|Updated: 7/02/14 | © 1999 - 2014 Cool Bunny Media | Da Cool Bunny sez 'Spank that Plank, Baby!'|
Inhale Slowly is an album unashamedly designed for relaxation, meditation and, yes, breathing exercises. Thanks to the sound of the sitar, the sound has a strong Indian ambience, so those who listen to 'world' music may also find something to attract them here. The album consists of five tracks, ranging between eight to sixteen minutes in length - plenty of time to create atmospheric soundscapes. Though there are only two musicians involved both are multi-instrumentalists and they have created quite richly observed mixes of sounds which tie together marvellously. Tim White plays bamboo flutes, sitar and esraj, and Joe Paulino plays piano, synths and percussion. The track titles are: Morning Chai, Hidden Oasis For Two Bunch Palms, In-Joy, Island Pulse, Inhale Slowly. I think it is fair to say that thanks to the uniformly slow tempi used throughout the album the music has a strong dreamlike feel to it, and is going to induce a similar sensation in the listener. The music drifts along like a slow river past lush pastures and ripe paddy fields of rice... Yes, I know, I'm going all travel brochure on you but the music has that effect. The bottom line is that Inhale Slowly is a quietly poignant album of music that creates vivid mind pictures as it drifts along, and if you are of the spiritual type then you will find it a very beneficial aid to meditation. Highly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.inhaleslowly.com
Okay, I know the album title is a bit of a pun, especially when you know that musician/composer Mark Bruland is also a farmer and beekeeper. The instrumental music on this album has been inspired by the people and animals that Mr Bruland has known during his life. So, New Age with a bit of Smooth Jazz styling. The sleevenotes are unclear as to who is playing what on this album, I think Mr Bruland is playing most of the instruments, with his brother on bass. The sound is actually a little quirky, not childish but perhaps with a bit of childlike wonder, and at other times some of the tracks sound like the Theme To Taxi and Cheers [can't remember the musicians who created those themes]. That isn't to take away from the inventiveness of the music, just a tag for potential listeners to latch onto. Beeing Human is a lengthy album with eighteen tracks, all varied and all very pleasant listening. The track details are: Beeing Human, Suite Honey Bee, OMS Child, Eclaire, Elk And Little G, No Matter What, An Afternoon With Steve, Richard's Horn, Pictures From Wheels, A Cool Breeze For Louise, My Laughing Heart, Tom Parker's Wind Chimes, The Cheyenne Rose, Alexander's Grove, Blue Eyed Steel, Natylee's Bench, Vicki's Lessons, Marking Time. The music on this album is very easy on the ear, extremely melodic and with a pastoral vibe running throughout. In old school parlance this is an easy listening album and not ashamed to be so. Recommeded.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.markbruland.com
Michael Antonelli teaches high school instrumental music during the day and plays hot sax at night. Woody-n-Me is his latest album, recorded at his home using basic recording gear, without studio trickery or overdubs. So the emotions of the moment are transcribed instantly to tape. The eleven tracks are all self composed, in the style of the classic sax-based jazz quartet. Supported by Peter Noble on bass, Kevin Golden on guitar and Tim Herrmann on drums, Michael Antonelli plays very self assuredly, having studied all the sax greats and channelling that into his own direct and versatile style. Recording in his home also adds an ambience and confidence to the playing of all the musicians involved. I don't see any downside to this album for jazz fans - this is classic jazz influenced by the golden age [whichever one you fancy] but performed by a younger generation bringing their own sensibilities and innovations to the table. If you miss those vintage Blue Note albums of the 50s and 60s then I suggest you give Michael's Jazz Quartet a listen.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.michaelsjazz.com
Jazz trombonists are something of a rarity these days, with other instruments considered far more 'sexy' and oozing star quality. So it is a welcome opportunity to hear the trombone as lead instrument in an octet scenario. Clarity is Michael Dease's third album as band leader and it contains ten tracks, all self-composed apart from a cover of Kurt Weill's Speak Low. The trombone is a somewhat moody sounding instrument and so the music on this album tends towards the introspective most of the time, a notable exception being One 4 Steve, which is the nearest to a swinging band. Lullaby For Rita is also one of the better slow tunes, full of longing and ringed with sadness. Michael Dease is a superb musician and I can certainly see him becoming one of the trombonists of his generation - he wrings a lot of emotion from his instrument and his musicians are locked tight in supporting him. Clarity isn't an album for parties, it requires a tranquility to enjoy its sonic explorations, and perhaps a glass or two of chilled wine to savour its deepness.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.mikedease.com
Musically Yours is a heartfelt tribute album by tenor saxophonist Paul Carr to the memory of jazz sax legend Joe Henderson. Utilising the quintet format, Carr has pulled together a set of tunes from Henderson [I can recommend a storming Mamacita!] and a couple of originals by himself in a similar style, plus Cole Porter's Night and Day and Tadd Dameron's If You Could See Me Now also get a good workout too. The rest of the band consists of Terell Stafford on trumpet, Mulgrew Miller on piano, Lewis Nash on drums and Michael Bowie on bass. I'm not too hot on my sub categories of jazz but I think this is pitched somewhere between bebop and cool, with a bit of bravado swing for good measure. The recording quality of this album is crystal clear, so much so that you can hear the sax keys clicking in the solos and even the fingers striking the body of the bass! I didn't know of Joe Henderson before this album, so I can't judge it against his own performances, but if you like lively jazz performances full of spirit and humanity then try out Musically Yours, I think you just might like it.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.paulcarrjazz.com
