|Updated: 7/02/14 | © 1999 - 2014 Cool Bunny Media | Da Cool Bunny sez 'Spank that Plank, Baby!'|
I'm a little confused by this new album by composer Bill Wren - as far as I can tell he has composed all eleven tracks of instrumental music, which were then arranged and orchestrated by Frank Ralls, who also played many of the instruments. He may be playing the lead acoustic guitar, but another musician is listed as guitarist, and his name doesn't appear anywhere in the performer listing for each track. It's rather unusual to find the composer separated from the performance in this way on contemporary albums. That aside, however, I must say that One Day In The Life is a collection of very pleasant orchestrated instrumentals in the smooth jazz/new age genre. Track titles include Day Break, En Mai, Betrayal, Ocean Breeze, The Way It Was, I Will Waltz For You, Old Friend, Night Fall, Lovers Rendezvous, Heart To Heart, and of course the title track. Overall, there is a strong sense of timelessness to these tunes, and impeccable playing by the musicians involved - the orchestrations and arrangements are lushly evocative and one wishes to be on that sailing boat on the album cover art, sailing off into the Caribbean with this music drifting behind on the wind. There is certainly a cinematic element to this music, widescreen and surround sound! There really is nothing to dislike about One Day In The Life, and Bill Wren is a composer to note and look out for in the future.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.billwrenmusic.com
I think the first reaction on hearing the opening track of this album is wow! I can't think of any other album that opens to such a thunderous barrage of drums, bass and sax, and with a ferocity that is this breathtaking. The track is called Stuck In A Rut, and the as a statement of intent for the album it works most impressively. The Mark Lomax Trio is Mark Lomax on drums, Edwin Bayard on tenor sax and Dean Hulett on bass. With a title like The State Of Black America, this is an album that takes the current state of jazz seriously and its place within it. All five tracks are written by Mark Lomax, and they are all lengthy workouts averaging nearly ten minutes. They are Stuck In A Rut, The Unknown Self, The Power Of Knowing, To Know God Is To Know Thy Self, and Blues For Charles (Who Split B4 The Butterfly Flew In). I think if you are a devotee of the music of Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus and Sonny Rollins then this is the album and the musicians to take you further up that road of exploratory jazz.
Pianist Timothy Crane is new to me, but I think his new album, Dragonfly, should find a lot of favour with fans of instrumental and new age music. Billed as "instrumental piano with orchestra", Dragonfly is a very ear friendly album, full of melodic invention and some very tuneful tracks. I suggest you try Two x Two and Sylvan Grove to hear what I mean. In hindsight I'm not sure whether labelling this New Age music is accurate - the eleven tracks here are certainly more upbeat and invigorating than the usual meditative music. In fact I think the style of music has more in common with the type of quasi-classical instrumental and orchestral music produced by British composer Richard Wileman and his band Karda Estra [much covered on this website]. Though I think Mr Crane's music is more lushly upholstered thanks to the orchestral arrangements. I'm not sure if the Dragonfly is a springtime insect, but the album certainly has that sense of optimism and wonder you find when watching the new plants and animals appear in the spring [God knows, with the terrible winter we've had here this year, some optimism for the future is most welcome]. The music has that air of hope about it, that the world could improve, given the chance. So yes, I think Dragonfly is a vital album for any decent music lovers soul, it rejects the nihilism of much modern pop music and offers some light for the future. Highly recommended!
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.timothycrane.com
I guess one can groan at the punning title of this album but it is a clever title for what is a jazz and blues conversion job on a collection of tunes from Classical Music's canon of goodies. There is a subtitle of "Improvisations on Classical Themes", which sums up the intentions of the album. I also have to say that if you enjoy Jacques Loussier' take on jazzing up Bach then you will enjoy the much broader scope of Bach To The Blues, which embraces a variety of composers from JS Bach through to Eric Satie. With David Leonhardt on piano, Matthew Parrish on bass and Alvester Garnett on drums, the trio format ensures that this music shines luminously in more intimate ways than would happen when played by an orchestra. Along with Bach [Prelude in G Major, Prelude in A Minor, Prelude in Bb], the other composers include: Debussy, [Claire De Lune] Schubert [Ave Maria], Satie [Gymnopedie #1], Beethoven [Adagio from Pathetique], Copeland [Simple Gifts], Chopin [Mazurka in G Major, Mazurka in C Major], and Pachelbel [Canon in D]. This is a thoroughly enjoyable album, the musicianship is very good indeed and should appeal to jazz and classical music listeners alike.
