (hard) bop city #1, The Hague.

The manner in which now and then some young birds bring appetizing goodies to the family is heartening. Time Will Tell is such produce, a contemporary take on the classic 50’s/60’s style that was epitomized on the Blue Note, Prestige and Impulse labels. Van der Zaal is assisted by the brilliant Dutch veteran pianist Rob van Bavel, bassist Matheus Nicolaieswky and drummer Joost van Schaik. Floriaan Wempe performs on two tracks. Also present, on four compositions, rabbit in the hat and one of the greatest guitarists in mainstream jazz: Peter Bernstein. Bernstein oozes taste, as clear as plain day light once again on Time Will Tell, his umpteenth performance the last decade and part of an immense discography.

Van der Zaal’s gift of conjuring up fresh rhythmic variations and catchy songs reveals itself in Latin-inspired swingers Favela Chic and Enrichment, which live in the realm of vintage Carribean-tinged beauties like Joe Henderson’s Mamacita or Kenny Dorham’s Afrodisia. The fluent pulse of Dilemma is bookended by an elegiac part that hints at both Black Is The Color and the lengthy psalmodic intro’s of the John Coltrane Quartet. The ballad Time Will Tell runs along a particularly intriguing harmonic route. And what about the snappy, uptempo The Ballpark Fence? Considering the band’s firm push on the throttle, it is appropriate and perhaps not coincidental that the cover shows Van der Zaal kneeling beside a classy monster oldsmobile. To switch to baseball terms: the band hits it right out of the ballpark!

Tom van der Zaal is a lean leopard, light-legged, makes snappily phrased twists and turns and loves his quotes, as is the jazz leopard’s wont. Including the occasional unfeigned whoop or wail, his balanced playing goes to the heart of the melody. Van der Zaal and Wempe rip and roar through the friendly battle of fours and simultaneous improv of Favela Chic, which follow up the vibrant waterfalls and drops from the fountain that Rob van Bavel charms from the piano, supported by his trademark firm and obliquely voiced chords and wonderfully astute bass lines. Time Will Tell is right up the alley of Van Bavel, European class act who is a versatile seeker of new vistas but has remained rooted in hard bop ever since he’s been part of the spectacular Ben van den Dungen/Jarmo Hoogendijk Quintet in the late 80’s/early 90’s. Nowadays Van Bavel is pianist of the premier Dutch hard bop outfit The Eric Ineke JazzXPress.

Bernstein’s intro to Charlie Chaplin’s Smile is plainly gorgeous. Smile is the album’s surprising and swinging cover song and definitely appropriate. Because the energy and palpable enthusiasm of Van der Zaal & Co. on Time Will Tell ignite a broad smile from crown to chin.

Check out the website of Tom van der Zaal here.



Bassist Dave Post, who has been leading the “little big band” Swingadelic since 1998, responded to the Instagram page of Flophouse Magazine. Since then we corresponded about the kind of music we love and Dave cherishes. Dave unconditionally loves what he refers to as “the good shit”, meaning blues, big band swing and classic soul jazz. In existence since 1998, Swingadelic performed at New York City clubs like Swing 46 and played at the festivals of Allentown’s MusicFest and NYC’s Lincoln Center’s Midsummer Night Swing, among others. The band maintains a busy tour schedule, predominantly on the East Coast and in the South.

Swingadelic’s music relies on the solid beat and robust swing of Post and his rhythm colleagues and contributions of band veterans as pianist John Bauers and trumpeter Carlos Francis. A number of luminaries, notably tenor saxophonists Buddy Terry and Bill Easley, have passed through the band. Not surprisingly considering Post’s preferences, Swingadelic brings entertaining (jump) blues and blues-based jazz ranging from the big band era to the soul jazz era of the 50s and 60s. Many tunes that the band plays originated in the ‘chitlin’ circuit’ of black clubs, such as The Honeydripper, Exactly Like You and Castle Rock. The band’s uplifting and in-your-face repertoire, including many original compositions, is marked by original, strong arrangements and excellent, soulful blowing. Over the years, the band has made an interesting transition to more sophisticated material and its catalogue of eight releases now includes tributes to Duke Pearson (The Other Duke), Allen Touissant (Touissantville) and Johnny Mercer (Mercerville).

I asked Dave about his (musical) upbringing, how he got Swingadelic going for so long now and what might be in store. Dave says:

“I was born and raised in Elizabeth New Jersey, sort of a poor and gritty industrial city and moved to Hoboken in 1988 as the town was becoming gentrified. At that time, there were a lot of artists and musicians living there and gigs were plentiful. My dad was an amateur accordion player and I was not into music until the early 60’s when I got some Tijiuana Brass, Beatles and Mamas & Papas records. But what really sealed the deal for me was hearing The Rolling Stones on the radio. From there I went back to Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf and Bo Diddley, the Chess Records guys. That somehow brought me to jazz, via the organ cats like Jimmy Smith, Jack McDuff and Leon Spencer. I started learning bass by listening to those records as a teenager. I started playing in Polish bands and rock’n’roll groups, local orchestras, bluegrass, wedding bands, anything.