Greg Chako is a jazz guitarist living and working in countries around the Pacific Rim: China, Japan, Singapore. Indeed, his new album, Everybody's Got A Name, was recorded in Singapore with his regular quartet the Collaboration Jazz Quartet. So as well as Chako on guitar there are Mark Derose on drums and percussion, Yasuhiro Hasegawa on a bass and Hiroshi Tanaka on piano. The majority of tracks are composed by Greg Chako, with others by George Benson [Mimosa], Antonio Carlos Jobim [A Felicidade], and Cole Porter [From This Moment On]. First impressions on playing this album for the first time were very favourable - this album swings hard and gentle, depending on the track, of course. Greg Chako is a fine guitarist who has some of the nimblest fingers I've ever heard, and on tracks like Boppin' At Berlitz and Everybody's Got A Name the vibe is blistering while on All Roads Lead To Home it slows down to a dramatically delicate intimacy. The backing by his trio is superb and very tight, so you have a muscular sound wrapped in gloves of velvet. In British English slang this is a band giving it some serious welly and taking no prisoners. If your feet aren't at least tapping when listening to this album you have to be braindead! Definitely one the best jazz albums I've heard in recent times.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.gregchako.com
I have to admit that the trombone is not a solo instrument I have heard much of in recent years, so this new album by trombonist Don Immel held a lot of interest and anticipation before I slotted the disc into the CD player. Nominally this is a cool jazz album, but there are elements of blues, rock and even ambient soundscapes spread across these ten tracks. For me one of the best tracks is a very sexy reworking of Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love with Chandry Moore supplying a very sultry vocal. Many of the tracks are slow tempo but with a sly funkiness within, and more than once I was reminded of that great jazz-fusion band The Crusaders as an influence - check out See The Memo and Lemonade Alchemy for examples of this. This is an album for winding down to rather than revving up for a night out. The musicianship is excellent, Immel's trombone is both lyrical and haunting, plus raunchy at times, and he is well supported by a large number of musicians and singers, too many to list here but all giving of their best. Long Way Home is an album to chill to, and to drink chilled wine to.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.donimmel.com
The Brother Ray of the album title is the late great Ray Charles, as many jazz and r'n'b fans will already know, and this new album by jazz pianist and vocalist Eric Byrd is a tribute to the late groundbreaking musician. Rather than perform the usual suspects of the Ray Charles oeuvre, Eric Byrd and his band have selected eleven songs not necessarily automatically attached to the Charles legend. These include Let The Good Times Roll, Them That Got, Get On The Right Track, Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying and Baby Won't You Please Come Home. The emphasis on the musical style here is on smooth and easy listening, with Byrd's vocal style reminiscent to that of George Benson during his pop period, or perhaps even the great Nat King Cole Trio with added oomph. The trio of Eric Byrd on piano, Bhagwan Khalsa on bass and Alphonso Young Jr on drums is backed by a four piece brass section and Lea Gilmore on vocals and Frank McCreary on guitar, so the sound is rich and extremely good humoured. This is an album for the non-jazz fan, for that long car journey, or for chilling out to. In fact it is an album of such mellow good vibes it is easily one of my favourites of the year so far, and deserves lots of radio exposure.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.ericbyrd.com
Jamie Craig is a multi-instrumentalist, and according to the PR sheet accompanying this new CD he has been around for quite some time, playing in many rock bands and in other musical situations. The Lost Dream is an instrumental album classified by the artist as progressive rock, though I found it a bit softer than that, but perhaps what we Brits call prog rock is different to how it is perceived in the USA. It matters not though, as The Lost Dream is a very fine album, highly melodic with intricately woven instrumentals that are quite dreamlike in their own way. Some tracks like Movement and One Thirty pulse with a gentle groove, while others tend to be more ambient in nature. Mr Craig certainly knows his way around a variety of keyboards, guitars, saxophones and percussion. I guess you could describe The Last Dream as falling into the 'new age' category of music but it is redeemed by having a percussive and rockier element to it that lifts it well above the norm for this genre of music. Certainly an album I have been playing quite a bit here when I have needed to chill out and relax.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.myspace.com/craigsounds
Scott August is one of a very few musicians expert in a Native American instrument called the Anasazi Flute. Apparently lost for over a thousand years, this evocative instrument once echoed through the deep and sacred canyons of the American South West - that's New Mexico, Arizona and Texas to you and me. And so we come to Scott August's latest album Lost Canyons. Whether you wish to categorise this album as World Music or New Age, it certainly falls easy on the ear. Mr August wrote all the music and plays all the instruments, and I have to say that this is an album I have been playing quite a bit. The music honours the instrument and its ethnic origins, but not slavishly so. It doesn't resemble a recreation of a Native American camp, but the music creates the idea of these flutes communicating high across the desert sands, floating effortlessly on the keening winds. There is a distinct ambient feel to the music, listen to Morning Star for evidence of this. The Anasazi Flute has a haunting sound, timeless and yet familiar, accompanied by acoustic guitar, piano and ethnic percussion. There are a dozen tracks on the album, with evocative titles such as Desert Sky, Raven Dance, Evening Star, Thunder On The Mesa. This is an album to relax to and to be transported by. Highly Recommended.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.cedarmesa.com
The two musicians listed above are virtuoso jazz guitarists who have been playing for a long time, as solo artists and members of various jazz bands. This, I think, is their first duo album and it is a dazzling affair. The title Coincidence can be taken to have several meanings in this context, but I think the melding of these talents is more than a simple 'coincidence'. Both musicians' styles merge together so much so that to my non-musician ears it is difficult to know who is playing what or their individual styles. There are a dozen tracks on the CD: some original compositions and a selection of classics from the Great American Songbook plus a few from the jazz canon, like How Deep Is The Ocean, My Funny Valentine, I Should Care, All Blues, My Romance, and Things Ain't What They Used To Be. Now, I have to admit that my taste in jazz is really for larger ensemble big band and swing stylings of the genre, rather than the virtuosic leanings of this album. I can't really comment on the nuances of the performances on this album because to these untutored ears it just sounds like noodling and I yearn for recognisable tunes. But I'm sure that the real jazz buffs who love technique and cerebral exploration will find much to enjoy here. And if you are a guitarist then listen and weep that your fingers aren't as nimble as these two guys!