For more information about this artist and album and availability contact: www.davidjazz.com
Vocalist Roger Cairns has appeared on the MusicWatch pages with a previous album, Lets... and his new album The Dream Of Alwen is very similar - a collection of songs from the American Songbook. It features the piano of Gary Fukushima and the songbook contains a dozen tracks from the likes of Marilyn and Alan Bergman, Cy Coleman, Michel Legrand, Rodgers and Hart, Johnny Mandel, Jerome Kern, and several others. I have to admit that while the songwriters are familiar names these songs are less well known and all seem to have a melancholic feel to them. This isn't a very cheerful album, I'm afraid - love seems to be lost or lacking in most of the songs and the misery is spread across the whole album. I've already offered an opinion of Mr Cairns vocal style in the previous album review and I don't want to repeat myself here, save to say that he has a distinctive style that isn't really to my taste. Despite Mr Fukushima's valiant attempts these songs are pretty uniformly set at a funereal pace and offer little change of pace or variety, and if performed in a club setting should increase the bar takings quite markedly. I suggest visiting Mr Cairns website [see URL listed below] and sample any tracks there before buying.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.rogercairns.com
It is refreshing to find a new jazz vocalist who is confident enough to make an album of all her own material and not resort to dipping into that commodiously large Great American Songbook. Ellynne Plotnick is that vocalist, and Life Is Beautiful is that album, containing ten songs written by Ms Plotnick and performed with great aplomb and certainly a lot of confidence. As many modern musicians do, Ms Plotnick has settled on a modern jazz styling, but one mixing many other musical styles, not least samba on the wordless Changing Voices/Changing Beauty, and the Latin rhythms of Midnight Shade Of Blue and When The Going Gets Too Tough. While the album's songs are not blues they definitely veer towards the emotionally blue area of relationships and love, with many of the songs taking a slow tempo. I also liked the voice and the tenor sax weaving around each other on I Wonder. The only dancing you can do to this album is up close and personal, with the lights low and your partners' head on your shoulder. It's a highly atmospheric album, thanks to the subtle and supportive efforts of the musicians involved. I think Life Is Beautiful is an impressive debut album with many excellent qualities. It certainly showcases a new voice that can only improve in the future.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.ellynne.com
Sax-led jazz trios aren't that common, I think, so saxophonist Dan Moretti's trio is something of a pioneer. With Marty Ballou on electric bass and Marty Richards on drums, they make quite a heavy sound on Tres Muse. All eleven tracks are written by Dan Moretti, and he does have a robust way with a tune. Track titles include: Cajun The Squirel, Mumbo Jumbo, Fais Do-Do, Off The One, Guacamaya, and Walk The Talk. I have to admit that Tres Muse wasn't really to my taste, 'post-bop' isn't really my thing - I could never get into sax players like Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane. I couldn't really find much in the way of tunes there, it was more improvisational and experimental, and nothing really clicked with my ears. However, as I always say in these reviews, my ears are my ears and I am no arbiter of taste. I strongly urge you to go to the website listed below and sample the music for yourself.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.foundationsjazz.com
It seems that the 'Great American Songbook' has never been healthier thanks to all the recent albums received here for review. Rock music may make the big money but thankfully there seem to be loads of upcoming jazz vocalists like Ken Greves who are reviving and finding new ways of putting these songs over. And so to The Face Of My Love, sixteen songs drawn from the cream: Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, Harold Arlen, Cole Porter, Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz, James Van Heusen and Johnny Mercer and many others. Performed with a trio backing [Wells Hanley on piano, Tom Hubbard on bass and Jacob Melchior on drums], the voice is at the forefront, and Mr Greves certainly has a distinctive tenor voice with crystal clear diction. Songs include: A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square, You Stepped Out Of Dream/Dearly Beloved, Witchcraft/That Old Black Magic, Someone To Light Up My Life, I Thought About You/My One And Only Love and Day In Day Out amongst the mixed songbook on display here. Mr Greves does add some stylistic flourishes to the songs which I find a little awkward at times, but I am willing to concede that my ears may not be in tune with the artistic muse at work here, plus being British our tastes in how a song should sound may be different - so, a little culture clash, perhaps. On the other hand The Face Of My Love is certainly a worthy example of songcraft and anyone who is a fan of the 'classic' song should check this album out by visiting Mr Greves website [see below] and sampling a track or two before ordering this CD.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.kengreves.com
The music on this album, Ukiah's Lullaby, is about as intimate as you can get - just two instruments dueting together. With Anson Wright on guitar and Tim Gilson on upright bass, the sound is both sparse and lushly warm. The ten tracks are all self-compositions by the musicians, all jazz improvisations that vary from swinging tunes to more introspective ambient pieces that create sonic landscapes. The track titles include: Ukiah's Lullaby, The Healer, Orion, Resurrection, Hope, Sometimes There Are No Words, Martin's Day, Kitten Eyes, April Fools and Gifts. Reminiscent to classical music recitals, I must admit to not finding the music here much to my taste, this is a bit too pure for my musical preferences - I prefer a big band belting it out Count Basie style. However, this album is chock full of musicality and if you do prefer your jazz in a very intimate setting then I think you may enjoy Ukiah's Lullaby - the musicality is of a high order. On a technical note, this a warm-hearted digital recording, and I think the sound engineer has done a marvellous job capturing the timbre of both instruments. This is an album that will showcase your new hi-fi extraordinarily well.
For more information about this artist and album and availability contact: www.saphurecords.com
The U.O. Project is the band of jazz drummer Ulysses Owens Jr, and It's Time For U is his debut album as bandleader after many years of being sticksman for many other jazz bands. The album opens with a lively and energetic track, N'Awlins Greens, where the sax of Tim Green and the Hammond organ of Sullivan Fortner are showcased to good effect. Style wise I guess this is categorised as Bop or Post Bop - it is certainly sparky and mostly vigorous stuff and, thankfully, good humoured. There are one or two tracks where Mr Owens solos extensively, but on the whole he is happy to provide the rhythm and oomph so that his fellow band mates can shine, which makes for a much more varied session. Of the seven tracks Mr Owens has composed four tracks [the aforementioned N'Awlins Greens, Red Chair, The Maestro Blues and T.I], with the remainder written by John Mayer [Stop This Train], Victor Lin [Sing] and Sam Rivers [Cyclic Episode]. Another favourite track is the rather delicate and melodic previously mentioned Red Chair, which has an understated elegance to it, and allows almost every musician on the track to shine with a solo. Altogether this is a very impressive debut album and shows that the current state of jazz in America is in great form.
