107 IN THE SHADE
Alex Bugnon (Orpheus 47979)
Upon first hearing keyboardist Alex Bugnon, it's hard not to think of Bob James. After all, Bugnon, like James, is a jazzman who likes his arrangements funky and atmospheric, and who keeps his solos lean and melodic. But it only takes a few listens to "107 in the Shade" to realize that Bugnon is his own man stylistically. Sure, his music skews pop, but unlike James, who writes and plays more like an arranger than an improviser, Bugnon definitely likes to stretch out. And whether his context is as tightly structured as on the airy "Fly, Spirit, Fly" or as loose-limbed as on the title tune, the music which results is invariably light, jazzy and soulful.
Astor Piazzolla (Tropical Storm 74919)
If your only knowledge of the tango is derived from old "Addams Family" episodes, the music of Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla may come as something of a shock. Piazzolla's tango is worlds away from the cliched "one-two-three-four-AND" dance routines you saw on television; instead, as "Love Tanguedia" makes plain, it's closer to a cross between jazz and chamber music, with most of the melody carried by violin or his own bandoleon (a type of accordion) while a combination of bass, piano and guitar carry the rhythm. These compositions are astonishingly dramatic, and between the impassioned interplay of "Love Duet" to the poignant longing of "Sadness, Separation," it's surprisingly easy to become a Piazzolla addict.