The Stiff Kittens were an Australian rock band active back in the 90s and around long enough to release a string of singles and EPs which have been collected into this compilation. The first thing I have to say is that the Kittens ROCK, not heavy metal loud but with a punk attitude and sensibility similar to the Clash and New York Dolls and many other bands from that original punk rock era, and the more mythical garage rock era [any owner of the Nuggets compilation will find much to savour here]. And to top it off there are even hints of the early Kinks in their sound if you dig deep enough. It is safe to say that the Stiff Kittens are one of those bands that fell between the cracks and never received their due, which is a bloody shame as these songs are good enough to compete for airplay and sales with the best of today's' new wave of UK guitar bands. Powered by the powerful drums of Rob 'Viva' Lastdrager', the sound is beefy but still tuneful; Rich Webb's guitar and vocals, Greg Baxter's bass [there have been other bassists] and Julien Poulsen on guitar make for a big sound. If you want some recommended tracks to try then look to Someone Else, Surf's Down and As You Walk/Dum Dum Diggy. You won't be disappointed! Probably my album of the year so far.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.allkiller.com
I have to admit that ballet is not a musical style that I have much knowledge of and it’s a very long time since I have been acquainted with the tales of Hans Christian Anderson. So this is probably one of the most unusual CDs I’ve received for review. First of all, while this album is classified as contemporary classical music on the inlay card it is not a symphonic orchestral score but one using synthesised instrumental voices, recorded individually by the composer, Jeffrey Fisher. The music is based on three tales: Inchellina, Red Shoes and The Mermaid, and while it is quite pleasant sounding it isn’t particularly dramatic. The use of synth ‘voices’ instead of a real orchestra has limited the pallet dramatically, making the music sound mechanical and little better than a generic Casio keyboard. This is a great shame as I think an orchestra could have brought life and nuance to the music. As it is, and I hate to say this, the music sounds little more engaging than that heard in a lift. I could be wrong, however [with my tastes I frequently am], and I strongly urge anyone interested in this album to visit the website listed below and listen to any sample tracks before making your own decision to buy or not.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.healingmusicofthesouthwest.com
Jeff Ball is an award winning flute player and exponent of the Native American flute and this, his seventh album, continues his exploration of the sounds that this wonderfully evocative instrument can make. So what we have here is a collection of ten hauntingly lovely tracks featuring the native Indian flute backed by a group of musicians playing a variety of traditional instruments from different cultures around the world. Though not directly utilising native American Indian music, Jeff Ball and his band and guests have called up the spirits of that culture and channelled this into a set of hauntingly beautiful tracks that wouldn’t be out of place if performed on a reservation or Indian culture centre. Falling somewhere between new age and world music, The Shape Of Light should appeal to fans of acoustic music - it’s the sort of virtuoso music you’ll hear across the outer fields during the Glastonbury or WOMAD festivals.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.fourwinds-trading.com
Daniel Moore is a songwriter and singer with quite a pedigree - he’s been writing songs and recording since the 60s, and more importantly has been a writer of choice for more chart artists than you can shake a stick at: Bonnie Raitt, Three Dog Night, Joe Cocker, Brookes and Dunn, The Everly Brothers, Waylon Jennings, just to name a few. His latest album, The Giveaway, is a collection of his best songs, using the high quality demo recordings that he made at the time of writing. Unlike most demo recordings, these are full flight recordings using top studio musicians and the best studios. And it shows - quality will out, as they say, and this is a great collection of pop and rock tracks, many having the feel of bands such as Little Feet and the Allman Brothers. Considering these songs cover approximately 30 years of recording they all sound as if they were recorded yesterday. I have to admit that I don’t really recognise any of the songs as golden oldie hits [perhaps only in the USA?], I assume most were album tracks for the artists concerned, but there isn’t a bad song on the CD and the sound and style is very ‘radio friendly’. I particularly liked the title track The Giveaway, My Maria, and Bandido From Toledo. This is a fine album that should be on the playlist of any radio station aiming at the mature rock fan. Highly recommended.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.djmrec.com
Ask someone here in the UK what tango music means to them and almost certainly visions of a tv show called Come Dancing comes to mind with men and women in gaudy costumes mincing around the dance floor to something the orchestra claims to be a tango but is in reality an extremely watered down version of the dance suitable only for elevator music. But here, on Vayo Raimondo's new album you have the real deal, direct from Ecuador and Argentina. And here it only takes three musicians and Vayo's voice to capture that soul and reveal the emotion at the heart of the music. Supported by Toto Damario on Bandoneon [a version of the accordion], Mario Nunez on guitar and Miguel Pose on double bass, Vayo's voice strips away the artifice and gives you the real soul music of South America. It is very different to the ballroom version, and despite a lack of English translation of the lyrics in the booklet, you are aware of love, loss, despair, just from the voice. This is a very striking album of songs, dramatic and intimate. If you have ever wondered what tango music really was like you need to buy this.