For more information about this artist and album and availability contact: www.usojazzy.com
Those of you who still mourn the demise of pioneering 70's jazz fusion band Weather Report - rejoice! Bassist Roberto Badoglio's new album Re-evaluation Time should appeal to you. It pretty much picks up the baton of jazz fusion/funk and brings it into the contemporary world. Lacking any brass or woodwind instrumentation, this new album focuses on the bass of Mr Badoglio and the keyboards of Steve Hunt, ably supported by the occasional drums of Marty Richards. For what at times is a very sparse line-up of musicians the sound is big and quite beefy. I think Mr Badoglio is using one of those fretless basses, so his fingers are all over the place, creating vibrant rhythmic soundscapes for the keyboards to glide over the top of. On top of that the largely self-composed tracks have some decent tunes bursting out from the virtuosic chops on display. Think of a Jaco Pastorious-led Weather Report and you have some idea of how Re-evaluation Time sounds. There are eleven tracks with evocative titles such as Scirocco's Theory, Bruce Wayne On The Run, Essaouira Market, Perfect Landing, The Song Of The Wine, The Wind And The Roses. Jazz fusion went out of fashion in the late 80's, nut here is proof that it still lives on and in the hands of this young bassist still has a future.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.robertobadoglio.com
Dar Cho is a Tibetan word for Prayer Flag, those oblong flags that flutter from long poles on the Himalayan mountain slopes as viewed on Michael Palin's TV travelogues... Flutter is a rather good description of the opening track, When Then Was Now, a full on improv jazz instrumental on Mark Moultrup's new album. Strangely enough, the album is a mixture of instrumentals and vocals in the jazz style far removed from the music you'd expect in Shangri-La. Mr Moultrup sings, plays keyboards and percussion and presides over a small band of fluctuating numbers. I'm not sure how Dar Cho reflects in the music as this is out and out jazz of the bop style with lots of improvisation going on during most tracks. Of the thirteen tracks a few are covers of songs by Carlos Jobim [Corcovado], Jimmy Van Huesen and Sammy Cahn [Come Fly With Me] and Johnny Mercer [Summer Wind] - the rest are composed by Mr Moultrup. The one that really is affecting is Ted's Last Song, a tribute to a beloved pet dog - having had cats all my life I can understand the bond between pet and owner [not that you really own them!], and this is a lovely, restrained tune. I do find the album a little bit of a split personality - the cover illustration implies it is going to be new age music but in reality this is a collection of full blooded jazz which will probably frighten a new age music lover. It is, however, an energetic, lively album and should find some fans out there.
For more information about this artist and album and availability contact: www.markmoultrup.com
This is the debut album of jazz vocalist Whitney James. The Nature Of Love features the vocalist and her regular band of Joshua Wolff on piano, Matt Clohesy on bass and Jon Wikan on drums, with guest soloist Ingrid Jensen on trumpet and flugelhorn. The nine tracks include several jazz and musical standards: Long Ago And Far Away, The Very Thought Of You, How Deep Is The Ocean and In April amongst other songs unfamiliar to me. Ms James has a strong voice, one that doesn't just sing the lyric but also uses her voice as an instrument, so she shapes, lengthens and moulds the words like a horn player. On first listening this was a little unsettling, cursed with an ear for perfect pitch it all sounded a little 'wonky' to me, but on repeated listening sessions these verbal 'ticks' become a little more familiar and you begin to appreciate the musicality of it all. This is certainly an individual performance and interpretation of these songs, and it will be interesting to see the reaction to the album over time. As it stands, Ms James offers an interesting performance and this is a very listenable album.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.whitneyjames.com
This untitled album by guitarist Paul Meyers was recorded to showcase the nylon string guitar and to offer a relaxed, late night jazz affair. And I think Mr Myers has succeeded admirably in this. The album has an intimate sound, wrapped around the talents of the quartet of musicians involved - along with Paul Meyers, there is Frank Wess on tenor sax and flute, Martin Wind on acoustic bass and Tony Jefferson plays drums. There's also a guest vocal by Andy Bey on Lazy Afternoon. I described this album as being intimate and that is born out by the closely detailed playing on tracks such as Snibor and In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning. The album also has something of the late night 'after hours' jam to it, which adds a lot to the atmosphere. It sounds as if the musicians are in the same room with you, performing a one-on-one gig. Other jazz classics that are revived on the album are Just One Of Those Things, My One And Only Love and Who Cares [by the Gershwins]. It would be stretching it a bit to call this a landmark album but it is a thoroughly decent jazz album, well performed, full of warmth and good vibes that should make any jazz aficionado more than happy.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.mileshighrecords.com
The roots of the Big Crazy Energy New York Band began in Norway where its leader trombonist Jens Wendelboe was born. With a talent too big to be contained in Norway he eventually moved to New York, becoming musical director for Donna Summer, a trombonist in Blood Sweat & Tears, and other musical gigs too numerous to mention. But above that he formed and led the Big Crazy Energy New York Band, a loud, brash and swinging jazz band. Inspirations Vol. 1 may be the debut album or the latest in a long line of albums, the press sheet is a bit unclear about that, save to say that the band has been going for over twenty-five years, which is some going in today's economics. The album contains nine tracks, several written by Jens Wendelboe, along with blistering numbers by Billy Cobham [the opener Pleasant Pheasant], Joe Henderson [Out Of The Night], and Lennon and McCartney [A Day In The Life]. Of Mr Wendelboe's own tunes I really enjoyed the swinging and tuneful Dear Old Stockholm [well, it says Trad on the credits, but I assume the arrangement is his]. His Seasons Wander, with a sultry vocal by Deb Lyons also makes the grade with my ears. In terms of style and sound Big Crazy Energy New York Band plough a similar jazz furrow to the BBC's Big Band, which is covering all styles of jazz, but mostly big band, swing and a bit of bebop for good measure. The sound is heroic - this will sound great on that hi-fi system you've just bought - but melody is still the key. Inspirations Vol. 1 grows on me with every play and that has to be the sign of a great album!
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.crazyenergy.com/
Notes Home showcases a style of jazz first popularised by Stephane Grappelli and Joe Venuti - violin-led small combo jazz. David Mackenzie certainly has the fiddle skills while his partner Josh Johnston on the piano is more than just the support. Indeed, with the added guitar of Stephan McFarlane you also add Django Reinhardt to the mix. However, the album title derives from Mr Mackenzie's habit of composing his music while abroad and then recording them back home in Ireland. Mr Mackenzie has the lyrical way of the Irish with his fiddle, but the overused cod-Celtic ethnicity is thankfully absent - no twiddle dee dee and begorahs here! This album has plenty of moments of intimacy, such as Through The Night, but many of the tracks are uptempo and fun, such as The Latecomer and Place Carnot, and swing with a gentle lilt of a past era. Many of the track titles seem to be places where the musicians was inspired to create a musical picture: Cap Mortola, La Narbonnaise [very bluesy], La Plage and Pont Neuf. I rather like this album, it has many happy and poignant moments, but it also seems to be like a movie soundtrack - musical portraits of people and places met on a vacation, perhaps. I think Notes Home is quite a sophisticated album - it wears that sophistication lightly, but it nonetheless is a jazz album for those who dislike or never listen to jazz. Recommended.
