Thursday, May 26, 2011

Stan Getz / Cal Tjader Sextet Concord Re-Issue 1958

Cal Tjader
You have to be careful when it comes to a re-issue.

Not with Concord...
(Originally released on Fantasy)

This may well be one of the finest re-issued classics you will ever hear.

With the then unknown Billy Higgins on drums, Scott LaFaro on bass and Eddie Duran on guitar as well as Vince Guaraldi on piano, "Sextet" captures Getz at his very swinging best. This is from the sweet spot of time that was post bop and pre-bossa - arguably his best.

Having been remixed and remastered the sound quality is literally perfect. The only downside to this recording is that it is less than 45 minutes long. Sadly they seem to have nailed the session leaving us with no alternate takes.

I guess when your just that good it happens...

Buy or Sell?

Buy! A must for anyone that loves straight ahead jazz - this one is a classic!

Karrin Allyson 'Round Midnight Concord 2011

Cover Art
I fell in love with Karrin Allyson's vocals with "Ballads: Remembering John Coltrane" in 2001.

I fell out of love shortly after "Footprints" in 2006.

We made up.

I was fortunate to work as a Production Assistant with American Idol on Season 8 and if I heard Randy Jackson say it once in person then I know you have heard it a thousand times on television:

"Know who you are as an artist and pick the right songs!"

"'Round Midnight" may very well be the perfect example of putting this excellent advise into practical application. Don't get me wrong Allyson's recordings from 2006 to the present were "nice" but this recording should put her right at the top of jazz vocalists today.

A pleasing mix of standards and pop tunes that include "April Come She Will" via Paul Simon and the standard "Smile." One might think a release of this nature is a "gimme" in terms of potential commercial success but a release such as this can be riddled with problems if placed in the wrong hands. Poor song selection, death by pretentiousness in post production and a lack of any real artistry i.e. make these songs your own!

Instead "'Round Midnight" is an "unplugged" version of wonderful tunes that are organic in sound and magical in presentation. Everything works.

The true measure of an artist and singers without exception would be the ability to breath new life into a timeless classic without disrespecting the original or yourself.

Grammy nomination? That is where the smart money should go.

As close to vocal perfection as you can get.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tom Harrell The Time Of The Sun HighNote 2011

The Time of the Sun

The Time Of The Sun   HighNote 2011
Street Date - May 31, 2011

Tom Harrell with:

Wayne Escoffery
Danny Grissett
Ugonna Okegwo
Johnathan Blake

The liner notes open and close with Harrell paying tribute to a quintet that in my mind could lay claim to being one of the finest working bands - EVER.

That is fun to debate but there is one issue not open for discussion. This is easily Harrell's finest work to date and his fourth release with this stellar group of artists.

I do not "review" a release in the traditional sense. I skip a theoretical breakdown and a tune by tune analysis because unless you have about 25 years of solid musical training and the disc in your hand both are essentially meaningless.

Occasionally a review is pointless in and of itself and the only possible approach you can take is to simply acknowledge artistic genius and those around him that make it possible. Such is the case here.

"The Time Of The Sun" draws from Harrell's experience with both Horace Silver and Phil Woods. Back beat with a groove. It moves you. That is all you need to really know.

For me, Wayne Escoffery is Sonny Rollins First Blood Part Two. Danny Grissett's fender rhodes work adds a beautiful and rich sonic depth to this recording, the glue that brings everything together. Ugonna Okegwo is one of the most artistic and lyrical bass players you will every hear. Johnathan Blake can swing like a beast or play with the finesse of a Max Roach.

Tom Harrell. Does he hear the music differently than most players? Perhaps. These nine compositions contained here are lyrically haunting and technically mind blowing. Old school becoming new cool.

Harrell closes the liner notes with probably the best "review" - "The musicians I like best can grasp all kinds of music. They can transcend style while at the same time ultimately being stylistic in their individuality."

Tom would know.

Easily the finest traditional recording to date. I have often referred to HighNote as presenting the very finest in straight ahead jazz...Here is the proof.

Special thanks to my friends at HighNote/Savant

Bryan Beller Wednesday Night Live Onion Boy 2011

Bryan Beller: Wednesday Night Live

Wednesday Night Live  Onion Boy 2011

Not unlike "grunge" it seems that as fast as "jazz/rock" or "jazz/rock fusion" came into prominence it quickly disappeared. Or did it?