For more information, sample tracks and buying info go to www.vayaraimondo.com
The Carmen in question is the late jazz vocalist Carmen McRae, a superlative singer whose vocal legacy is somewhat undervalued today. Shawnn Monteiro comes from a similar jazz heritage, that of having a voice of distinction. I can't say that I am familiar with Carmen McRae's voice, but that is my lack of musical education and one to rectify. However, Ms Monteiro's voice reminds me of the late great Sarah Vaughan - either way it is a great voice and this album of classic jazz songs is a gem that should please die hard vocal jazz lovers. Backed by a trio of superb musicians, Ms Monteiro's voice wends its way through the lyrics like a solo instrument, blending with the instruments sometimes and then soaring over them at other times. The trio of musicians are: Mike Renzi - piano, Dave Zinno - bass, Steve Lanzone - drums. To Carmen With Love is like a fine wine, one to sip slowly, its charms taking time to reveal themselves. Culled from the Great American Jazz Songbook, the writers on show here are a selection of the greats: Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen and many more. The dozen tracks are: Old Devil Moon, Yesterdays, I Concentrate On You, Old Black magic, You're Looking At Me, Mean To Me, Come In From The Rain, Miss Brown (To You), Speak Low, Nice Work, I Have The Feeling I've Been Here Before, Nature Boy. I think Carmen McRae would be thrilled and excited by To Carmen With Love if she could hear it. Like a stick of Brighton Rock this has 'classic' running all the way through it. Highly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.whalingcitysound.com
The guitar is a wonderfully adaptive instrument - it can be an instrument of anger, of love, of power and of peace - whether acoustic or electrified. And it is in the last category that guitarist Tom Caufield's album resides. The Slow Dance of Time is a peaceful album, a collection of nine gentle acoustic meditations on beauty. Not sure if there is any multi-tracking, but the sound of the acoustic guitar is full and mellifluous. Mr Caulfield has an ear for a good tune and extremely nimble fingers. Apparently the music on this album shares elements with the Japanese aesthetic of Wabi-Sabi, which I have never heard of, so I leave judgement on that to someone more learned than myself. However, what I can say is that these nine tracks are exceedingly melodic, beautifully played and recorded - it does sound as if the guitar is in the room with you. I can imagine that if you have really top of the range hi-fi gear this album is going to truly showcase the loudspeakers. The nine tracks are: The Slow Dance of Time, El Matador, Francesca on the Rooftop, Saving Daylight, In The Realm of the Senses, Swaying Grass of Summer, Rumination, These Ancient Times, Waking Dream. I guess that this album is being marketed to the new age sector but I think it should appeal to the traditional folk audience as well. And anyone who considers themselves to be connoisseurs of guitar music should put Tom Caufield on their list and buy a copy of The Slow Dance of Time. Available from Amazon MP3, CD Baby, iTunes and other retailers. Highly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.caufieldmusic.com
Traditional and classical music from the Indian subcontinent has always intrigued and inspired western musicians and composers - right from the days when George Harrison heard Ravi Shankar and bought a sitar. One of those happy coincidences is that while Indian instruments are radically different to those of the west the guitar can be adapted to play the Raga style of improvisation. On Giving Voice: Guitar Explorations, guitarist Rich Osborn has been exploring this Raga style of Indian music and this album is the result. For those unfamiliar with Indian music, Ragas are lengthy meditational improvisations, built upon layers of drones to create musical areas of space and time - not too dissimilar to the 70's ambient albums Brian Eno recorded. One ends up with musical timelessness, essentially. Giving Voice contains eight tracks of lengthy improvisations performed on acoustic guitar - the tracks are: Into The Silent Land, The Meeting Pool At Moonrise, Joelle's Song, The glance, The View From San Damiano With Rain, Knights Of The Interior Castle, A Song Of New Beginnings, Hard Time. The musical themes tend to loop around and slowly change and mutate, all the time creating new spatial points of reference - all within the framework of an acoustic guitar, rather than electronics. The music is distinctly different to traditional and folk music, superficially it may sound a little 'alien' to western ears, but that is its strength - this is music of intrigue and exploration. Mr Osborn is a sonic explorer of merit and this is a fascinating album and worthy of discovery by those bored with conventional pop music. If you have guitarists Bert Jansch and John Renbourn in your musical collection I strongly recommend that you add Rich Osborn to that list.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.richardosbornguitar.com
Leanne Weatherly is a school teacher who also happens to be a very fine singer with a strong jazz vibe. Her new album, Go And Find..., is a first-rate collection of a dozen songs, some written by herself along with a selection of finely chosen covers of songs by Christine McVie [Songbird], Duke Ellington [Caravan] and Billy Holiday [God Bless The Child] amongst others: Midnight At The Oasis [as good as the Maria Muldaur version], True Colours. Weatherly's own Simple Things is a happy go lucky barnstormer that should be covered by others. The musicianship on the album is superb, extremely high quality - but then one thing America has is an abundance of great studio musicians who can add a gloss and sheen to any album. I could waffle on to make up the word count but all you need to know is that as a reviewer I get loads of CDs a year and most get passed on, but Go And Find... is a keeper for the private collection, and I strongly urge you all to check out Ms Weatherly's website and listen to a few samples and then buy the album. Highly Recommended!