For more information about this artist and album and availability contact: www.davidandjosh.com
The Jupiter 8 is essentially a musician called OJ with a little help from The Glimmer Room's Andy C and musically the music is more upbeat than TGR's more pastoral ambient sound. Songs From The Engine Room Part II is, as you will have worked out, a sequel to The Engine Room Part I, and it continues the sci-fi theme of the original album. In a nutshell the music describes the journey of a group of astronauts to Jupiter, where they end up about to crash into the planet's giant red eye. On the sequel, the music depicts their escape from Jupiter's gravity well and return to Earth. I don't think the music slavishly follows this scenario to the letter but it is the framework for these six tracks. The album opens with Signals, which is a fine piece of bubbling electronica, quite perky and pushes on towards Return To Earth - my favourite track of the album and a monumental slab of 'motorik'-style drumming plus Neu! Meets Hawkwind-style guitar and keyboard work. I love this track and play it loudly and often. It is just so insanely propulsive and I'm sure that Klaus Dinger [the late drummer of Neu! and creator of this type of rhythm] would be proud. Track three is Time Slip Palindrome, ghostly voices and a chugging beat with some ambient guitar and keys. Next is Half Light, a more reflective and Eno-like ambient piece. The Lost Voice Of Reason is a longer ambient piece: treated sounds, whispering voices, the occasional cluster of beats, definitely more oblique and experimental. The final track is Go Green, this begins all ethereal and whispery but the big beats and the guitar returns and morphs into a grand electro finale. I've already listed Hawkwind and Neu! as influences and I think you can also add a big dollop of Can in there too. What a wonderful delicious mix - all Krautrock and prog fans should really seek Songs From The Engine Room Part II - it's a classic and certainly going on my 'Best of Year' list for 2010, alongside fellow labe-mate's The Glimmer Room's I Remain.
In this day and age it is easy to forget that for a brief period in the 1940's Jazz was the pop music of the day. Well, Sylvia Herold & The Rhythm Bugs haven't forgotten and The Spider & The Fly is their homage to three part harmony and Swing music. This new album is like a time machine, a bit more picturesque than Doctor Who's TARDIS and pulsating with rhythm and vocal harmonies. Above all else this album is packed full of good humour and yes, a nostalgia for a time when pop songs were melodic and full of great harmonies. Sylvia Herold has the perfect voice for these songs, light enough to glide over the melody, which she is playing on her guitar. Imagine a cross between Doris Day at her most winsome and Julie London. The Rhythm Bugs add the harmony and rhythm in an equally harmonious manner to make this a lot of a fun Jazz. So, the band are: Sylvia Herold - vocals/guitar, Jennifer Scott - piano/vocals/ Ed Johnson - guitar/vocals, Cary Black - bass, Jason Lewis - Drums, plus a number of guest musicians fill out the sound and add tonal colours to the full sound. The Spider & The Fly contains fourteen wonderfully evocative tracks and they are: All The Cats Join In, Barrelhouse Betsy From Basin Street, The Fella Who Couldn't Be Kissed, The Spider And The Fly, San Fernando Valley, Mohair Sam, The Night Has A Thousand Eyes, The Continental, Happy Feet, Bubble-Loo Bubble-Loo, Ain't Nobody Home, Betcha I Getcha, Fine & Dandy, Come To Baby Do. As you will realise I rather rate this album and the artists - it isn't often I start smiling on the first hearing of a new album but I did with this one and I am still smiling several plays later. Highly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.sylviaherold.com
This is guitarist Chris Cortez's sixth solo album, though he's been involved on twenty recordings altogether as musician, leader and producer. Mr Cortez has a swinging way with his guitar, and on this album it is mixed with a Latin vibe, so the music on Aunt Nasty is quite an upbeat affair. It is also quite smooth sounding, no jagged post bop sounds here. He also has a nicely louche way with a vocal, In fact with the addition of whistles and fiesta sound effects it could soundtrack a party or barbecue quite nicely. There's quite a tight band supporting the guitarist, with just enough presence to lift his guitar up but not swamp it. The musicians are:Glen Ackerman - bass, Guillermo Reza - drums, Andrew Lienhard - keyboards, Woody Witt - tenor sax, Carol Morgan - trumpet, James Metcalfe - percussion, Bernard Pierre - backing vocals. Aunt Nasty contains a dozen track, with a number of them being original compositions and the rest covers of music by Jimi Hendrix, Duke Ellington, George Harrison, and others. The titles are: Caravan, Aunt Nasty, When You Wish Upon A Star, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, The Man With No Arms, Mickey Mouse Club, Aarrgh, Invitation, It's A Small World After All, San Cruz, Ask Me No Questions, Fire. I'm still not sure who Aunt Nasty is, though the lyrics paint her as a woman of ill-repute, but it sounds like she knows how to have a great time. And that upbeat good vibe continues throughout the album. It is certainly an album worth replaying, even if to try and work out why the Walt Disney references are there. Now if only Aunt Nasty had appeared in a few Disney movies perhaps they would have a bit of an aftertaste. As it is, Aunt Nasty is strongly recommended if you like your jazz to have a bit of fizz to it.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.bluebamboomusic.com
The Harris Group is led by guitarist Ric Harris and is one of those wonderful examples of a jazz band that that goes slightly against the grain in terms of instrumentation. By that I mean that there is no piano, it has been substituted by a vibraphone, offering a richer, more mellifluent sound. This is the band debut album and is a richly varied affair, mixing original compositions with a selection of covers that fit the band sound. And that sound it has to be said is quite a rich one, thanks to a smooth mix of guitar and vibes riding above the tight drum and bass rhythms. The music is full of inventive solos, yet it swings smoothly and should appeal to non-jazz fans as much as it will to long term aficionados. Choices is named after the decisions Mr Harris had to make to secure his health after he was diagnosed with brain seizures. It makes it all the more amazing that he is able to play the guitar with such command and understated finesse. The group are: Ric Harris - guitar, Mike Daley - bass, Tom Haugen - drums, Micah Rutschman - vibraphone, plus guest soloist Chris Greene - soprano sax. The ten tracks are: Choices, Paula's Waltz, Dolphin's Dance, Cape Hatteras, Across The Divide, Isfahan, Russell Square, Chances Are, Around The Block, Footprints. This is jazz that is easy on the ear and well worth checking out. Recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.theharrisgrp.com