“I started Swingadelic in 1998 and have been very fortunate to be able to play with a lot of great musicians. I think the reason we worked so much is because we were willing to play any type of music that clients wanted. A swing dance, sure. Background music, no problem, a wedding? Of course! The real secret to keeping a band together is to get a lot of gigs and pay the guys! My favorite bands and bass players are so many. Ray Brown is on top if the list. Then there’s Horace Silver, Dexter Gordon, Tito Puente, Wilson Pickett, Ellington and Basie. This list can go on forever!

“I don’t know what is next for Swingadelic recording wise. Maybe a bunch of 60’s tunes re-imagined for big band, or a Mose Allison tribute or an all original composition CD. Who knows!”

Swingadelic’s latest release Bluesville (May 2020) is a reflection of the band’s roots in blues, big band blues and organ grooves and what they nightly bring on stage, including songs by Duke Ellington, Ray Charles and Mose Allison. Among others, it features saxophonist Bill Easley, singer Vanessa Perea and organist Kyle Koehler. The Late Late Show, a hit for Dakota Staton in 1957, has sweeping vocals by John Bauers. The punchy arrangements bring to mind the Ray Charles Band of the Atlantic years. Vanessa Perea carries the luscious What’s Your Story, Morning Glory, best known in the Ella & Louis version, to a suave conclusion. Ellington’s The Mooche is endearing homage, all high register brass and reed and tart muted trumpet intermezzos, contemporary in the subtle accompaniment and greasy solo of guitarist Boo Reiners. The shuffle blues of Riffin’ On McGriffin’ is perfect foil for organist Kyle Koehler and Bill Easley’s hot sax burns a hole in, among others, Willie Dixon’s I Love The Live I Live.

Check out the website of Swingadelic here.

Jimmy Rowles


(in cooperation with Jean-Michel Reisser-Beethoven)

It’s no use to make anything holy if only for the inherent failure of leaders and followers to meet the standards of deification. Holiness also implies submission to a cause one dares not criticise. So jazz and its leaders are not holy. It’s easy to succumb to the impulse. I have to confess that on a number of occasions, I have typified the great Charlie Parker as “The One” and “part rebel rouser part Messiah”. No doubt a blasphemous analogy in the view of the religious community. No doubt a definition that Charlie “Yardbird” Parker would take with a grain of salt before carrying on with one of his unforgettable bird flights. Then again, most likely something true jazz aficionados would not blame me for posing.

Holiness may be hyperbole but the value of jazz as a transcendent and spiritual force is immense. By nature, jazz breaks borders. In the arena of club or studio, it doesn’t in principle matter if you’re black or white, young or old, or which country you come from. As long as you understand the beautiful language of jazz. However, the business side of jazz – it might be a general cultural phenomenon – has always been hype-driven. And so it has come to be that young “new stars” are signed to major labels overnight, while middle-aged masters struggle on the outskirts of the jazz landscape. Sometimes, they float to the surface as “elder statesmen” on the international stage with the help of encouraging colleagues, promoters, journalists, A&R people and club owners. At that moment, you will most likely read an article in the mainstream media that reflects the saying, “wow, that old-timer sure knocks everybody for a loop!”. As a consequence of the business’s age discrimination, crackerjack and influential performers as Joe Henderson, Tommy Flanagan, Charles McPherson, Lou Donaldson and Dee Dee Bridgewater have in their 40s performed under the radar for years, to come out on top in the last stage of their careers.

Sometimes they’re there all the time, under the radar, like Jimmy Rowles, who traveled along a very curious route with generous outpourings of piano artistry. In 1973, as Gary Giddins, jazz critic sui generis, noted in Visions Of Jazz (Oxford Press, 1998), Town Hall billed Rowles as “California’s greatest jazz pianist” preceding a Johnny Mercer concert. A tad chauvinistic, no doubt, but not such a crazy idea at all, even considering the fact that Oscar Peterson was based on the West Coast. In the mid-70s, Rowles already had maintained a career for twenty-five years and after a hiatus in the 60’s relocated to New York. Half of the audience in the clubs where he had residencies, mostly Bradley’s and The Cookery, consisted of hyper-attentive pianists.

His underground reputation makes the question who really is Jimmy Rowles rather problematic. This is how far I go: He’s omnipresent as a recording artist yet many of his albums as a leader are rarities. Rowles, born James George Hunter in Spokane, Washington in 1918, started his career as early as the early 40’s, touring with Slim Gaillard and Lester Young, Benny Goodman and Woody Herman. He hit his stride in Los Angeles, which was rife with opportunities to record and work in the studio system. Rowles recorded with Benny Carter, Buddy Rich, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Ben Webster, Shelly Manne, Al Cohn, Pepper Adams, Nat King Cole, Barney Kessel, Lee Konitz and many others. He had a special rapport with tenor saxophonist Zoot Sims, cooperating on Sims’s excellent Pablo recordings in the late 70’s.