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.leanneweatherly.com
One seldom equates Austria with having any significant jazz talent, outside of Joe Zawinul, but Moods, by Michaela Rabitsch and Robert Pawlik, proves conclusively that jazz lives on in Austria. In fact, the opening brace of tracks, In Silent Moments and Afrika, offer one of the best introductions to new artists. Michaela Rabitsch has a mellow husky voice and her trumpet and flugelhorn playing is open and bright - very approachable indeed, and her partner, Robert Pawlik's guitar is equally upfront and delightful. The rest of the quartet consists of Karl Sayer on double bass and Joris Dudli on drums, who offer superb rhythmic support. The album title may be Moods, but the overall mood is upbeat with ten songs that tend towards the optimistic and joyful - with only the title track and Quartual Guitar Madness slowing down to something a little more soulful and reflective. This is certainly not an album of deep introspection [thank God!], indeed, it would sit well on any party playlist where the groove and a good vibe is all important. Moods is a superb album and a showcase for non-American jazz, and is rapidly becoming one of my albums of the year.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: michaelarabitsch.com
Breath of the Soul is the debut album of Dutch vocalist Ellen Honert. Containing a mixture of original songs and carefully chosen covers, this album straddles many musical genres, mostly smooth jazz, but there's a bit of rock, latin and soul in there too. Unlike some of the other woman vocalist albums I've reviewed recently, Ms Honert avoids the 'Great American Songbook' and Broadway foundation stones and takes her source and inspiration from the pop genre: check out her versions of Stevie Wonder's If It's Magic and Lennon and McCartney's Got To Get You Into My Life, while her own songs such as Blue and Life Is What You Make It show a new talent to watch out for. On a personal note I am rather taken with Ms Honert's deeper voice, its fluency of tone and extremely mellifluent, and supported by a sympathetic band of musicians from many differing musical disciplines. This is certainly one of the most assured debut albums I've heard in some time and it deserves to be picked up by those radio stations not enslaved by the rigid playlist.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.honertmusic.com
Over the years the 'Great American Songbook' has attracted the vocal talents of a great many singers, from a variety of vocal disciplines: rock, classical, blues - even Bollywood. But the most successful attempts have been by jazz vocalists who seem to find the inherent 'soul' that is at the heart of many of these songs. And that is the case with Intersections, by Roberta Duchak. Her roots are deep-set in the world of theatre and jazz, so these performances are nuanced and sympathetic to the lyrics. The album consists of eleven tracks, with songs by Irving Berlin [Let Me Sing And I'm Happy], Burt Bacharach [Whoever You Are I Love You], Lerner and Loewe [Almost Like Being In Love], Cole Porter [So In Love], Jerome Kern [Can't Help Lovin' That Man of Mine] and Stephen Sondheim [So Many People] amongst many others. The band backing her are excellent, swinging with a latin verve on some tracks and a brooding moodiness on the slower ballads. If you enjoy listening to the classic songbook of America then you should definitely give this album a try, I don't think you will be disappointed.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.robertaduchak.net
Silveroot play a rather interesting mixture of folk, bluegrass, blues and Americana - a rich acoustic stew that composer/guitarist/vocalist Patrick Flynn synthesises into his songs on this new album, Full Measure. Aided by Emily Palen on violin and vocals and Darryl Webb on banjo, accordion and vocals, this is a recording rich in texture and tone. The musicianship is very high, and extremely impressive, and the use of double and triple tracking beef up the sound and some studio magic give it an electric sound all of its own. The album also, thankfully, avoids all the Nashville-style clichés you come to expect from what is nominally a country album. Sadly, the dance ability quota is low as most of the songs are slow or mid tempo, which considering the bluegrass instrumentation is a shame - so this is an album that is for the head, rather than the feet. Silveroot are a new band to me but on the results of this album I think they deserve to be widely heard and would be ideal for the acoustic music festivals that are becoming more popular.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.silveradomusic.com
There are few review CDs that I receive which are so good that I play them twice in a row - but this is most definitely one of them. With winter looming here over the UK and only long gloomy days ahead to look forward to, the dazzling sunshine of this album of sambas and Latin jazz is a most welcome attraction. Irene Nachreiner is an established jazz singer who has been drawn to Latin music in recent years and this, her debut album, is the result of meeting a small group of musicians from Brazil and Argentina who also match her enthusiasm for the samba. Think the classic Astrud Gilberto and Stan Getz recordings, but sung much more warmly and with great humour. The fourteen tracks mix original sambas along with 'Great American Songbook' tunes such as My Heart Belongs To Daddy, Let's Face The Music And Dance and Whatever Lola Wants, all given the samba treatment. Irene's vocals dance over the Latin rhythms, adding a warm sensuality that draws the listener in, inviting them onto that golden beach and relaxing with long cold drinks. If there was ever an album full of good vibes then this is it, great for parties and for relaxing to. Easily one of my albums of the year and a winter warmer!