It is interesting to note how music from contemporary rock composers is being taken up by jazz musicians and given fresh treatments and new insights. This is the case with Louis Durra's new album The Best Of All Possible Worlds, where he has taken songs by Radiohead, Bob Dylan, Feist, Tears For Fears, Alanis Morrisette and Bob Marley, improvised on the original tunes and then added a new improvisation as a coda. Not being a musician I can't say that the nuances of such an approach are obvious to me, however, Mr Durra has a smooth way with the piano and finds the most melodic path through each track. Supported by Jerry Kalaf on drums and Larry Steen on bass, the album is restful rather than a snoozefest, the songs taken at a languid pace. In fact I find Mr Durra's attention to the melody rather than exploring every nook and cranny of it to be very refreshing and enjoyable. The thirteen tracks are: Tangled Up In Blue, Ersatz Waltz, The Bends, [After Bends], Mad World, The Back Seat, No Surprises, 1234, [After 1234], Code Monkey, No Woman No Cry, All I Really Want (with DJ Rob Swift), [After DJ]. Having played The Best Of All Possible Worlds several times I can tell you it is a very approachable album and shouldn't scare off non-jazz listeners. The musicianship is high from all three performers and on the whole it is a very upbeat album with a lot going for it. Recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.louisdurra.com
When I listened saxophonist/singer David Caceres' new album for the first time, and especially the opening track Symptom Unknown I thought that the voice sounded familiar and after a little cogitation on the matter I realised that Mr Caceres sounded a bit like soul singer Terence Trent D'Arby. However, later in the album he sounds more like Stevie Wonder, which I have to admit is a much better prospect. After a full listen to the album I realised that Mr Caceres actually sounds like himself, but his roots are in old school soul music mixed with jazz, and Stevie Wonder in particular must have been a strong influence on his vocal style. However, this is also an old school jazz album, and when he plays his alto sax you can tell he has also been listening to Coltrane, Parker and Davis. It takes some skill and a strong sense of intuition to blend bebop and Motown-school soul together. Backed by a band of seventeen musicians, the sound is rich and involved, wrapping mellifluously around his voice. There are too many musicians to list in the space available but they are damn good and recreate the 70's jazz-soul vibe very well. Mr Caceres provides two of his own songs alongside a set of very well chosen covers of songs by Ray Lamontagne, Van Morrison, Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Thelonnius Monk. The song titles are: Symptom Unknown, You Can Bring Me Flowers, The Way Young Lovers Do, Giving Up, Round Midnight, You Make It Easy, Sacred Path, Tell Me A Bedtime Story, Seems So Long, Bird Of Beauty, Gratitude. If you hanker for reliving that blend of jazz-soul-pop that was popular back in the 70's and 80s then I commend David Caceres to you - he manages to put his own stamp on a much-loved style of music.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.davidcaceres.com
I can't think of many albums where you get both a studio version and a live recording version of the same material. But in the case of jazz trombonist Curtis Fuller and his new double album, I Will Tell Her, that is what you get: a studio album along with a live album of much of the material from the studio one, only the tracks are longer workouts responding to the performance. While I have not encountered Mr Fuller's work previously, he is, according to the press release, a jazz legend, having worked with John Coltrane, Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie and Count Basie. Of all the front-line jazz instruments I have always had a sneaking regard from the trombone. Less confrontational or in-yer-face than the trumpet or sax, it is an instrument with a dogged amiability and less likely to turn your brains to mush. And Mr Fuller plays his trombone beautifully. I guess the style of jazz is post bop or whatever, but this is quite tuneful jazz without too much of the stratospheric posturing that really irritates me - it also swings like mad. Of the eight tracks on the studio album I really enjoyed Sagittarius [and not because it is my star sign!], and Minor's Holiday is also a fine showcase for everyone in the band to have a solo. The most emotionally charged track is I Will Tell Her, dedicated to the memory of Mr Fuller's wife who died before this album was completed - it also beautifully played by everyone. As for the band, they really back up Mr Fuller with lots of warmth and enthusiasm, and deserve a namecheck: Keith Oxman on tenor sax, Al Hood on trumpet, Chip Stephens on piano, Ken Walker on bass and Todd Reid on drums. The live album contains six tracks, four of which are extended workouts of studio tracks, and again the band sizzles with high energy and good humour throughout. This is an excellent double album which has certainly placed Curtis Fuller on my musical map, and this is certainly one of the best jazz albums I've heard in some time.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.caprirecords.com
Oh boy! From the first seconds after pressing the play button I was in seventh heaven with Lady K & The Kings Of Swing - Live At Blackheart. I love swing music and this live album just exudes fun and quality all the way through the seventeen tracks. Lady K is sax player Kay Leedham and her Kings of Swing is a handpicked band of musicians who all have the jazz and swing gene in their blood. And it is a big band, with seventeen musicians, including vocalist Dale Head, a Sinatra clone with a pleasing voice and personality. From the opening bars of All Right, OK, You Win, the album just exudes professional quality and a large dose of good vibes. Tracks include My Favourite Things, My Foolish Heart, Come Fly With Me, Luck Be A Lady, Every Day I have The Blues, I Can't Stop Loving You, I've Got You Under My Skin, How High The Moon and many more. In terms of sound I guess you can take Count Basie as a touchstone, but the Kings Of Swing have their own sound - it's punchy and takes no prisoners. The selection of songs covered is a good one, most are familiar standards, but that's okay with me, all of them have had new life blown into them and they retain the glitter they've always had. As far as I can tell all the tracks are played using their original arrangements, but I could be wrong, what is more important is that they all sound original, no modernising for the youth audience needing a dance beat. This was, after all, the original dance music. All the soloists are great, and it takes a very self-effacing bandleader not to take a solo or three during the album, but it is a shame that Ms Leedham stays in the background - she deserves to be heard upfront at least once. Well, I think this is one the best albums I have heard in ages - it presses all the buttons for me and it is one of the best albums of the year so far. If you like swing music or danceable jazz music then this is highly recommended for you.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.kayjazz.com
