Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Julia Hulsmann Trio Imprint ECM 2011

Cover Art

Imprint   ECM 2011

Julia Hulsmann : Piano
Marc Muellbauer: Bass
Heinrich Kobberling: Drums

I often use the phrase "less is more" to describe the effect of musical space created by many of the releases in the ECM catalog. "Imprint" is a fine and yet oddly curious example of taking simple melody down to it's very origin.

"Listen to the notes I don't play..." John Coltrane

Producer and label founder Manfred Eicher does a masterful job in communicating with these musicians the importance of musical continuity. A fluid stream of musical ideas.

Within the highly lyrical playing of Hulsmann which can sometimes approach "cinematic" in theme there is one cohesive unit with both Muellbauer and Kobberling interweaving their own individual voice throughout each piece.

"Imprint" defies musical category as we would normally label  a western piano trio. Freedom of movement and motion of musical ideas abound but never allowing the music to over take itself. "Imprint" is a subtle yet necessary reminder that European jazz has its roots elsewhere.

A trio that knows when to push forward and when to pull back. Deceptive in ability and understated in elegance.

A musical frame of reference would be difficult at best here.

Think Dave Brubeck - unplugged.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Jeff "Tain" Watts Family Dark Key Music 2011


Family  Dark Key Music 2011


"Family" is somewhat of a conceptual work with tunes that capture or acknowledge his relationship with relatives, artists and friends. From a purely compositional standpoint the tunes are far more "open" than perhaps any other work of Watts that I can reference. The playful if not classic Michael Jackson drum intro from "Rock With You" opens the tune "Little Michael"  and is but one of the many musical highlights on this Dark Key release.

Bassist James Genus is another one of the "stealth" musicians that sneaks up on you only to make you scratch your head and think, " Where have I been?." Pianist Dave Kikoski and saxophonist Steve Wilson provide stellar performances while "Tain" remains comfortably "in the pocket" at all times.

Watts swings like a beast. There is simply no other possible way to say it.

The seventh release as a leader, Watts seems to display a far more accessible side to his music while never taking the easy way out or limiting his genius as composer. A "working band" feel to this release allows the music to be the driving force and Watts simply the glue that makes for one of the tightest swinging bands I have heard in perhaps the last ten years.

I have added the Dark Key Music link to my site. With releases such as this; a label to keep a careful eye on!

Bjornstad / Henryson Night Song ECM 2011

Night Song

Night Song ECM 2011

Ketil Bjornstad : Piano
Svante Henryson : Cello

Manfred Eicher: Producer

"It was never my intention to record artists who had commercial potential, it was simply music that touched me deeply."
Manfred Eicher, in an interview in Eye - The International Review of Graphic Design (UK), spring 1995.


Such is my experience with "Night Song"

Defying category, "Night Song" is the conceptual bi product of two perfectly matched musicians playing one fluid stream of musical consciousness

The original conceptual perspective is one of "melancholy." A dark hued color palette that is expansive yet simple and moving to but never reaching the musical edge of "wistful".

Controlled beauty.

The interesting musical dichotomy on display here is while Bjornstad studied classical piano throughout Europe, the Henryson resume includes a three year stint as bass guitarist for metal god Yngwie Malmsteen.
What producer Manfred Eicher pulls from the two is musical depth and beauty the likes I have never heard and may never hear again.

Epic.

There is a haunting suspense, a musical anticipation that seeps into your very soul.The musical emotion brought forth from Henryson's cello is to weep. Bjornstad's piano is simple unassuming beauty.  The uncertainty of night. The promise of a new dawn.

A musical epiphany for one's soul...

Laura Kahle Circular Dark Key Music 2011

circular

Circular   Dark Key Music 2011
Release date 4/19/11


An interesting release...
I opened the envelope to find a disc with an attractive woman holding what appears to be a toy trumpet and I thought, "Gee, I bet this sounds pretty."

Idiotic stereotypes aside what I discovered was a debut release of stunning depth characterized by unique musical freedom for the participants to explore their own path within each composition. The music comes full circle.

But what about the trumpet?