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.irenesings.com
Music has always been closely linked to mathematics in ways I'm far too dense to understand. But numbers are fundamental to the way music is written and performed, whether the musicians themselves are aware of it or not - rhythm, tempo and pitch. Lawrence Blatt is a guitarist with a scientific background and he has composed his new album, Fibonacci's Dream, based on the work of 13th century mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci. Fibonacci wrote one of the pivotal books on maths when he was 32 and introduced Europeans to the use of Arabic numbers and discovered the 'Golden Ratio', which is found throughout the natural world. So, Lawrence Blatt has composed thirteen tracks based on Fibonacci's maths, and if you thought that this would be highly academic and unlistenable you couldn't be further from the truth. Playing all the guitars [and everything else too], Blatt has created a lively and intimate album of music which could be considered folk or jazz and is easy on the ear. There are some great melodies and vibes throughout: Bern The Bear, Una Vida (One Life), Five Nights and many more. The structure of these tunes may be based on maths but they are very evocative of places and people in Blatt's life, and this is certainly one of the best albums I've heard this year.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.lawrenceblatt.com
The Ahn Trio consists of three Korean-born sisters: Lucia, Angella and Maria, who play piano, violin and cello respectively. They have previously recorded several albums of music from the standard classical repertoire, but their new album Lullaby For My Favourite Insomniac is a departure for them, a selection of material specially written for them plus music by Michael Nyman (Big My Secret, Heart Asks Pleasure First), Astor Piazzolla (Oblivion), David Bowie and Pat Methany (This Is Not America), and Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart (My Funny Valentine). And while performed in the classical style, subtle additions such as ethereal synthesisers and vocals expand the attraction to those who listen to ambient, new age and 'chill' styles of music. Four of the album's major tracks have been remixed by an assortment of producers and remixers to appeal to club and radio DJs. While not exactly dance mixes they certainly liven up the originals, but I can see the establishment classical music critics and reviewers having problems with this cross-fertilisation of musical genres. The trio format has never been a favourite of mine, but this album with its enhanced sound does have moments of beauty, and some of the remixes do work very well. For atmospheric classical music that is pushing the genre boundaries in the right direction I don't think you can fault this album at all. Recommended.
As much as I love the synthesiser [in the hands of Vangelis, Tangerine Dream or Kraftwerk] the acoustic piano has thankfully never gone away and indeed seems to be holding its own against the invasion of the cheesy sounding electronic keyboard. And on Ken Elkinson's fourth album it reaches new expressive heights on a collection of eleven mellifluous tracks, all instrumental save for the final one which has a vocal by Tom Freund. It seems a shame to tar Cue with the classification of 'New Age', but I think calling it jazz would be stretching it a bit. However, compared to many new age albums which are blandness personified, Cue is pitched much higher. While the music is very easy on the ear and extremely relaxing and ideal for meditation, it also has a strong classical expressive vibe to it, which I find very attractive. Listening to this just after the new year celebrations, track 8 - January, pretty much sums up the winter scene outside my window, yet it offers the slight hope that Spring isn't too far off and the year will improve. All eleven tracks have impressionistic titles, and you can debate their accuracy while listening to the album. If you love the full rich sound of a piano then this is the album and pianist for you. Cue is an album to savour slowly like a fine wine.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.kenelkinson.com
There seems to be an increasingly large number of musicians out there recording music in the 'new age' genre. A style of music that tends to be derided by many music fans but it sells steadily and has a strong coterie of supportive fans around the world. The music of Marshall Styler is of this genre - intensely melodic, well crafted tunes, and beautifully played. Styler uses a blend of piano and electronic keyboards, and crafts slow-to-mid tempo tracks of atmospheric music intended for use to uplift the mind, relax the body and generate a sense of well-being within the listener. I have to admit that I find a lot of this type of music pretty bland but A Face In The Clouds is well above the bland norm for this type of music. There certainly seems to be strongly romantic edge to the music, and it exudes a strong sense of atmosphere. The spine of the CD box has the motto 'Crystal clear, quiet, instrumental music', and that really sums it up. If you are dubious about the merits of new age music then I suggest you try Marshall Styler's album as it is a superior example of the genre.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.marshallstyler.com
From the title of jazz singer Ron Kaplan's latest album you can easily surmise that the musical theme is the city of New York - the Big Apple. With a songbook containing a dozen songs by Billy Joel (New York State Of Mind), Lester Young (Jumpin' With Symphony Sid), Harry Warren (Lullaby Of Broadway), Billy Strayhorn (Take The A Train), Mann & Weil (On Broadway), Leonard Bernstein (New York New York/Broadway) and many more songs about the most vibrant city in the USA. Sung over the backdrop of a tightly energetic small jazz band, Ron Kaplan offers his interpretations of these standards. His close miked intimate vocal styling suits the jazz bar or lounge, or at home, it would be lost in a concert hall. The album is beautifully recorded and mixed, it sounds like the musicians and singer are in the room with you. If you enjoy old school jazz singers then check out Ron Kaplan, he continues that legacy.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.ronkaplan.com
