by Robert Rusch, Cadence

If you have a fondness for standards (and who doesn’t?) latch onto GIANNI BIANCHINI’s, TYPE 1 [GB no number]. This is as fresh an approach to 12 mostly well worn standards [73:36] as I’ve heard in some time. Bianchini’s piano and occasional vocals are joined by Brandon Guerra [drm], Richard Mikel [b] and Jason Marsalis [perc]. The title comes from this being Bianchini’s first recording and that he has Type 1 diabetes. His singing is straight forward and acceptable, forcing him to stay within the familiar structure of the song but it is his inventive piano playing that I’d rather hear. Karen Tennison guest vocals on one track and she is a pleasant addition. Bianchini is a special talent.

I know of drummer JEFF “SIEGE” SIEGEL [drm], along with bassist Rich Syracuse, as pianist Lee Shaw’s rhythm section for many years. Siegel has now recorded KING OF XHOSA [Artists Recording Collective arc 2710]. This recording is 13 tracks [71:13] with Siegel’s core group [Erica Lindsay-sax, Francesca Tanksley-p, Rich Syracuse-b] and special guests; Feya Faku-flg and Fred Berryhill- perc featured on 5 tracks. The CD opens with African drums and a chant which had little meaning for me. Fortunately it only lasts a bit longer than a minute before the guts of this recording come forth. And the guts are very strong as everybody in this band is right on target. There are times when the shadow of Coltrane looms large. Faku is the least known personality here and while he had been around jazz since the early ’90s, he has not been recorded a great deal. Faku has a warm sound and sincere style and fits in well with the spiritual tone of the music. This may be the best record you’ll overlook this year.

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