Let's face it 20 year old millionaires will always find a reason to whine and real fusion is not dead - it is just keeping a low profile.

If the name Bryan Beller rings a bell, it should. Beller is well known for his work with such luminaries as guitar god Steve Vai as well as Mike Keneally, James LaBrie of Dream Theatre and Dweezil Zappa. An interesting side point I found while doing some research is that Beller was blogging long before it became the alternative media mainstay it is today by chronicling his adventures as a bass player for hire starting back in 1995. Currently Bellar is a contributing editor for Bass Player magazine so musical credibility is certainly not an issue here!

Musical frame of reference to describe Beller's playing? Think Stanley Clarke...but with an edgier sound but highly lyrical none the less. In short - Beller may be the best unknown bass player in the country.

"Wednesday Night Live" is indeed a smoking live set recorded at the legendary "Baked Potato" in Los Angeles. The band included Rick Musallam on guitar, Joe Travers on drums, Mike Keneally on keyboards and guitar and Griff Peters on guitar. 

Blistering fusion at it's finest. Sure there is a rock edge to this the same as Jeff Beck's "Blow by Blow" or "Wired." This is not watered down fusion that is attempting to strike commercial gold. "Wednesday Night Live" is a showcase for a bass player that is as technically proficient and as artistically gifted as any bassist playing in any genre. 

If you like jazz/rock fusion done hot, live and with some true improvisational wizardry tossed in for good measure - this is a must!

Special thanks to Michael Bloom Media!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Eric Alexander Don't Follow The Crowd HighNote 2011

Don't Follow The Crowd

"Don't Follow The Crowd"  HighNote 2011

Harold Mabern - Piano
Nat Reeves - Bass
Joe Farnsworth - Drums

The Sound...

Eric Alexander has a warm, full bodied, and open tone. Some tenor players work their entire career for "the sound" and never achieve it or if they find it - they have no clue as to what to do with it.

Alexander has it all.

Upon listening it is indeed the sound of the quartet that should make you sit up and take immediate notice. I flipped over the disc about 30 seconds in to confirm my suspicion that the legendary Rudy Van Gelder was responsible for the engineering, mixing and mastering of this absolute gem of a recording.

Ebb and flow is so important for a consistent and listenable release and I believe I have discovered the formula which Alexander has covered so well here.

Something Old - "Don't Follow the Crowd" from bassist Bill Lee circa 1961 ( Spike Lee's father)
Something New - "Nomor Senterbress" a new tune from Eric
Something Borrowed- "She's Out of My Life" the Michael Jackson classic
Something Blue - "Remix Blues" another new tune from Alexander

Find four tunes that fit this formula and you have the perfect marriage of musical artistry and presentation that especially here - makes for one of the finest quartet releases in years. Solid  arrangements and with band members that are all accomplished soloists in their own right, "Don't Follow The Crowd" feels more like an intimate club date than a pre-recorded release.

Eric Alexander is a rare breed. Embracing the old while forging ahead developing his consistent and natural style of "old school" jazz for younger audiences, Alexander has recently joined the "forty-something" club.

Instead of a musical mid-life crisis Eric Alexander embraces his artistry and we are reaping the rewards!

A stellar release.

A must have for any serious collection!

Pear - Extemp'ore PSCD 2011

Pear  Extemp'ore PSCD 2011

Rick Milne - Percussion

Nick Pierone - Keyboards

Every fiber of my being tells me that I should really hate this release...I rarely listen to others so why should I pay much attention to myself. I would be wrong.

Pushing musical boundaries all while innovative, evocative and with an incredible sonic depth of field. The debut from Pear opens the musical senses but asks you to do but one thing.


The amount of time, thought and creative energy put into this release must be mind boggling. A musical frame of reference would be later more experimental Miles Davis meets Brian Eno. Welcome to the land of rhythm and groove.

Improvisation. Being in the musical moment is the celebration that is "Extempore." One special guest that gives a phenomenal performance is bassist Jennifer Leitham. This is truly a release that will give up something new of itself with each spin of the disc. "Subtle nuances" prevail whether the Miles Davis sampled spoken word intro to "Dewey Miles" or the rapper Cindy Wonderful this may be the finest example of a free jazz recording session to date.