Jazz trios seem to abound at the moment, or at least they do in my letter box. The Fabian Zone Trio consists of Christian Fabian on bass, Mike Longo on piano and Lewis Nash on drums, with special guests Jimmy Owens on trumpet/flugelhorn and Andres Boiarsky on tenor sax. The style is intimate, evocative of small club-style jazz, slightly bebop, archly swinging, where the benchmark is early 60's era Miles and Dizzy. You can almost see the cigarette smoke languidly curling upwards from the bandstand! The dozen tracks on the wonderfully engineered CD are a mixture of originals by band members, plus jazz archive classics like Herbie Hancock's Chameleon, Dizzy Gillespie's Bebop and Charlie Parker's Billie's Bounce. Oh, and there are two tracks from the Miles Davis' oeuvre, Milestones and All Blues. There's really nothing here not to like - the playing is crisp and focussed, good humoured and playful, even. This is jazz before electricity mutated it into that bloody awful fusion monster. It might be retro sounding, but it is also the way jazz should still sound. If you like your jazz straight then get this album, it will push all your buttons.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.christianfabian.com
This album by jazz guitarist John Stein is a reissue of an earlier release originally issued back in the 90s and now spruced up digitally and sporting extra bonus tracks. Its main point of interest is that it was created as a homage to the jazz organ trio sound of the 60s, and the much admired crisply warm engineered sound which the classic Blue Note jazz albums had, thanks to their audio engineer, Rudy Van Gelder. To that end John Stein brought together organist Ken Clark, drummer Dave Hurst and special guest David 'Fathead' Newman on sax and flute. The result is an album of swinging tracks, mostly written by John Stein, showcasing the talents of all four members of the band. I particularly enjoyed Booga Lou, Hotcakes, Our Love Will See Us Through and pretty much everything else - let's face it, John Stein can write a damn good tune. Green Street is a feel good album, recreating the ambience of a jazz club, and sending out mellow vibes throughout the twelve tracks. I can't recommend this album highly enough, if you like your jazz old school and hot [in the original sense of the word], then buy this album with confidence.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.whalingcitysound.com
Secret Journey is the latest album by pianist and keyboard player Omar Akram. Fusing together elements of world music, new age and smooth jazz, this collection of twelve instrumentals is easy listening in the quite literal sense of the term. The melodies flow smoothly over a mixture of Latin and eastern rhythms played by a band of adroit musicians who all play as one to create a wonderful sound. With evocative track titles such as Star Gazers, Gypsy Spirit, Run Away With Me, Mirage, Caravan and Nomadic Rhapsody, it is a case of lying back on the sofa and letting the music transport you away from the usual humdrum cares and woes. So much better than queuing at Heathrow for hours for that long delayed holiday flight. Or, just pop this CD in the player after a stressful day at work and let it ease you into a relaxing state of mind. A large glass of Chianti will help add to the effect. Unusually, for this sort of new age type of album, the tunes are quite strong and memorable - this is not an album of elevator music. I can't see this album disappointing any buyer who adds this to their music collection.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.realmusic.com
It seems that old rockers don’t fade away any more, they just rock harder and generally have a lot more fun as they reach middle age and beyond. Which isn’t a bad thing considering how many of the 60s bands are still touring and recording. So here are the Beat Daddys, a blues-rock bar band with lots of attitude, humour and guitar chops to please any Planet Rock radio listener. I have to admit that as soon as I popped this CD in the player and the first notes rang out I felt at home with this band - if you are a fan of Stevie Ray Vaughan then you will soon have a big smile plastered across your face and be thinking that they don’t record albums like this anymore. With Larry Grisham on vocals, guitar, harmonica and mandolin, Britt Meacham on lead guitar and all solos, Barry Bays on bass, drum duties are split between Paul Scott and David Parks and keyboards supplied by Johnny Neel, this is a band that rocks with a deep blues vibe. The dozen tracks are all written by Larry Grisham, with help from the band on a few tracks. There are no bad tracks on the album, but I particularly liked Been There Liked That, Pale White Circle, Big Thighs and Voodoo Satin Doll. All in all this is one of the most enjoyable albums and bands I’ve heard this year so far, and I can highly recommend 5 Moons to all classic rock and blues fans.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.beatdaddys.com
Spiritual music, as opposed to new age music, seems to be gaining in popularity in these increasingly secular times, and State of Grace III is the latest in a series to try and mix spiritual elements with popular music. The cd arrived without an artist credit on the cover or label but delve a little into the small print and all the composing, performing and production is credited to Paul Schwartz, and the vocals to Lisbeth Scott and one vocal by Rebecca Luker. The opening track, Christe Redemptor, sets its stall out with a robust rhythm track, dance tempos and a vigorous female vocal singing an English language lyric instead of the expected latin source. The whole album is a mixture of instrumental and vocal tracks, most of them more upbeat than you would usually expect on a religious album, and all the better for it as far as I'm concerned. Lisbeth Scott's vocals are certainly a change from the expected soprano, more emotional and rock-styled and overall this is an album that belies expectation if new age or spiritual music isn't your usual listening pleasure. State of Grace III is an individualistic album hat is certainly more than it seemed from the outside cover.
