Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Magical Mystery Psych Out A Tribute To The Beatles Cleopatra 2015

The Magical Mystery Psych-Out - A Tribute To The Beatles

An amazing psych journey that rediscovers the music of The Beatles!

Brent Black / www.criticaljazz.com

When I first opened the package containing this release, I cringed. This release would seem to have train wreck written all over it yet some of the finest psych bands take a respectful if not a somewhat edgy look at The Beatles contributions to psych rock thanks to a well crafted release of some obscure gems and classic favorites.

"Tomorrow Never Knows walks the harmonic path of least resistance while The Underground Youth simply crush "Come Together." This is a release that if it does nothing else allows the melody to dictate the direction of each band.

Cleopatra has released numerous psych tributes with The Magical Mystery Psych Out holding serve as perhaps their finest to date. Vinyl editions are also available!

5 Stars!

SIDE A
1. Electric Moon - Tomorrow Never Knows
2. Sugar Candy Mountain - Rain
3. The Vacant Lots - Julia
4. The Blank Tapes - The Word
5. The Ruby Suns - Martha My Dear
6. The KVB - Taxman

SIDE B
1. The Underground Youth - Come Together
2. Fantasmes - Love You To
3. Quilt - Cry Baby Cry
4. The Lucid Dream - And I Love Her
5. Kikagaku Moyo - Helter Skelter
6. Strangers Family Band - Sun King

United Shades of Artistry 2015

Levon Mikaelian

A global music excursion taking the harmonic road less traveled, a release of balance and depth!

Brent Black / www.criticaljazz.com

Can we be honest? Most global fusion bands crash and burn thanks to either becoming too bogged down with cultural influences or simply the lack of some decent charts. United Shades of Artistry celebrates the Eastern European roots of pianist and composer Levon Mikaelian while also pulling from Latin and African music and rhythmic structure for a decidedly fresh presentation that so many artists have attempted yet with minimal success.

Trumpet legend Randy Brecker is featured on "Cloudy Minds" while saxophone ace Gary Thomas makes significant contributions on four others including the Armenian folk song "Hop-Hop." The emotive ballad "I Love You More" along with the harmonic evolution of "Shades" are perhaps the jewels in this melodic crown of lyrical bliss and the tune is seeming deconstructed and rebuilt with deceptively subtle shades of nuanced flavor.

Pianist Mikaelian has the skills necessary to literally cover the phone book yet assembles a release that has a laser like focus yet the spontaneity of a live show. For a debut release, this is an impressive first step in what should be a lengthy and highly successful career!

Tracks: Cloudy Minds; Shorora; Shades; Speak No Word; The Story Teller; Davismile; Hop-Hop; I Love You More.

Personnel: Levon Mikaelian: Composer, Band Leader, Piano, Rhodes, Vocals, Producer; John Lee: Acoustic and Electric Guitar; Tosin Aribisala.

5 Stars...Any debut release from a pianist that stays away from predictable covers is a winner!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Billy Cobham Mirror's Image Cleopatra 2015

Mirror's Image (Live)

An amazing rhythmic portrait of arguably the greatest drummer of all time!

Brent Black / www.criticaljazz.com

Billy Cobham's musical resume is well known to most fans, including time spent with Miles Davis and of course John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra yet his solo efforts are where his creativity begins to take on new dimensions and a three dimensional sonic depth of field that his contemporaries can only dream of. Mirror's Image is drawn from a 1992 show in Japan where both the crowd and Cobham feed off the energy of the other.

Cobham shows are long known for fresh arrangements of old favorites and the free harmonic reign to allow his musical co-conspirators to attempt to work a melodic tightrope without a net. Tunes such as "Street Urchin" and "Kinky Dee" are old school fusion kicked up a notch while the somewhat blues infused funk of "Leeward Winds" shows a different side to this rhythmic chameleon and what may be considered to be the apex of his creative muse.

This is classic Billy Cobham, a tour de force of sonic fury and finesse, the perfect storm!