As a traditional jazz fan and straight ahead tenor player I found the release hard to turn away from.

Creativity abounds. Avaunt Gard but accessible. A sonic color pallet for the mind

Jazz gone viral?

Buy or Sell?


special thanks to amy at dl media for helping me push my musical limits...i dont normally do change!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Maggie Herron In The Wings Herron Song 2011

Maggie Herron: In the Wings
Maggie Herron In The Wings Herron Song 2011

The voice...

The voice is the first thing that will grab you. A warm comfortable niche somewhere between Diana Krall but leaning slightly more towards Anita Baker.

This Hawaii based pianist/vocalist/songwriter makes her national debut with a release of original songs and instrumentals. Risky Business.

It works. Maggie Herron is of course on piano and vocals. The rest of this very solid ensemble cast is made up on Paul Lindbergh on saxophone and flute, Dean Taba on acoustic and electric bass, Noel Okimoto on drums, Eldred Ahlo on trumpet and flugelhorn, and Kevin Hirass on guitar.

Normally an all original release such as this can be feast or famine with the vast majority turning into the proverbial sonic train wreck as they desperately try and beat you over the head with that hit single that simply is not there.

Not here. From her french language track to a surprising cover of "Woodstock" there is a harmonious ebb and flow to this recording that becomes more engaging the longer you listen.

There is something very "N.P.R" about this release and I believe that is why it works so well. The songwriting as well as the musicianship is solid and nothing is forced. It is very musical, artistic, entertaining and to use a rather played out word - "organic."

A personal release of sorts ( dedicated to her mother ), "In The Wings" is an honest and refreshing portrait of an artist who would appear to be not only comfortable with who she is but with the direction she is heading.

We should all be so lucky!

Buy or Sell?


Again thanks to Michael Bloom Media!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Gerald Wilson Orchestra - Legacy Mack Avenue 2011


Gerald Wilson  Legacy  Mack Avenue 2011

RELEASE DATE June 21, 2011

At 92 years old, Gerald Wilson has released a stellar work that pays homage to his adopted hometown of Chicago as well as including his son and grandson to make "Legacy" more than just a fitting title.

With the orchestra anchored by such luminaries as Renee Rosnes on piano, Peter Washington on bass, Lewis Nash on drums and a trumpet section that includes Sean Jones and Jeremy Pelt - the sound is as broad and rich as one could imagine the city of the big shoulders.

The release is actually broken into two parts. The first 6 tracks of the disc are a respectful musical acknowledgement of the work of classical composers Stravinsky and Puccini, two of Wilson's favorites. There is a blues infused "Variations on Clair De Lune" that leaves you longing for more. Wilson's grandson Eric Otis contributes an original " September Sky" and his son Anthony Wilson contributes "Virgo" both stellar works and help propel this record to a level of musical superiority that is rare.

The last 6 tracks are "Yes Chicago Is..." An affectionate series of sketches where Wilson more than captures the musical sound and impressions of one of the greatest cities in the world.

Gerald Wilson is extremely proud of both his son and grandson and has had the kind of career many can only dream of. Wilson has played and written for such icons as Ellington, Basie, and the great Benny Carter.

" Everything I write," Wilson asserts, " from here on in, is going to be jazz. It's the language I speak and it's my music."

Legacy is a beautiful disc!

special thanks to amy at dl media!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Brigitte Zarie Make Room For Me 2010

Brigitte Zarie

Brigitte Zarie  Make Room for Me 2010

Calling someone an "Independent" artist is sometimes fitting and occasionally simply a catch all phrase to refer to someone that does not have a major record deal. It just does not work well here.

I have been contacted by numerous artists seeking exposure and Brigitte was only one of two with the courage to actually follow up and send me their music. I would like to publicly thank Brigitte for not wasting my time.

Having worked on countless commercials and feature films Zarie is lurking just right below the surface and probably flying quietly underneath most folks musical radar.

"Make Room For Me" is an aptly titled delight of old school jazz vocals with a nice contemporary pop! Solid and highly entertaining this release features some of New York's finest studio talent and special guests Randy Brecker and Jeff Golub so musical credibility here is a given!

