"Live the Life"

Mack Avenue



Mack Avenue

Paris-born chanteuse Ilona Knopfler's latest release is one of those jazz recordings that prompts you to scan the liner notes over and over in search of the name of an arranger or a soloist. As talented and versatile as Knopfler is, there are moments when you simply find yourself admiring the excellent company she keeps.

The opening track, for instance, may leave you wondering who was responsible for devising a surprising and rather Manhattan Transfer-like treatment of the Thomas A. Dorsey gospel tune "I'm Going to Live the Life I Sing About in My Song." Turns out it's Jay Ashby, Knopfler's principal collaborator on this session. Ashby, Alain Mallet and other arrangers consistently place Knopfler's lovely voice in flattering settings, from brassy and string-woven orchestrations to a trio take on Michel LeGrand's "Les Moulins de Mon Coeur," complete with French lyrics by Eddy Marnay. Knopfler sounds at home with Brazilian grooves as well, and the support she receives from Mallet (on piano), alto saxophonist Antonio Hart, trumpeter Sean Jones and several other guests make her renditions of both familiar and not-so-familiar tunes all the more enjoyable.

Jones, Knopfler's label mate and a member of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, is quickly emerging as a force to reckon with. "Gemini," his new CD, opens with the title track, a crackling display of trumpet bravura inspired by Miles Davis, and subsequently features a colorfully diverse assortment of tunes composed by Jones and some of his bandmates here, including keyboardist Orrin Evans and bassist Kenny Davis. Pianist Mulgrew Miller is also featured, and among the more memorable excursions are the strolling and brassy "Blues For Matt B," the funk-charged fusion romp "T.V. Land" and the slow-burning soul jazz cut "Chillin' at da Grill."

-- Mike Joyce

Appearing Wednesday at Blues Alley.