From Wikipedia -
The pocket trumpet is a compact size B trumpet, with the same playing range as the regular trumpet. The tubing is wound more tightly than that of a standard trumpet in order to reduce its size while retaining the instrument's range. It is not a standardized instrument to be found in orchestral brass sections and is generally regarded as a novelty. It is used mostly by trumpet players as a practice instrument that can be packed in a suitcase and taken to places where carrying standard trumpets would be an issue. Although not having a reputation as a serious orchestral instrument, it has occasionally been used by soloists in jazz or other ensembles to add flair and variety.

Flair and variety may best sum up this release. From the stunning vocals of  Claudia Acuna to the driving rhythms of Jeff "Tain" Watts this release offers a little something for everyone.

Busy.
There is a controlled chaos to "Circular " that pulls you in, an energy. Texture, motion, a musical color pallet that offers something new and different with each subsequent spin of the  disc. Subtle nuances.

Other notable performances include the great J D Allen on tenor saxophone and Yosvany Terry on alto saxophone.

In short, there is nothing "pretty" about this disc. Heavy music and by that I mean solid, deep rooted, intellectually honest and with flawless presentation.

While the Wynton Marsalis influence is unmistakable, this is a stunning debut release. A musical presentation that is uniquely Laura Kahle, an artist we can look forward to hearing more from!

http://www.laurakahle.com/

special thanks to wikipedia and my friends at dl media!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Larry Carlton Plays The Sounds of Philadelphia 335 Records 2011



The Sounds of Philadelphia 335 Records

I love Larry Carlton.
"Smiles And Smiles To Go" is the ring tone on my cell phone.
Arguably the most influential guitarist over the last 30 years.

I just do not get any "brotherly love" from this release.

Philadelphia is a city that is ALIVE! Philadelphia is vibrant, energetic and full of passion - everything this disc lacks.

So what happened? Bad song selection? You tell me -

Track Listing: Could It Be Like Falling In Love; Back Stabbers; If You Don't Know Me By Now; Drownin' in the Sea of Love; I'll Be Around; You Make Me Feel Brand New; Bad Luck; Never Give You Up; Mama Can't Buy You Love; Only the Strong Survive; Might Love. DVD: The Making of The Sound of Philadelphia feature.

"The Sounds of Philadelphia" falls apart in the arrangements. Instead of trying to capture the spirit  and musical pulse of this iconic catalog, Carlton opts for radio friendly pop infused arrangements that are the cancer that plagues "smooth jazz" today. The arrangements here strip the heart and soul from some of the most energetic and legendary music the world has ever heard.

The last spade of dirt on this musical corpse is tapped down in post production. "Sterile" is the best way I can describe the over all sound and feel of this release. Antiseptic. A sonic flat line.

But it is "nice."

To look for positives here is to look incredibly hard and be twice as forgiving. From a cover that takes me back to the "Guy Lombardo conducts the Beatles" records my grandmother has to music which dances dangerously close to easy listening - Swing And A Miss.

If you like a handful of tasty guitar licks mixed in with some rather sterile sounding r&b infused jazz then you may find something good in this release. I did not.

Buy or Sell
I would like to say that based on past performance I would "American Idol" this review and use my one and only save of the year but I can not.

Sell.

Friday, March 25, 2011

MAXJAZZ - An Inside Look

MAXJAZZ.com

One of the finest traditional jazz labels on the market. With first rate artists that  include Mulgrew Miller, Dena DeRose and Terell Stafford who is releasing "The Other Side of Strayhorn" on 4/5/11. (I hope to have a review of this release soon.) MAXJAZZ is a serious player in the world of straight ahead jazz...I was able to sit down with label executive Clayton McDonnell and have him field some questions for us.

First - Especially for those unfamiliar, tell us about the label:

1. Our motto is: “Recording distinctive jazz for the listener and for the art itself.”  Our initial plan was to develop the label in series and we launched with the vocal series in 1998.  We’ve since added a piano, holiday, horn, vocal piano, string and band series with just under 70 recordings in our catalog.  We believe our packaging is distinctive in that we use black and white photography with color graphics.  Our packaging is in the form of a digipack, which allows us more canvas for the photos.  Each series has a different design, but enough similar characteristics to give it a familial feel.


As mentioned, the talent on MAXJAZZ is some of the very best and I wanted to know what went into their "search" and how this consistency has been maintained:

2. The jazz community is relatively small and we have a good grasp on who the established artists are and who are up-and-coming.  Sometimes our own artists will refer us to another musician they played with or have heard good things about.  When we sign an artist we view it as a long term partnership.  Aside from being a strong musician, we look for artists who have good name recognition, stage presence, tour frequently and have a good sense of the business.  Most importantly, they have to be a good person.  After all, when they’re out performing, they represent an extension of us as well.