Brigitte has a wonderful and unique tone to her voice, impeccable phrasing with just the right amount of style and flair to make this release a winner! Normally when an artist such as Brigitte writes their own material usually the mystery of why they do not have a record deal becomes painfully obvious. Not here!

Brigitte's song writing is rock solid with some tunes sounding like forgotten classics from "back in the day."

High Points - Production. Musicians. Songwriting...too many to list.
Low Points - Anything mentioned here might be taken as hyper-critical and take away from a really nice effort!

What I would like to see is Brigitte consider adding some select "standards" to her arsenal in an effort to gain some more notice. After all - it is called the "record business" for a reason!

Far from being more than just a pretty face, Brigitte Zarie is the total package - singer. songwriter. entertainer.

An artist!

You can check her out :

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Omar Hakim The Trio of Oz Ozmosis Records 2010

The Trio of Oz  Ozmosis Record 2010

It seems like Omar Hakim was in the jazz witness protection program for some time...

This 2010 release slipped past me and it may have escaped your notice as well. It should not.

Hakim's career is legendary having worked with Miles Davis, Sting and Weather Report to drop but a few names off his impressive musical resume.

On "The Trio of Oz" Omar Hakim teams up with pianist Rachel Z and bassist Maeve Royce to release a trio recording that simply swings like a beast. Rachel whose playing is somewhere between the Blue Note work of Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner gives an impressive performance and having worked with legends such as Wayne Shorter and Peter Gabriel, is probably the perfect fit for the trio anchored by Maeve Royce on bass.

The most fascinating and engaging part of this disc is that they cover work from Alice In Chains, Depeche Mode, Stone Temple Pilots, Cold Play and The Police and their arrangements fit perfectly into the jazz idiom in which they are being presented. True artistry is reached when you can take some of these tunes and breath new life into them by making them your own without disrespecting either the original or yourself.

Hakim has never played better. Rachel Z is a pianist that more people should begin to take note of and Royce is as artistic as they come on acoustic bass.

A rich, full yet incredibly organic sound that leaves the listener longing for more.

An absolute must!

High Points - Too many to list.
Low Points - 0

Special thanks to Michael Bloom Media for helping me track down the one that got away!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mimi Fox Live At The Palladium DVD Favored Nations 2011

Mimi Fox DVD: Live at the Palladium

Live At The Palladium DVD Favored Nations 2011

I have not taken a look at any jazz DVD releases till now...I picked a good one!

"Live At The Palladium" is an intimate look at one of the the most talented swing guitarists you may never have heard of!

One of the most appealing aspects of the DVD is the fact it is shot and cut tight between tunes. There is no extraneous talking or crowd shots, it is all about the music.
This intimate club date in St. Petersburg opens with a blistering Fox original "Blues for 2" and continues with standards such as "Stella By Starlight" and "My Romance."

At the end of the video there is a revealing interview with Fox giving keen insight into her artistic makeup. "Endorsed" by such legends as Joe Pass and Jim Hall, Fox clearly shows she can swing with the best while handling a ballad with as deft and beautiful a touch as you may hear.

The trio is filled out with Chris Enghauser on bass and drummer Akira Tana.

If Fox has been flying just under your radar you have been missing out on one of the finest talents working today.

Buy or Sell?


Special thanks to Michael Bloom Media for their help and support!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Live At Birdland ECM 2011

Live at Birdland

Live At Birdland  ECM 2011


Lee Konitz - Alto Saxophone
Brad Mehldau - Piano
Charlie Haden - Double-Bass
Paul Motian - Drums

There are times when a "review" is simply pointless. This is one of those times...

It is far more fitting to simply acknowledge greatness. A level of artistic beauty and genius that others may only dream of.

Recorded live at Birdland back in 2009 this ECM recording captures some of the very best and most creative improvisational jazz recorded in perhaps the last fifty years.

At 82 ( at the time of this recording ) Konitz displays character, control and a level of expressiveness that players forty years his junior may never reach.
Mehldau, Haden and Motian work together as well as any rhythm section that had been together twenty years yet there was no prior rehearsal to this gig. Stunning.

