Frank Sinatra – Nice ‘n’ Easy {Capitol}

Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine (

Breaking slightly from his pattern of a swing album following the release of ballads set, Frank Sinatra followed No One Cares with Nice ‘N’ Easy, a breezy collection of mid-tempo numbers arranged by Nelson Riddle. Not only is it the lightest set that he recorded for Capitol, it is the one with the loosest theme. Sinatra selected a collection of songs he had sang early in his career, having Riddle rearrange the tunes with warm, cheery textures. Unlike his previous ballads albums, Nice ‘N’ Easy doesn’t have a touch of brooding sorrow — it rolls along steadily, charming everyone in its path.

01 – Nice ‘n’ Easy
02 – That Old Feeling
03 – How Deep is the Ocean
04 – I’ve Got a Crush on You
05 – You Go to My Head
06 – Fools Rush In
07 – Nevertheless
08 – She’s Funny that Way
09 – Try a Little Tenderness
10 – Embraceable You
11 – Mam’Selle
12 – Dream

Frank Sinatra – vocals, with various personnel.
Nelson Riddle – arrangements

Recorded March 1-3, 1960

Quality: eac, flac, cue, log, artwork

Oscar Castro Neves – Tropical Heart {JVC}[xrcd]

Review by @brianphoto, Manteca, CA (

Great Brazilian jazz. Oscar Castro Neves is known for his arrangements with major jazz musicians, most notably Laurindo Almeida and Sergio Mendes. Here you have a unique opportunity to listen to Neves on his own with his own group. All the selections are his own compositions. All but two tracks are instrumental. Of the two vocal track, the song “If The Dance Is Over” is my favorite. Original lyrics, a smooth arrangement and tremendous sonics make it a winner. As a whole, the album is very satisfying. JVC’s usual high quality remastering in their XRCD series is wonderfully spacious with a startling presence. If you enjoy Brazilian jazz, this is a great one.

01 – Holding With an Open Hand
02 – You Are My Romance
03 – New Hope
04 – If the Dance is Over
05 – Envelope
06 – I Still Do
07 – My Heart Surrenders
08 – Maya’s Gift
09 – I Have Seen tomorrow
10 – Jasmina’s Perfume
11 – Souvenirs
12 – Tropical Heart
13 – Lullaby for a Magical Child

Oscar Castro Neves – acoustic guitar, nylon string electric guitar, synthesizer, acoustic piano
Don Grusin – acoustic piano, sequencer programming on “Envelope”
Abraham Laboriel – bass
Alex Acuna – drums and percussion
Glen Garrett – woodwinds
Eric Gale – electric guitar
Kate Yanai Markowitz – vocal on “If the Dance is Over”, and background vocals
Bunny Hull – vocal on “Souvenirs”, and background vocals

Recorded and mixed at Ocean Way Studios, Hollywood, California; 1996.

Quality: eac, flac, cue, log, artwork

Jimmy Smith – Organ Grinder Swing {Verve} “Japan”

Review by Scott Yanow (

Most of organist Jimmy Smith’s recordings for Verve during the mid-to-late ’60s were with big bands, making this trio outing with guitarist Kenny Burrell and drummer Grady Tate a special treat. This CD reissue is a throwback to Smith’s Blue Note sets (which had concluded two years earlier) and gives the organists the opportunity to stretch out on three blues and three standards. This release shows that, even with all of his commercial success during the period, Jimmy Smith was always a masterful jazz player.

01 – The Organ Grinder’s Swing
02 – Oh, No, Babe
03 – Blues for J
04 – Greensleeves
05 – I’ll Close My Eyes
06 – Satin Doll

Jimmy Smith – organ
Kenny Burrell – guitar
Grady Tate – drums

Recorded at Van Gelder Studios, ENglewood Cliffs, New Jersey on June 14 and 15, 1965.

Quality: eac, flac, cue, log, artwork

Herb Ellis & Remo Palmier – Windflower {Concord}

Review by Scott Yanow (

This album is most significant for being the first jazz recording in a few decades by guitarist Remo Palmier (who was also known early on as Palmieri). Fellow guitarist Herb Ellis was the leader but he gives his guest just as much solo space as he takes and, with the tasteful accompaniment of bassist George Duvivier and drummer Ron Traxler, the two old friends challenge each other on a variety of appealing chord changes including “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes,” “Close Your Eyes,” “Walkin'” and Jobim’s “Triste.” The success of this boppish set led to Palmieri getting his own Concord album the following year.