The economy still reigns supreme over the industry with lagging sales so what is the biggest challenge?


3. Physical CDs sales may be in decline, but our consumer base still likes to buy physical product and we’ve devoted a lot of resources to the audio quality and our packaging with the intention of creating a brand image.  Our digital market is growing and one of the challenges we face is bridging that gap in terms of developing our brand image in the digital world. 

Finally: What about the "traditional" vs. "smooth" debate - does the label help or hurt jazz in general?

4. You can’t deny the fact that sales of “smooth” or contemporary jazz products greatly outnumber those of traditional jazz.  A jazz purist may not like smooth jazz, but if you can divert some of that audience towards the traditional or “straight-ahead” community, then it can’t be a bad thing.  A non-jazz fan may think of Kenny G when asked about jazz, and that’s where the challenge lies.  How do you broaden the audience when there is a limited amount of commercial appeal with traditional jazz?  Our primary goal is to record and produce good music and hope that it speaks for itself.


The quality speaks for itself! There is nothing hit or miss with MAXJAZZ!

I want to thank Clayton and my friends at MAXJAZZ for their on going help and support. You will find a link to their site http://www.maxjazz.com/ where like others you can see what they offer and maybe do a little on line shopping as well!

Jazz Legacy Productions - A New Shooter in Traditional Jazz!







I have long maintained that you can literally "shop" for jazz via a record label; provided you know a little something about them.

That's where I come in.

There are three top quality labels that specialize in the more "straight-ahead"; the traditional, the true and lasting legacy that has made jazz America's art form - JLP is one of the very best!

Founded in 2008 by bassist John Lee, the vision of JLP is to capture and preserve the true legacies of jazz both old and new. I had the pleasure of reviewing the new Monty Alexander "UPLIFT" and will be taking a look at the new Benny Green "Source" very soon! 

Other incredible acts on the roster include The Heath Brothers, Cyrus Chestnut as well as up and coming trombonist Michael Dease. 

I have added their link http://www.jazzlegacyproductions.com/ to my artist links so that you can take a closer look for yourself. From my vantage point I see a serious committment to top quality recordings of only the very best artists - consistency!

With the demise of the "traditional" record store, JLP does allow the listener to shop on line with incredibly good price points. 

I highly recommend you give this label a serious look and be watching for more reviews on their artists soon!  

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Dena DeRose A Walk In The Park MAXJAZZ 2005



A Walk In The Park   MAXJAZZ 2005

I realize roughly 6 years seems a little too far to go back and do a review but when the music is this good - I  can not help myself!

Cut from the same singer/pianist cloth as say a Diana Krall; DeRose is a fabulous singer with such expressive control over her phrasing as to become almost hypnotic at times. Backed by Martin Wind on bass and Matt Wilson on drums, Derose takes on a song list to include the standard "How Deep Is The Ocean" and a jazz infused version of Imagine that breathes new life into a classic that seems to have been worn a bit thin as of late.

DeRose attacks her music but with an artistic flair and temperament that reminds one of such greats as Shirley Horn and maybe a more contemporary counterpart of a Patricia Barber.

If you enjoy straight ahead piano jazz then this release is a must for your collection. A stealth performer if DeRose has been flying under your radar then do yourself a favor and take notice!

"A Walk In The Park" is a stellar release from one of the most consistent labels in the business - MAXJAZZ.

Paul "Shilts" Weimar - The Interview


I knew that 2011 had tremendous potential for me when I received an email shortly into the New Year from Paul “Shilts” Weimar agreeing to an artist profile. I have had the extreme privilege to speak with some really great artists; it’s even more fun when one of them is a personal favorite!

I discovered Paul with “Headboppin” and was immediately hooked! The musical resume goes far beyond his work with Jeff Lorber and Rick Braun. Shilts has toured with U2, the Eurythmics and played with David Bowie. Paul spent time as a member of the Brand New Heavies and the British funk ensemble Down to the Bone…
The new disc is “Going Underground” – a nice raw live sound to a recording I just love!
With some upcoming dates in the works I was very fortunate to be able to have “Shilts” field just a few questions before he hits the road!