As an accompanist of singers, Rowles was non-pareil and in constant demand. He supported virtually all the great singers: Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae, Peggy Lee and Diane Krall among others, whom Rowles and Ray Brown encouraged to sing. He’s featured on Billie Holiday’s Songs For Distingué Lovers from 1957. Rowles sang himself as well, in a conversational style that is not virtuosic but charming and with a grittiness that is leavened by Billy Holiday-ish legato phrasing. He sings a couple of songs on his best-known record, The Peacocks, featuring Stan Getz from 1978.

His knowledge of songs was unparalleled. Rowles knew more than two thousand songs and included many oddities in his repertoire. During his lifetime, he gradually developed a library of songs and charts in Los Angeles, a treasure trove for musicians and producers in need of half-forgotten songs. Rowles had a special fondness for the Ellington/Strayhorn songbook, particularly rarely-performed compositions, which he mined with peerless sense of harmony, melody and characteristics of the solo’s. He also delved into Wayne Shorter’s compositions from the Art Blakey period. Rowles shares with Duke Ellington a detailed use of space and sparse dynamics. He’s an elegant player with intriguing, oblique voicings. Yet both sharp wit (if you listen to him closely, you will imagine that he must have been a fellow with a great sense of humor) and unpredictability stand out in a style that is instantly recognizable. For a description of a unique Rowles solo, I turn again to Giddins, who commented on Rowles’ cooperation with Zoot Sims on Cole Porter’s It’s All Right With Me:

“… played in a rampaging long meter that perfectly captures the give and take between stalwart tenor and daring piano. During Zoot’s first improvised chorus, Rowles pumps him up with chords; in the second, he brings in crescendo tremelos that gather like storm warnings. His own two-chorus solo is of a sort no one else would attempt – a coherent montage of hammered single notes, offhanded dissonances, wandering arpeggios, abrupt bass walks, trebly rambles. When Sims returns, the pianist probes every open space, spurring him until you think they might burst out of orbit.”

(Billie Holiday, Songs For Distingué Lovers – Verve 1957; Zoot Sims, If I’m Lucky – Pablo 1977; The Peacocks – Columbia 1977)

Thank you Mr. Giddins. There’s a shameful lack of mention of Rowles in jazz literature, which leaves detailed info about the life of Rowles hanging in the air. That’s the reason I called Jean-Michel Reisser-Beethoven, Swiss connaisseur and former manager of bassist Ray Brown and comrade to numerous jazz greats. (Reisser-Beethoven commented on Ray Brown’s Bass Hit recently, see here) Jean-Michel was a friend of Jimmy Rowles and he spills the beans below. Very enlightening.

Jean-Michel Reisser-Beethoven: “Jimmy should be better known, but he actually was not concerned with fame. He was conscious about his merits. And he was always much in demand anyway. There is no doubt that he is one of the greatest pianists in jazz history. Everybody in the business knows! Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock checked him out in New York and they were astounded. They knew who Rowles was but not that he was that good!

“I admire the way Jimmy took risks as a piano player. Somehow he always came out on top, I’ve rarely ever heard anyone like that. At the same time, his playing is balanced. A great example of his courageous style is his solo on Satin Doll on the Henry Mancini ’67 record. (listen here) He played something totally different than expected, everybody went crazy. And he goes right to the heart of the melody. Did you know that he learned to play stride from Ben Webster? Jimmy and Ray Brown – who also was an excellent piano player – were friends with Ben Webster. Ben learned them to play stride.

“Jimmy played with Lester Young and his brother Lee as early as 1940. And later on with Charlie Parker. Of course, playing with a genius like Parker is a challenge. But Jimmy knew all the great composers, Ravel, Debussy, Bartok, etcetera. So his harmonic sense already was excellent. He said to me: ‘That is what saved me!’

“Jimmy knew all the tunes, and then some. Eventually, Jimmy rented a place to store all his charts, which turned into his Library of Songs. Everybody who wanted to record a tune but forgot how it exactly went turned to his library. It is run by Jimmy’s estate nowadays. Just last year, I forwarded the manager of Michael Bublé to the library.

“I first saw Jimmy perform in 1978 in Nice. Back then festivals were different. Artists played for days on end. So that was a treat. Jimmy was a very funny guy. He loved his drink and was a real party man. Jimmy and Harry “Sweets” Edison used to call Ray Brown “Raymond Fucking Brown”. Haha!

We were talking backstage at the Nice festival in ’78, Jimmy and I and a lot of musicians. A French jazz journalist approached Jimmy, telling him that he really liked the way he sang and that his voice seemed similar to that of Nat King Cole. Jimmy replied with dry wit, “Well, maybe Nat King ‘Cold’. Everybody cracked up.”

Here are a number of must-haves according to Jean-Michel:

(Jazz Is A Fleeting Moment – Jazzz 1976; Plays Duke Ellington & Billy Strayhorn – Columbia 1981; Duets – Cymbol 1980)
(Shade And Light – Ahead 1978/Black & Blue 1991; Don Bagley, Basically Bagley – Dot 1957; Richie Kamuca, Charlie – Concord 1979)
(Zoot Sims, Party – Choice 1974; Scarab – Musica 1978; Sometimes I’m Happy – Orange Blue 1988)

Jimmy Rowles passed away in 1996.