5 Stars!

Personnel: Billy Cobham: Drums; Ira Coleman: Bass; Joe Chindamo: Keyboards.

Tracks: Mirror's Image; Street Urchin; Kinky Dee; Leeward Winds; Mirror Crack'd (CD Only); Layed Back Lifestyle (CD Only).

Doug Webb Triple Play Posi-Tone 2015

 
An old school blowing session that can touch your heart and set you're hair on fire at the same time!
 
Brent Black / www.criticaljazz.com
 
I love a review that can write itself. Sure, one can take the more theoretical approach to looking at this release but I have yet to meet a person that bought a release based on meter. Doug Webb is joined with tenor titans Joel Frahm and Walt Weiskopf for a real deal old school throw down of tunes both old and new and a swing that is at times relentless!
 
The covers are classic yet not predictable for this particular setting including "Giant Steps" along with the  Lou Donaldson tune "Alligator Boogaloo." These two particular tunes are pushed to new heights thanks to organist Brian Charette and drummer Rudy Royston. Frahm and Weiskopf contribute two stellar numbers in "Jazz Car" and "Three's A Crowd" respectively. Charette shows yet again why he is the organ hot ticket with his solo on "Jazz Car" and drummer Royston is pure finesse each step of the way. Taking the more zen like less is more approach the artistic approach to three simple yet edgy choruses shows why Webb may well be one of the finest tenor players on the scene deserving of far wider recognition. Webb originals such as "Jones" and "Triple Play" are simply icing on the cake and confirm Webb as an artist that is as technically gifted as he artistically proficient!
 
A hard bop visceral slap to the head has Triple Play virtually flawless.
 
5 Stars!
 
Tracks: Jones; Three's A Crowd; Giant Steps; The Way Things Are; Avalon; Jazz Car; Your Place Or Mine; I Concentrate On You; Pail Blues; Alligator Boogaloo; Triple Play.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Susan Krebs Simple Gifts Greengig 2015

Simple Gifts

An amazing waste of time, talent and plastic...

Brent Black / www.criticaljazz.com

I had a discussion several years ago with a critically acclaimed vocalist that also had a solid journalistic background with network news. She stated bad reviews were perfectly acceptable as long as one addressed the "why" question. This shouldn't take long...

Deconstructed chamber jazz with lyrical compositions that lack focus or direction of any kind. Susan Krebs couldn't find pitch with a road map and while the supporting cast do an adequate job with the music, they simply do not allow Krebs to literally hide the all too numerous chinks in her lyrical armor. Timing, phrasing and execution all fall short of the mark.

There could possibly be that left of center eccentric market that may find some bright spots but the smart money has them moving on after about the fourth play.

It is literally like watching or in this case listening to a plane fly into a mountain. Slightly over 40 minutes of your life you will never get back.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Jonathan Fritzen Fritzenized Nordic Night 2015

Fritzenized

Jonathan Fritzen is back with Fritzenized, arguably his finest release to date!

Brent Black / www.criticaljazz.com

A long standing beef with artists that walk on the smoother side of the contemporary street would have to be that the differences are about the thickness of a sheet of paper. With Fritzenized, Jonathan Fritzen pulls from a rich sonic color palate that allows true melody out of the jazz witness protection program and pushes the expected boundaries of the smooth jazz genre into a unique personal hybrid that is both inventive and engaging on a myriad of levels.

Cameo appearances are made by Paul Taylor, Gerald Albright and A list vocalist Laila Adele. Perhaps the most surprising appearance would be that of straight ahead European trombone master Nils Landgren. Truth be told, very little hear that doesn't work magnificently including some meticulously placed vocals from Fritzen. While some of his contemporaries have been told by either their wife or record executive that they can sing (and they can't), Fritzen does more than an admirable job holding his own.

A rich somewhat ambient sound with a slight urban groove smoldering just below the surface, Fritzenized is indeed a winner!

5 Stars!

Tracks: Fingers On Fire,  Euphoria, A Funky Night, Enchantment, Celebration, Sailing Away, Guacamole, The Jungle, Kiss Goodbye, A New Beginning.