I started by asking him to go over the new release for us -

My new cd “Going Underground” is a little bit more” raw” than previous albums. I didn’t want to over produce it and tried to keep it as clean as I could. That makes it a lot easier to re-create the tunes live and not have to rely on the use of backing tracks to beef up the live sound. Plus using tracks seems to confine the music to a set routine and therefore takes away the spontaneity of creating something new when played live.
I co-wrote with some new friends too on this one and that also helped bring new flavours into the mix. Jon Gilutin and Randy Jacobs and of course returning again was Bill Steinway. So I have 8 new original tracks and I decided to cover the 1975 Brecker Brothers hit, “Sneakin’ Up Behind You”. This particular song was a huge influence on me when I first heard it at the tender age of 13. Ricky Peterson joins me on this one on Hammond B3 and we have a real go at it … I hope I did it justice. The rest of the cd is a mix of tight funk and a taste of Latin, with possibly a bit of Earth Wind & Fire influences. I’m very proud of it and it’s out on my own label, Blanket Records.

I went on to ask Paul the million dollar question, "Smooth Jazz" does the name help or hurt?

Unfortunately, I don’t believe it has the same respect from other musicians as it used to back in the early days of what we called “Jazz Funk” or “Fusion”. I personally have never liked the term “Smooth Jazz” as it does seem to have watered down the genre. Also, I see a lot of the newer artists coming up that seem to think they need to be throwing themselves around the stage in order to get to the audience. I never once saw Grover Washington Jr prancing around whilst he was soloing. The emphasis seems to be no longer on the quality of the music but more on what it looks like. I will continue to make the music I like and play it the way I want to and hopefully there are fans out there that will get that.

Finally as a tenor player myself I wanted to know a little more about his musical inspirations on his weapon of choice -

Just to name a few …
Michael Brecker for me was probably the most influential sax player of the last 35 years. A true master of the instrument. I love Dexter Gordon. What a sound! Wilton Felder of the Crusaders was a big influence on me. Just had a great flow to his improvisation and knowledge of harmony. Ernie Watts, big fan of his work with Lee Ritenour. Ronny Laws. George Coleman made me cry in amazement when I was 14. I saw him at Ronnie Scotts in London and he played “Cherokee” at an incredible tempo, then took a solo in all 12 keys whilst circular breathing …. !!! Sobbed my eyes out.
The list could go on & on …

I certainly appreciate Paul's time as he is currently on the road promoting his new release. Weimar is a high octane player not cut from the same easy listening mold as some contemporary players. "Shilts" brings his own brand of energy, enthusiasm and funk to the world of contemporary jazz.
The new release "Going Underground" is a must!

Paul Shilts Weimar

Steve Khan Borrowed Time 2007 Tiempo Prestado

John Patitucci Steve Khan Jack DeJohnette Bob Mintzer




In anticipation of the soon to be released "Parting Shot" ( April 20th 2011 ), I wanted to take a look at two other Steve Khan recordings.

The first - "Borrowed Time", a recording that almost never happened!
This Grammy nominated recording features such notables as John Patituci on acoustic bass, Jack DeJohnette on drums and Bob Mintzer ( YellowJackets) on bass clarinet. Pictured at right; thanks to Richard Laird!

Other musicians that appear  include Randy Brecker, Rob Mounsey and the incomparable Manolo Badrena handling a great deal of the percussion duties.

Much as fusion cuisine combines elements of various culinary traditions while not fitting specifically into any. "Borrowed Time" is as Khan describes in the liner notes, " the oddball musical idea where jazz and latin can be melded together."

From driving percussion to incorporating some multi-cultural elements from Indian, Latin music and jazz  into the Khan composition "El Faquir", "Borrowed Time" is a melting pot of a variety of styles, textures, and rhythms with none taking the predominant role.

The song list runs from Monk to McCoy Tyner as well as a tune from Sammy Cahn for good measure. The acoustic nylon string work on the Rodgers and Hart tune "Have You Met Miss Jones" is one of the finest examples of the artistry that is Steve Khan

So what do we wind up with? New World Latin? Contemporary World Jazz? Steve Khan on whole wheat?

The end result is a release that sets and takes it own musical path. The subtle nuances contained in the release are many and each to be relished. "Borrowed Time" is one of those rare recordings that can give something new of itself with each spin of the disc.