The set list:
Lover Man
Lullaby of Birdland
I Fall In Love Too Easily
You Stepped Out of A Dream

All standards, all recognizable and all reinvented in such a magnificent and timeless fashion and in a timeless setting.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Down To The Bone The Main Ingredients Trippin N Rhythm 2011

Down To The Bone  The Main Ingredients  Trippin N Rhythm 2011

Release set for 07/19/11

A new record label, a new release and they are back bigger, badder and better than ever!

I have to admit my bias - I love these guys.

With an infectious groove and a nice open sound, Down To The Bone's Trippin N Rhythm debut continues what fans have come to expect with their finest release to date.

The sound is what immediately caught my attention. Open, warm and not over produced to the point of being "slick" or "sterile" Down To The Bone builds on their success of the past with perhaps an even better sound for the future. A re-formulated funk that hits on all cylinders.

One of my biggest pet peeves in contemporary jazz is the addition of mediocre vocals with the obvious attempt to try and strike cross over gold. The vocals here are well placed and allow all participants to simply ride the groove for all its worth.

Ever purchase a disc only to have it literally flat line after say track seven? Not here. "The Main Ingredients" actually picks up momentum with no drop off in quality on any level.

A deeper richer sound, subtle nuances that give up a little something new with each spin of the disc. Virtually flawless in both performance and presentation. Indeed the new sound of contemporary jazz may very well be starting here.

High Points? Too many to list.
Low Points? Goose Egg.

Down To The Bone is my musical easy button!

James Carter Caribbean Rhapsody Emarcy 2011

Caribbean Rhapsody  Emarcy 2011 

In a brilliant performance of music that defies standard categorization, Carter firmly establishes himself as one of the giants of the tenor saxophone.

The end result of a lengthy collaboration with composer Roberto Sierra is "Caribbean Rhapsody." Sierra's Concerto for Saxophones and Orchestra which was commissioned for Carter is also accompanied by two solo interludes on tenor and soprano saxophone which were composed by Carter in response to the themes of Sierra's work. The new Sierra work "Caribbean Rhapsody" features James Carter's cousin Regina Carter on violin and accompanied by string quintet is a stunning companion piece to the work commissioned for Carter back in 2002.

An incredible hybrid of classical, jazz and even Latin influences, Carter demonstrates the uncanny ability to be completely comfortable in what he refers to as the cross pollination of music into one dramatic effort.

Literature for the saxophone in a classically based setting is not unusual what is unusual is quality literature that can show case the prodigious talents of such a brilliant musician as Carter. For me, Carter has long been the Hank Mobley of my day - under rated and under appreciated.

The 13th release for Carter and his second for Emarcy should catapult James Carter to the top of the mountain where he belongs.

An epic work.

Cow Bop Too Hick For The Room B4Man Music 101 2011

Cow Bop Too Hick For The Room 2011

Have I lost my mind?

Well...There are actually several schools of thought on that.

If you take a look at my "About Me" page you will notice I mention that I am not here to promote one specific artist, label, or genre of music and have often referred to jazz as a musical melting pot.

Now my words are coming back to haunt me...and I have never had more fun!

Cow Bop is the brain child of guitarist Bruce Forman who is indeed the swingin' statesman of west coast jazz. To begin you need a musical frame of reference - think Kenny Burrell meets Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys.

Forman is long known as a bebop master from his days with Richie Cole and more recently his work with Clint Eastwood in the film "Million Dollar Baby." The third release for Cow Bop "Too Hick For The Room" is indeed a musical melting pot, a hybrid of Texas swing and bebop done with incredible authenticity and musianship and is probably the most fun you will ever have listening to a recording of any kind.

According to Forman, "Too Hick For The Room" is announcing the official repeal of jazz snobbery. As a card carrying member of the jazz elite I had my doubts but found this to be one of the most entertaining and well thought out musical projects I have heard in some time.

Pinto Pammy covers the vocals. Phil Salazar is on fiddle, Alex King is on bass and Jake Reed rounds out the group on drums. With a song list that includes the classics "San Antonio Rose" and "Besame Mucho" this release is sure to please.

While the repeal of jazz snobbery seems unlikely I can promise you a look at an important part of American music and a great deal of fun at the same time. If you like country music on any level, swing or heck if you have just driven through the state of Texas be sure and go to!