01 – Windflower
02 – The Night Has a Thousand Eyes
03 – My Foolish Heart
04 – Close Your Eyes
05 – Danny Boy
06 – Walkin’
07 – Stardust
08 – Triste
09 – Groove Merchant

Herb Ellis – guitar
Remo Palmier – guitar
George Duvivier – bass
Ron Traxler – drums

Recorded at Bell Sound Studios, New York City, NY; 1978

Quality: eac, flac, cue, log, artwork

Jacintha – Autumn Leaves “The Songs of Johnny Mercer” {GrooveNotes}

Review by Judith Schlesinger (

Nine of the 11 tracks here are ballads. Their uncluttered arrangements spotlight Jacintha’s smooth and sensuous voice, while her expressive phrasing draws the most from the classic Johnny Mercer lyrics. Jacintha includes the original lyrics to “Autumn Leaves,” done in soft and flawless French; otherwise, her primary innovation is to deliver the tunes straight and sincerely, with minimal improvisation and maximum tenderness. There’s no trace of the customary bitterness in “One More for the Road,” and her unaccompanied reading of “Moon River” liberates that song from any prior goopy associations. In fact, her version brings out the poignancy of the lyrics so purely that her additional chorus, coming after a rather wandering piano interlude, seems redundant. The band is good but pretty restrained throughout, supplying subtle commentary and close support, then breaks out nicely on the two up-tempo tracks: “And the Angels Sing” and “Something’s Got to Give.” Jacintha’s measured, legato approach isn’t very conducive to swinging, but listening to “Skylark”and “Midnight Sun,” in particular, is like sipping cool champagne in a fragrant hot tub. Another highlight is the bonus track, “Here’s to Life,” a signature tune for Shirley Horn, which Jacintha takes at a slightly faster tempo. While it’s not a Mercer lyric, its beautiful sentiments and melody fit nicely into this relaxed and intimate set. Whatever this CD may lack in fire, it makes up for in warmth.

01 – And the Angels Sing
02 – Skylark
03 – One for My Baby
04 – Midnight Sun
05 – Autumn Leaves
06 – Days of Wine & Roses
07 – I Remember You
08 – Trav’lin’ Light
09 – Something’s Gotta Give
10 – Moon River
11 – Here’s to Life (soundtrack mix)

Jacintha – vocals
Teddy Edwards – tenor saxophone
Kei Akagi – piano
Darek Oles – bass
Larance Marable, Joe LaBarbera – drums
Anthony Wilson – guitar
Will Miller – trumpet
Artie Butler – hammond b-3 organ

Recorded October 3 and 4th, 1999; Cello Studios, Hollywood, CA.

Quality: eac, flac, cue, log, artwork

Hank Mobley – Soul Station {Blue Note}[xrcd]

Review by Stacia Proefrock (

Often overlooked, perhaps because he wasn’t a great innovator in jazz but merely a stellar performer, tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley was at the peak of his powers on Soul Station. Recorded with a superstar quartet including Art Blakey on drums, Paul Chambers on bass, and Wynton Kelly on piano, it was the first album since Mobley’s 1955 debut to feature him as a leader without any other accompanying horns. The clean, uncomplicated sound that resulted from that grouping helps make it the best among his albums and a peak moment during a particularly strong period in his career. Mobley has no problem running the show here, and he does it without being flashy or burying the strong work of his sidemen. The solidness of his technique means that he can handle material that is occasionally rhythmically intricate, while still maintaining the kind of easy roundness and warmth displayed by the best players of the swing era. Two carefully chosen standards, “Remember” and “If I Should Lose You,” help to reinforce that impression by casting an eye back to the classic jazz era. They bookend four Mobley originals that, in contrast, reflect the best of small-group composition with their lightness and tight dynamics. Overall, this is a stellar set from one of the more underrated musicians of the bop era.

01 – Remember
02 – This I Dig of You
03 – Dig Dis
04 – Split Feelin’s
05 – Soul Station
06 – If I Should Lose You

Hank Mobley – tenor sax
Wynton Kelly – piano
Paul Chambers – bass
Art Blakey – drums

Originally released in 1960 on Blue Note Records as BST-84031.

Quality: eac, flac, cue, log, artwork

Herbie Hancock – Maiden Voyage {Blue Note} “Analogue Productions”

Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine (

Less overtly adventurous than its predecessor, Empyrean Isles, Maiden Voyage nevertheless finds Herbie Hancock at a creative peak. In fact, it’s arguably his finest record of the ’60s, reaching a perfect balance between accessible, lyrical jazz and chance-taking hard bop. By this point, the pianist had been with Miles Davis for two years, and it’s clear that Miles’ subdued yet challenging modal experiments had been fully integrated by Hancock. Not only that, but through Davis, Hancock became part of the exceptional rhythm section of bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams, who are both featured on Maiden Voyage, along with trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and tenor saxophonist George Coleman. The quintet plays a selection of five Hancock originals, many of which are simply superb showcases for the group’s provocative, unpredictable solos, tonal textures, and harmonies. While the quintet takes risks, the music is lovely and accessible, thanks to Hancock’s understated, melodic compositions and the tasteful group interplay. All of the elements blend together to make Maiden Voyage a shimmering, beautiful album that captures Hancock at his finest as a leader, soloist, and composer.

01 – Maiden Voyage
02 – The Eye of the Hurricane
03 – Little One
04 – Survival of the Fittest
05 – Dolphin Dance

Freddie Hubbard – trumpet
George Coleman – tenor sax
Herbie Hancock – piano
Ron Carter – bass
Anthony Williams – drums

Originally released in 1965 on Blue Note as BST-84195.

Quality: eac, flac, cue, log, artwork