Musical frame of reference? No one sounds like Steve Khan.

A good critic can only offer you perspective. Some of this you have to figure out on your own. The musical journey of "Borrowed Time" is well worth the effort!

Steve Khan just hopes you enjoy the trip!
Geeta & Badal Roy Ralph Irizarry Manolo Badrena Roberto QuinteroSpecial thanks to Steve Khan for his time and energy in making this musical stroll down memory lane possible!

http://www.stevekhan.com/

Charles/Grybeland/Wallumrod/Zach Dans les arbres ECM 2010



Dans les arbres  ECM 2010

Xavier Charles - Clarinet, Harmonica
Ivar Grydeland - Acoustic Guitar, Banjo, Sruti Box
Christian Wallumrod - Piano
Ingar Zach - Percussion, Bass Drum

Listen...

There is a delicious zen like quality on this release that embraces the concept of less is more perhaps better than most.

Far too often jazz publications and critics alike will place a label of "experimental" on a work of this nature simply because they do not have the ability to comfortably or intellectually fit music such as this into a conventional niche. Experimental would be a gross over-simplification, a musical crutch if applied here.

An exploration of sound in an open musical context would seem to be the guiding force. A unique detachment from western convention where free improvisation allows each note to be the music within itself and it is left up to the listener to decide where that path may take them.

With the prepared banjo of Grybeland this acoustic music can take on an electronic life all it's own.

A musical pulse.

Musical clarity allowing sound to be sound. Conventional western musical boundaries are broken down and while not as culturally based as some ECM releases there is a haunting flavor of Eastern like ritual music that slides in and then out, almost at will.

Music...Any music is only as "accessible" as you allow it to be.

The sensibility of sound as music.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Nate Harasim Rush Trippin N Rhythm 2011

Rush

Rush   Trippin N Rhythm 2011

Can a conservative/traditional jazz critic find musical and artistic fullfillment in a smooth jazz disc?

YES!

Fierce..Fun...Funky

Nate Harasim puts the paddles to "Smooth Jazz" in an attempt to give it the adrenalin rush it so desperately needs with his Trippin N Rhythm debut - Rush!

I went into this disc virtually cold with no preconceived notions, background information or catalog from which to reference. I left impressed, entertained and eagerly awaiting his next offering.

Evoking some of the subtle styling of Bob James and the production skills of a young Jeff Lorber; Rush works and it is the "sound" or sonic flavor that carries this release.
There is an "open" sound that I more closely associate with traditional jazz artists that impresses me the most. Rush did not die a self inflicted death by being over produced as so many releases of this nature can be and are.

T-N-R label mate Darren Rahn plays a monumental part in the success of this release either playing on or contributing his writing talents to nine of the eleven tracks. Rahn is not from the same cookie-cutter mold as most contemporary saxophone players and is quickly becoming a driving force in the contemporary jazz world.

Another highlight is T-N-R artist Cindy Bradley whose Miles Davis infused muted trumpet smolders on my favorite track "Iridescence."

A pet peeve of mine is that part of the Smooth Jazz disc that features an incredibly lame vocal by a second rate r&b singer in an attempt to strike cross-over gold. Does not happen on Rush; instead, Maxine Hardcastle contributes some sizzling vocals on "Different Kind of Love."

Rush works on multiple levels.

I had the chance to speak with Executive Producer and Label President Les Cutmore who was very excited on the new "sound" of the Harasim/Hardcastle single and now I see why; and that he is guilty of the classic under-sell.

Sound

Programming in the hands of some is in electronic crutch to hide weak melody and weaker musicians. Nate Harasim uses programming to add sonic ambiance and flavor to a disc packed with variety and style galour. Some of the programming could actually be taken down just a notch as the musicians here are that good!

An impressive debut on a label as solid and respected as Trippin N Rhythm and an example of the extremely high quality and standards that have allowed this label to rise to the elite in contemporary jazz.

Buy or Sell?

BUY!

Nate Harasim has awakened my smooth jazz alter-ego - "The B-Dizzle." I thank him.

Special thanks to Trippin N Rhythm for their help and continued support!