First impression when I started to play this new album by the Alex Levin Trio was of watching a movie and being in one of those ritzy hotel foyers in a big city like, yes - New York will do, where a discretely placed trio are playing lounge jazz while the world and its brother are moving like ghosts on a chess board. Well, I guess that is a pretty profound thought or I have been sucking too many cough sweets! Actually, New York Portraits is a collection of eight 'great American song book' classics and a couple of originals by pianist Alex Levin himself. The remaining members of the trio are Michael Bates on bass and Brian Floody on drums. I'm not sure if 'lounge jazz' is a valid category but these gently meandering tracks certainly seem a tad more refined than that offered in a smokey jazz club to my ears. Mr Levin's dexterity on the piano keys is fluid and inventive while retaining the all-important melody of each song, and I find that very pleasing to my ears. The tracks are My Heart Stood Still, Who Can I Turn To, Last Train to Brooklyn, Cheek to Cheek, I Remember You, I Loves You Porgy, Isn't it a Pity, Like Someone in Love, Blues For Charley, and Body and Soul. I also rather liked the cheeky way the logo for Mr Levin's own label mimics the classic Atlantic Records label design as a homage to the jazz greats that recorded for it. So, New York Portaits gets a double thumbs up from me, it is one of the most pleasant jazz albums I have heard in ages and I think has great cross-over potential if played on the more mellow radio stations. Highly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.alexlevinjazz.com
There is a certain irony in the title of this album as Dual Rhythm are in fact a duo, Paul Rosenberg on assorted keyboards and Ernest 'Ebongo' Bland on percussion and vocals. However, for this album they have added four more musicians to fill the sound out on many of the tracks and justify the album title - these are: John Lee - guitar, Dan Hall - bass, Lawrence 'Bubbles' Dean - drums and Perry Conticchio - sax/flute. Big Band contains a dozen tracks, mostly written by the two main musicians but there is also a Beatles medley [Sun Medley] and covers of Otis Redding [These Arms of Mine], Duke Ellington [African Flower] and Wayne Shorter/Mongo Santamaria tunes [Night Dreamer/Afro Blue]. Of the band's own music I rather liked Absence of Excess which veers from the default jazz setting and rocks out. Essentially this is a duo album of Jazz, Latin, R'n'B and Afro Cuban, but with added oomph, and is all the more enjoyable for the variety of sounds. This isn't big band music in the traditional sense of the meaning, but the sound is big and grows with each play. I can understand why Dual Rhythm impress their audiences with their virtuosity and big sound, especially when performing in physically small clubs and venues. Big Band is an excellent showcase for the band and well worth seeking out.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.karigaffney.com
From the cover alone you would think that guitarist Phil Sargent's new album, A New Day, was just another typical jazz trio recording. But delve further and with the addition of Aubrey Johnson's lyric less vocals you get a further dimension to the sound. I think these wordless vocals are technically called vocalese, when performed by classical music vocalists, and it seems to fit on this album too. Ms Johnson's lushly evocative singing does bring a richness and a new atmosphere to Mr Sargent's robust jazz compositions, though I think rock fans would enjoy this album too as Mr Sargent uses rock stylings to give the music more edge. The rest of the musicians are Greg Loughman on bass and Mike Connors on drums - with additional support from John Funkhouser and Brian Friedland on piano and organ on assorted tracks. The opening track, A New Day, is a showcase for all the musicians involved and is long enough [ten minutes] to be almost the jazz equivalent of a tone poem, indeed, most of the tracks have a duration of 6-8 minutes. This is followed by Kelita, a scintillating thing with some sprightly guitar from Mr Sargent and those light as gossamer vocals from Ms Johnson. The rest of the tracks are 8/31, Light, Gridlock, Powerplay, Nobody Nothing. There is also a nicely funky edge to many of the tracks, and I could see this album appealing to those rock fans who think the sun shines out of Jeff Beck's proverbial ... I think this is Phil Sargent's second album as band leader and I am very impressed by A New Day. An excellent album worth investigating by any guitar aficionado.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.philsargentmusic.com
I love lyrical jazz, the sort that keeps the melody and the rhythm together while the musician wraps them around with his jazzy curlicues of musical inventiveness. I think I have just found my ideal in the George Cotsirilos Trio, they play gently swinging jazz through a guitar trio which oozes good vibes and warmth. George Cotsirilos is the guitarist, with Robb Fisher on bass and Ron Marabuto on drums. The album opens with the sprightly Good Wood, which is one way to describe Mr Cotsirolis' mellifluous guitar. Of the ten tracks about half are original compositions by the guitarist and the rest are classic pop and broadway songs such as Without A Song, The Way You Look Tonight, Bittersweet, and What Kind Of Fool Am I. What impresses most is that the trio play as one, individual solos are minimal, and the melody is king. I like that very much. As a whole, Past Present [the album] is redolent of those basement jazz clubs, hidden away except for the initiated, smokey from exotic tobacco and serving nothing stronger than coffee. It harkens back to the days when music was to be enjoyed 'as is', without light shows, mass hysteria and a volume that would enable it to be heard on the Moon. Nostalgia always wins out, but this is very enjoyable album, full of good humour, gentle musical innovation and a loving respect for THE sound.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.oa2records.com
One can easily forget when listening to jazz that it can be an equally enjoyable [and exciting] visual treat when attending live performances. An element that is missed on albums usually. But with Live @ The Sweet Rhythm you are actually there during the performance - thanks to this album being a DVD video. So you get the best of both worlds, you can watch the Mark Sherman Quintet as they performed to a audience, and enjoy high quality stereo sound at the same time. So what we have is a ten track gig showcasing the talents of Mark Sherman's skills as a vibraphone player, backed by Joe Magnarelli on trumpet and flugelhorn, Allen Farnham on piano, Dean Johnson on bass and Tim Horner on drums. It is a very muscular, punchy sound and Mark Sherman writes muscular jazz so that watching these performances is quite exciting and the next best thing to actually being there. The titles include Tip Top Rhythm, Little Lullaby, The Great Trip, Trust, Trinkle Tinkle [by Thelonius Monk], The Winning Life, Hope [by Allen Farnham], Sandy, Ella Bella and Hardship. I always find distinguishing between jazz sub categories confusing so apologies if I get this wrong, but I think the band are playing post bop or perhaps hard bop styles here, whatever it is it is powerful music and the musicians certainly get into it. If you like your jazz vibrant and original and what to enjoy the aura of a real jazz club then I strongly urge you to get this DVD to get some idea of the real thing.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.markshermanmusic.com