The national release date is June 7th but you can find advance information at the web site.

Western bop? Country jazz? Call it what you will...It works!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Stephane Grappelli Plays Jerome Kern JAM 2011

Stephane Grappelli / Plays Jerome Kern  JAM2011- Re Issue 05/10/11

The great French gypsy violinist Stephane Grappelli is back! Well..sort of.

The long out of print "Plays Jerome Kern" is being re released on May 10th!

While the songs are familiar from "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" to "Pick Yourself Up" the music of Jerome Kern is indeed as American as apple pie. Kern was well known for not favoring jazz musicians straying too far from his broadway influenced scores and Grappelli approaches these classics with the respect and musical dignity they so richly deserve.

This is classic Grappelli. Beautiful. Stylish. Sophisticated yet simple.

Backed by a string led orchestra this 1987 classic is an absolute delight.

This is one re-issue well worth a look. If you are a fan of Stephane Grappelli, an absolute must!

Collin Vallon Trio Rruga ECM 2011

Collin Vallon Rruga  ECM 2011 - Release date 5/10/11

Collin Vallon - Piano
Patrice Moret - Bass
Samuel Rohrer - Drums

Intriguing. Uniquely beautiful.

Consistency and direction may be the watch words with the ECM debut of Collin Vallon.

There is a simple melodic texture, one built on a deep and rich color palette but anchored firmly by chord colors and timbre. A perfect example of east meets west. From folk music of the world to the Wayne Shorter Quartet there is an intriguing and inventive merging of musical visions while adhering to the zen like less is more concept that makes this release so inviting.


Vallon while working in a very collaborative setting has an uncanny gift for being able to strip the music down only to then build it back up with the type of dynamic tension that is rare - when done artistically.
From Bulgarian folks songs to drawing on playing experience with artists such as Tom Harrell, Vallon may be the European counterpart to Gerald Clayton.

A new direction for the piano trio.

Producer Manfred Eicher plays a pivotal role in presenting one of the finest piano trio recordings ECM has introduced all year.

A rising star.

Claire Daly Quintet Mary Joyce Project Nothing To Lose Daly Bread Records

Claire Daly Quintet / Mary Joyce Project: Nothing To Lose / Daly Bread 2011

I rarely take a look at "Independent" artist, primarily due to time constraints and the sad fact some artists are without a deal for painfully obvious reasons - happily this does not apply here!

"Mary Joyce Project: Nothing To Lose" is somewhat of a conceptual release telling the musical story of her father's first cousin and her "pioneering" Alaska journey and adventures back in the mid 1930's.

Straight ahead but accessibly eclectic.

The "Human Beat Box" of Napoleon Maddox adds flavor and depth at times fusing a Dave Matthews meets Gerry Mulligan vibe that works surprisingly well! Much in the same vain of Mary Joyce's Alaskan odyssey, Daly mixes things up with some incredible swing, touching ballads and walks the avaunt gard tightrope with ease.

The ironic back story here being that while the release captures the pioneering adventure of Mary Joyce, I was having my own adventure cleaning up after being literally flooded out of my residence and forced to subsist in an area smaller than most jail cells. Daly sent me the release not realizing fully that I was in fact a critic instead it was a random act of kindness you often hear about but never experience first hand.  

Claire Daly and the Claire Daly Quintet can play! An entertaining and oddly inspirational work that makes listening to twenty independent releases well worth the effort in finding a treasure such as this! Pianist Steve Hudson along with bassist Mary Ann McSweeney and drummer Steve Grant round out a dynamic ensemble that plays as one harmonious voice. While Daly's skills on baritone are top shelf, her fluid and lyrical flute playing at times steals the spotlight on this incredibly engaging release.

Claire Daly - Baritone/Alto Saxophone/Flute/Vocals (8)
Steve Hudson - Piano
Mary Ann McSweeney - Bass
Napoleon Maddox - Human Beat Box
Peter Grant - Drums
Tracks: Guidance; Homage To Freedom; Determined; Lonely Wilderness; Complicated Love; Kluane; Who's Crazy; Shine; Gotta Go; Tippin'; Epilogue.