Look forward to an interview with Nate coming soon!

http://www.trippinrecords.com/
http://www.nateharasim.com/

Jack Wilkins Until Its Time MAXJAZZ 2009

Wilkins, Jack - Until It's Time CD Cover Art

Until Its Time   MAXJAZZ 2009

As we inch closer to spring and with the new release season coming fast and furious,  I wanted to tell you about yet another gem I found on the MAXJAZZ label.

Known as a master technician and heralded as a stellar accompanist for such singers as Mel Torme, Ray Charles, Sarah Vaughan, Sammy Davis Jr, Tony Bennett, and the  Manhattan Transfer; Wilkins allows his  genius to shine through on "Until Its Time".

In a release where the song list ranges from Beethoven to Sonny Rollins to James Taylor, Jack Wilkins gives a virtuoso performance complete with fabulous arrangements and a swinging backing group.
The rhythm section is held together by pianist Jon Cowherd, bassist Steve LaSpina, drummer Mark Ferber and percussionist Samuel Torres.

An infectious smooth and stylish swing runs from the Latin infused "Arthurs Theme" to a tasty acoustic rendition of  folksinger Buffy Sainte-Marie's "Until It's Time for You to Go."

Artistically gifted and as technically proficient as they come; Wilkins arrangements show off his tremendous improvisational magic while never losing sight of "the band." Perhaps the greatest guitar player you have never heard of!

A true gem!

Jack Wilkins will be appearing in my hometown of Louisville Kentucky on June 6th. You can find more details on the Louisville News page and visit http://www.jackwilkins.com/ to learn more about Jack and his illustrious career.

Special thanks to my friends at MAXJAZZ and Jack Wilkins for granting my request for an interview as we get closer to the Louisville date.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Julian Lage Gladwell Emarcy 2011



GLADWELL  Emarcy 2011

Julian Lage - Guitar
Aristides Rivas - Cello
Tupac Mantilla - Percussion
Jorge Roeder - Bass
Dan Blake - Saxophone

Eclectic...Exhilarating...Expansive

Virtuoso guitarist Lage returns with his best work yet.

The compositions of Gladwell cover a wide variety of styles and genres that range from chamber music to bluegrass and even latin.

World music meets traditional jazz.

Gladwell is the conceptual bi-product of the idea of using a mythical town as a spring board for creating pieces that evoke fond memories of people and places we hold dear. While I do not "get" the conceptual idea behind this release the beauty is - I don't have to!

The sonic diversity of Gladwell is what is so appealing. Lage continues to record what is essentially a master class for most aspiring guitarists while letting his brilliance remain surprisingly accessible.

Musical frame of reference? Bill Frisell / Al Dimeola

Gladwell could have easily been released on the ECM label because of its artistic genius. At times waltzing dangerously close to the edge of Avaunt Gard while never pulling the listener off that musical cliff; Gladwell exceeds all reasonable expectations as a follow up to the 2009 Grammy nominated Sounding Point.

Two tracks: "Freight Train" and "Autumn Leaves" come out of the blue yet somehow fit right in on this musical adventure. The five pieces for solo guitar shine but the oddly unique instrumentation of this ensemble cast gives a wonderful organic feel to this work.

I have often refer to jazz as culturally diverse as the people that enjoy this American art form. Let their town be called "Gladwell".

Set for release 4/26/11

thanks to my friends at emarcy and dl media!

Monty Alexander UPLIFT Jazz Legacy Productions 2011


UPLIFT   Jazz Legacy Productions 2011

All men are not created equal...If we talk piano players.

As a critic the best I can offer is perspective. What may be more important to Monty Alexander aside from the fans enjoyment of his music would be how his peers view him.

18 year old and rising star saxophonist Grace Kelly said this in her liner notes from " Man With The Hat" - a recent release where Alexander plays piano..."His playing swings so hard and has such elegance, cheerfulness, and craft behind it that it always makes me smile with joy."

The perfect review for UPLIFT.

UPLIFT is the latest from Jamaican born jazz piano virtuoso Monty Alexander. A gift from Monty as he pulls from his personal archives over a three year period to share some legendary live performances that are pure unbridled joy. A rare musical self portrait of a jazz giant whose career has spanned fifty years and like fine wine - only gets better with age.

Standards such as " Come Fly With Me" and "Body and Soul" are but highlights of a disc that is guaranteed to move you.

Self-taught and unable to read traditional music notation, Alexander's gift and somewhat unique approach has garnered him world wide respect and status that most would consider legendary at this point in his illustrious career.