Being a life long cat lover the title of this new album by guitarist Frank DiBussolo was bound to catch my eye and then my ears. The opening track Blue Heron has a nice loose latin vibe, as slinky as a moggy strutting along the top of a wall. Track two, Loco Linda, is equally swaggering, with some cool understated playing by all concerned. The title track with its guitar and sax duets and funky organ solos is a joy - the strutting now morphing into some very sophisticated swinging. This album oozes confidence from all the players, and especially from Mr DiBussolo's compositions, of which there are eight, plus a cover of When You're Smiling. The quartet supporting Frank DiBussolo's guitar are Greg Edwards on woodwinds, Chicago Carl Snyder on keyboards, Greg Eicher on double bass, and Sean Kennedy on drums and latin percussion. This is one of those albums where you imagine that all the musicians were smiling throughout the recording sessions, and where the expression 'cool vibes' actually was true. I really enjoyed Average White Cats, a rather cool jazz punning title in itself, but this album is chock full of melody and good rhythms - ideal for attracting the ears of anyone who doesn't think they like jazz. This is a winner in my view and I have no hesitation ranking this happy album as one of the best of the year [so far]!
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.lostworldmusic.com
Dos Amantes is a true 'world music' album in that it is exploring the music and songs of the Sephardic Jews who used to live in Spain when it was under the control of Muslims pre-1492. I think El Cid kicked the Muslim rulers out and Spain eventually became the hot budget holiday destination of choice throughout Europe! Vocalist Kat Parra and her band, Sephardic Music Experience, have dug deep into their musical history to find the songs of this Jewish culture, and sing the lyrics in the dying language Ladino [or Judeo-Espanyol] along with modern Spanish and Portuguese on the ten tracks. Ms Parra has a fantastically rich voice, a contralto - I think - very expressive on these highly evocative songs which mix the multicultural ethnic blend of Spain with musical styles from the Caribbean and South America, plus modern Latin jazz. Dos Amantes doesn't fail to be both emotionally impressive in its richness, but it also swings and is downright sexy on many of the songs. This is an album of mighty passions. As you would expect the musicianship of the those performing on the album is very impressive and dare one say it, it sounds like everyone was having a ball in the studio. That extends to those behind the glass as this is a fantastic sounding CD. I don't think there is a poor track on the album but I recommend you try Los Bilbilicos, Hanukia, and Tres Hermanicas for a broad sample of the delights on the disc. No hesitation in making this the first album of the year on my website [and it's only the middle of January!].
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.katparra.com
Michael Brant DeMaria's previous album Siyotanka featured the Native American flute and explored its melodic possibilities, with his latest album Ocean he is exploring the vast oceanic seascape. Still using his flutes but also a great deal of synthesisers and other instrumentation that make the new album much more ambient and less 'world music' in style. Thankfully, Mr DeMaria avoids the usual cliche of drenching the album in the sound of rippling waves and running water - which, apart from making me want to run to the bathroom all the time, has been so overused on almost every Kitaro album in my collection. No, there is an epic scale to this album, almost symphonic on some tracks and highly orchestrated - and all performed by one man! The opening track, Surfacing, is truly ambient, low drones build up a presence, creating an environment that is peaceful and vast. Drift in your floatation tank to this and you will be truly in space. Open Water follows and this is where the flutes and the synths make their presence felt, lovely melody and again that sense of timelessness and space, but with something to hum along to. And so the album drifts on, visualising the vastness and intimacy of the worlds' oceans. Yes, Ocean is very New Age, but I think it grows out of that and becomes an album which should appeal to those who listen to ambient and electronica. I could even imagine some imaginative DJs playing this in the chill out rooms to bring down ravers at the end of the night. Ocean is a worthy sequel to Siyotanka, and one that could be a huge hit. Highly recommended.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.ontosmusic.com
What we have here is a brace of albums of unashamedly romantic pop-jazz, suitable for either the committed jazz fan or those who are seeking what we used to call 'easy listening'. Now that could be damning these artists with faint praise, but it takes a high level of professionalism to do what Kenny and Leah Soderblom do with such aplomb. Leah handles the vocals with a warmth and romanticism, and a clarity of voice that is enchanting, while Kenny plays sax and envelopes her voice in a supporting web of notes. Both of these albums feature the cream of the 'Great American Songbook', and are pretty much text book examples of how these songs should be approached, performed and presented. That is, without too much musical waffle to get in the way of the melodies and the voice. Both of these albums are of the same high standard, so it is difficult to pick a winner out of the two - as for the songs here is a sample of what you will hear: April In Paris, Moon River, That Old Black Magic, On A Clear Day, Dancing In The Dark, The Look Of Love, Let's Fall In Love, God Bless The Child and many more. These albums are recorded with a clarity and a warmth you seldom find with rock albums - it sounds like these artists are in the room with you, even over the PC loudspeakers I am currently using. And the band backing them is also very good, supporting without intruding, while the instrumental tracks featuring Kenny's mellifluous sax act as showcases for a talented musician. On reflection I think I prefer You And The Night And The Music slightly more than April In Paris, The selection of songs tend to flow together as a sequence better. But in all honesty there isn't much in it. I'm also flashing on Julie London while listening to Leah's vocals, these albums hark back to her intimate albums in some ways. For their sheer musicality I can't recommend these two albums highly enough - here are a couple doing these songs the right way!