For more information, sample tracks and buying info go to www.state-of-grace.net
This compilation is a charity fundraiser for the Doctors Without Borders [internationally known as Medecins Sans Frontieres] emergency medical relief charity, and contains a dozen tracks by the Spanish musicians listed above who all record for the Spain-based Non Profit Music label. In terms of musical style it is keyboard-led new age music with world music elements, and it all sounds impressively good to these ears. For example, the opening track by Eduardo Laguillo, Raghupati Raghava is a gentle Indian-styled piece, while The Girl With The Stolen Smile (Nanjing 1937) is a beautifully evocative piece by Jorge Grundman that brings China vividly to life. All four artists have distinctly different musical styles which compliment each other on this CD. And this 'sampler' is a very good showcase for their music and a wonderful way for you to contribute much needed funds to a medical charity working across the third world.
You keep hearing that jazz is dead or dying and yet I seem to keep receiving excellent jazz albums every year that defy the doom merchants. This new album by the Mike Longo Trio is another example of jazz defying adversity and thriving. The jazz trio is probably the most potent of jazz forms, elegant and intimate, and in the right hands the ultimate form of human expression. I'd probably be over egging this review by claiming this for Floats Like A Butterfly, but this is probably one of the best jazz albums I've heard in a long time. It is harmonious, it is happy, and it gives out good vibes with each play, What we have here is a collection of tunes from the classic Broadway and jazz songbooks, plus a couple of Mike Longo originals: Girl Of My Dreams, Dancing In The Dark, Tenderly, Laura, Here Tiz, Blue Spirits and many more that make up eleven tracks of nimble keyboard magic by Mike Longo, sympathetically supported by Paul West on bass and Jimmy Wormworth on drums. I don't think there is a downside to this album, it isn't going to change the world or bring about world peace but play this album after a bad day at work and it will bring a lightness back to your heart - and for me that is what good music is all about.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.jazzbeat.com
Eddie Gip Noble is a musician who has worked in the jazz and rhythm and blues fields for the last three decades - a musician who has been around the block more times than is probably healthy for him and has worked with just about everyone who matters in the American musical strata. Here's a sample: Joe Walsh, Etta James, Teddy Pendergrass, Albert Collins, Randy Crawford, and Johnny Guitar Watson, just to name a few listed on the press release. This is a musician who has been around - he's even appeared in Clint Eastwood's Charlie Parker biopic Bird. Influenced by Herbie Hancock's wizard fingers, Noble has fashioned an album of gently funky jazz tracks, mostly originals plus some pop classics [Sailing, and Trains, Boats & Planes]. If you like the Crusaders then I think this album will appeal to you, it has that high quality musicianship and musical sheen that make it ideal to listen to in a party situation or just before going out for the night. Or just open a chilled bottle of wine and lay back and enjoy. Recommended.
John Fluker is a musician new to me, but he seems to have been around the American music world for quite some time, playing for singers such as Gladys Knight, Dionne Warwick and Oletta Adams amongst many others, in a variety of guises, session musician, arranger, and musical director. Now he has recorded his first solo album, and instead of a vocal set he has created a collection of instrumentals suitable for meditation or relaxation. Using acoustic piano and simple synthesiser backing, he has produced a collection of 14 tracks, most of which use simple melody motifs to create gentle moods to fall into. This isn't an album to go wild about, that would defeat its object, but it is very listenable, can be used for relaxation or to help concentration when needed, plus there are some lovely melodic tunes that you can focus on when you wish too. One of the tracks also uses a clever 'echo' motif, which is musically adventurous. If you use music for relaxation purposes then I think you should check Sound of Peace out.
For more information, sample tracks and buying info go to www.johnfluker.com
Karen Marie Garrett - It’s About The Rose
From the amount of ‘reflective’ music that I receive here, it is obvious that there is a big market for instrumental music in America - though it this type of music is not so commercially popular here in the UK. A lot of this music is generically known as new age, which is a bit unfair to a lot of musicians as they are all tarred with the same generality. Karen Marie Garrett’s album rises above the pack for its musicality and lush arrangements, and yes, its sheer romanticism. We all know that the rose is a flower most linked to romance and love, and so it is with this album, It’s About The Rose, a collection of instrumentals on this theme. Mostly just solo piano, Ms Garrett is accompanied by a small number of other instruments on some of the tracks, most notably the cello, plus multi-tracked voices. All of this adds to an album of intimate moments, ideal for an intimate moment for two lovers or simply chilling out after a stressful day. It’s About The Rose is an album that works on many levels, if you are a music lover, but it is definitely not recommended for Metallica fans!
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.kgpiano.com