Alexander is joined by bassist Hassan Shakur, and drummer Herlin Riley as well as drummer Frits Landesbergen on one track with the expressed purpose of leaving you with a feeling of "UPLIFT."

Success.

There is musical variety in abundance on this stellar release but the swing is king!

Jazz Legacy Productions founder John Lee did a remarkable job in presenting these recording in this format.

I encourage you to check out http://www.montyalexander.com/ as well as http://www.jazzlegacyproductions.com/ for more information!

Again thanks to my friends at dl media for their help!

Release date 03/29/11

Friday, March 11, 2011

Markku Ounaskari / Samuli Mikkonen / Per Jorgensen Kuara ECM 2010



Kuara - ECM 2010

Markku Ounaskari - drums
Samuli Mikkonen - piano
Per Jorgensen - trumpet / voice

Warm...Spacious...Deep

The inspirational genesis for Kuara would be Russian psalms and Finno-Ugrian folk songs from Finnish tribes living in Russian territories. Similar to western jazz musicians drawing inspiration from their cultural surroundings this effort embraces the simple melancholy that is their cultural starting point for improvised melody.

Less is more.

Stark yet expressive there is an openness of sound that evolves into soundscapes of rich texture and open ended improvisation that is thought provoking yet oddly subtle in presentation.
The musical ideas conveyed are done so in a slow and thoughtful process; a gentle stream of consciousness in which the listener quickly finds themselves emerced.

Transcendent

Exploring the religious psalms and folk songs from where Russian and Finnish cultures merge; the expressive presentation is no less dramatic without ever over playing a natural realism contained within the music.

Evolving melancholy...Distant yet approachable...Every spin of the disc begins a new thought.

Gerald Clayton - Bond:The Paris Sessions Emarcy 2011



Bond: The Paris Sessions  Emarcy 2011

In conversation with the publicist back in late January I was very excited to hear of this new release! My excitement was obviously matched by the publicist as she took the time, trouble and expense to UPS an advance copy to my residence!!!

Clayton's talent at the piano is so unique; so highly evolved from both a performance and compositional standpoint that giving a musical frame of reference simply is not appropriate or even possible in this context. Gerald Clayton is 26.

Bond: The Paris Sessions is an admittedly "personal" recording. The fusion of styles, rhythms and texture with Clayton's own unique and evolving musical vision.
Melodic yet at times adventurously experimental without ever going too far off the beaten path; Clayton is forging a new and distinctive voice for jazz piano.

The trio includes bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Justin Brown. The musical interplay within the trio is as one voice but with great depth. Musically expansive; this musical melting pot of style, rhythm and texture involves the old and the new or as Clayton puts it: " Tradition and Innovation can peacefully coexist".

A subtle "funk" creeps in and out of various tunes adding a flavor of dimension that makes this recording take flight. A musical vibrancy that carries you along in its wake.

A Down Beat 2010 critics poll rising star winner. A two time Grammy nominee.

Gerald Clayton is no longer a rising star. Gerald Clayton has arrived and he brings the new sound of jazz!


Special thanks to my friends at decca/emarcy. Be sure and check out http://www.deccarecords-us.com/ for more information.



Jeremy Pelt - The Talented Mr. Pelt / HighNote 2011



The Talented Mr. Pelt / HighNote 2011

Distinctively Cool...Adventurous Yet Refined.

Lee Morgan on Steroids.

Jeremy Pelt is one of those stealth musicians that can easily fly under your radar. I have to get a new radar!!!

The Talented Mr. Pelt is the latest offering from this; at times, often overlooked trumpet player. However; this release should have a great many sitting up and taking serious note of one of the most under-rated players on the scene today but not just of Pelt - this band is tight!

While Pelt clearly drives the musical train it is indeed the emphasis on the band; this working ensemble, that pushes this recording to the next level.

On tenor saxophone; J.D. Allen, a highly lyrical player with a marvelous tone that plays in symbiotic harmony with Pelt. Two horn players acting as one.
I fell in love with the talent of pianist Danny Grissett on another HighNote release - Tom Harrell's Roman Holiday. Grissett adds texture and depth to this ensemble and is another of the highly under-rated players working today.
Finally; anchoring the rhythm section we have DWayne Burno on bass, a marvelous player who also writes some mean liner notes. Gerald Cleaver holds down the drum chair and is as technically proficient as they come.

From a purely compositional standpoint the five Pelt originals on this disc should catapult Jeremy to elite status allmost immediately.

Jeremy Pelt plays with controlled fury. A fury that is tempered by the wonderful counterbalance of his work on flugelhorn.

Musical frame of reference? Think classic Blue Note.

After all; The Talented Mr. Pelt was engineered, mixed and mastered by the legendary Rudy Van Gelder.

It simply does not get much better than this!

Buy or Sell?

Buy!!!

http://www.jeremypelt.net/ - you can find out more and check out the video of "the making" of The Talented Mr. Pelt.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

John Proulx - Baker's Dozen / Remembering Chet Baker

Baker's Dozen (Remembering Chet Baker)

Baker's Dozen MaxJazz  2009

While waiting for the new release season to really hit its stride; I like to share some releases you may have missed or are of special note. This is one...

John Proulx; vocalist, pianist and Grammy winning composer takes on some of the favorite recordings by the legendary Chet Baker.
Proulx has an endearing, charming vocal style eerily similar to the late Baker so this is a project that was literally made for him!

Dominick Farinacci holds down the Baker role on trumpet and flugelhorn while Joe Labarbera on drums and Chuck Berghofer on bass round out as fine a standard quartet as you will hear.

This release with new arrangements of classic standards is tasteful, swinging, all while never straying too far from the original classic yet remaining uniquely John Proulx's project.
With a set list including; "Let's Get Lost", "My Funny Valentine" and " Look For The Silver Lining", Baker's dozen takes you back in time to when jazz was indeed the popular music of the day.

Baker; a founding father of the West Coast cool movement of the fifties would be proud of this effort. Cool, timeless and dripping with style - Baker's Dozen is a fitting tribute to a jazz icon and a wonderful effort from Proulx.

You can find a link to MAXJAZZ at the bottom of my home page where you can discover more treasures from this label!

Ernestine Anderson - Nightlife HighNote 2011

Nightlife

Nightlife - HighNote 2011
Live At Dizzy's Coca Cola Club


In a career that has spanned over 5 decades and 30 albums; Ms. Anderson is still " trying to get my party thing together!"....

And so opens this wonderful live set recorded 4/04/08, 03/28/09. and 04/10/10. Anderson refers to Dizzy's Coca Cola Club as; " as a warm place that I can feel comfortable and relaxed".

Swinging blues infused jazz in an intimate club setting; Nightlife has a set list of favorites including; "Since I Fell For You", "All Blues" - the great Miles Davis tune and "Only Trust Your Heart".
The musicians that accompany Ms. Anderson are tight and can swing with the best but it is Tenor Saxophonist Houston Person; a long time Anderson friend, that pushes the band and Ms. Anderson to a level of entertainment most singers can only hope to aspire to.

A mark of true greatness is when a singer can transform themselves to story teller. Anderson doesn't just sing the blues; she squeezes the blues out of each note. As a listener you feel immediately connected; you know she has lived each word she sings and now you are living vicariously through her. Instant magic.

Nightlife is classic blues infused vocal jazz at it's very best.

If it's Ernestine Anderson you know the joint is always jumping!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Trygve Seim / Andreas Utem - Purcor ECM 2010



Purcor - Songs for Saxophone and Piano   ECM 2010

Warm...Inviting...Spiritually Uplifting

Perhaps the second coming of Jan Garbarek; Seim's Ben Webster like sound fills Toyen Kirke, the church in Oslo where Purcor was recorded.

There is a unique pulse or heartbeat to this record that is intensified by the open and highly resonant sound quality on this classic ECM release.
The duo of Seim and Utem have a 13 year history and their musical chemistry leaps out from the very beginning. Highly melodic with an uplifting quality; Seim also ventures into the avaunt gard realm on occasion but again; never losing sight or touch with the melodic thread that binds each piece.

While saxophone and piano duos are somewhat rare; a musical frame of reference may be the Blue note release of Stan Getz and Albert Daily but make no mistake; this is not traditional western influenced jazz as we know it. Purcor is very much a cultural triumph of both church music, folk songs and freely created pieces unique to Seim's Norwegian heritage.

Simplicity and Clarity.

There is an understated beauty; almost grandeur to this recording.
An artistic performance sublime in its presentation.