For more information about this artist and album and availability contact: www.kennyandleah.com
Ciro Hurtado is an American-based Peruvian guitarist of some note, providing music for many movies and documentaries in the USA. Guitarrista is his third album of acoustic guitar pieces penned by himself. With just a solo nylon string guitar, no accompaniment, Mr Hurtado conjures up a selection of wonderful vignettes harking back to his Peruvian homeland. What you have is a mixture of idioms: Latin American, Latin-jazz, and traditional folk. One can understand why Guitar legend Ry Cooder is a fan. Far less frenetic than the equally impressive Mexican duo of Rodrigo and Gabriela [no tributes to Led Zeppelin here], the style on this album is more reminiscent of classical guitarist John Williams, where the fingers and the guitar simply become one. The whole album just emits a gentle ambience throughout, calming and rejuvinating, so it can be listened to on many levels. It is easy to forget how beautiful the acoustic guitar sounds without all the electronic fripperies that most musicians use today - and dare one say, rely on. But I suggest you try the gorgeous Para Amanda as an example, or the opening track Cuentos de Chacarera to hear what I mean. I suppose if I was a guitarist myself I could describe in more scholarly language just how good Guiarrista is, but really all I can say is if you love acoustic guitar music then buy this album. At the very least sample any downloadable tracks from the website listed below and then buy direct or try the usual on-line sales outlets.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.cirohurtado.com
I'm not sure that 'Popjazzic' is a proper word or what it is supposed to mean. If it is supposed to mean pop and jazz mixing together then it is a pretty apt word to describe this album by trumpeter Christopher Lehman. A collection of ten self-penned instrumentals and songs, they certainly range across the different spectra of popular music, but all have a definitive jazz vibe to them, and most have good tunes. This is an album for listening in the car, it has a bit of a driving beat to it, and a lightness of touch where blowing hard doesn't just mean making a racket for the sake of it. Popjazzic opens with Well Funk Me Up!!!, as good a description for the track as any. The sound is big, I think there are 12-15 musicians in the band and they can most definitely play their hearts out here, but at all times there is a pronounced commercial sound which should appeal to a wide range of listeners. Put a line between Bob James, The Crusaders, Count Basie and perhaps a little of the funkier later Miles Davis and you have some idea of how wide ranging the sound of this album is. Popjazzic has an in your face charm that is very appealing - it should do well on jazz radio stations and perhaps even more enlightened ones too. This is a keeper in my collection, and that is the highest compliment I can give any album!
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www. karigaffney.com
I've had the pleasure of reviewing a couple of pianist Mike Longo albums before for this website, so finding his latest album, Sting Like A Bee in the post bag was a bit like welcoming an old friend back. This time he has recorded the album in classic piano trio format with Bob Cranshaw on bass and Lewis Nash on drums. The sound is quintessential smokey jazz club aura, intimate and good humoured. And kudos to the recording engineer Al Perrotta for the lush and crystal clear sound on the CD. Along with a few self penned tunes, the majority of the album is made up of covers of tunes by jazz and Broadway composers such as Wayne Shorter [a stomping Speak No Evil, Dance Cadaverous], Cole Porter [subtly swinging Love For Sale that lasts for over nine glorious minutes], Herbie Hancock [Tell Me A Bedtime Story], Leonard Bernstein [West Side Story Medley], Kurt Weill [Speak Low], and Dizzy Gillespie [Kush]. The sleevenotes explain that the album is a homage to the late Oscar Peterson and Dizzy Gillespie, and I think they would both be proud of that, as Sting Like A Bee certainly has the feel of the great man in his heyday. I enjoyed the album a lot - it is superbly performed by all three musicians playing at the top of their game, and it has a smooth and impeccable air to it throughout. I think Mike Longo has recorded his best album yet - it has widespread appeal which should find listeners who don't even consider themselves jazz fans.
For more information about this artist and album and availability contact: www.jazzbeat.com
Even after all these years of reviewing music I still enjoy a heightened sense of expectation when the CD slips into the player. Call me an optimist but I am always hoping to hear something new and exciting - but then again, something professional and entertaining also works for me and that is the case with Vanishing Point by guitarist/vocalist Tony Marcus. In a style encompassing jazz and pop, his collection of self-penned songs have a warmth and intimate sheen to them. Slightly jazzy, with a southern smokey veneer, and approachable feel, I am reminded of an Ex-King Crimson band member called Gordon Haskell who had a hit here in the UK with a song in a very similar style to those on this album. They share a similar barroom honed baritone that is just so attractive. Mr Marcus plays his guitar with understated subtlety and is backed by a very good group of musicians, including a string quartet, but Nova Devonie's accordion adds a distinctive Gallic or New Orleans feel to many of the songs. Romance and love are dissected from the viewpoint of the mature eye, but there are still ruminations on modern life such as The Odd Get Even, with its interplay between violin and accordion. I can't be definitive as to why I like this album, but I can say that Vanishing Point is one of those amiable, melodic albums that get under the skin and you realise that you are listening to a craftsman at the pinnacle of his skills. This is an album for the more mature music fan fed up with the paucity of talent coming from the countless reality 'talent' shows currently strangling contemporary TV.
For more information about this artist and album and availability contact: www.tuxedorecords.com
Sculptures In Time is a tribute in music to the sculptor Eduardo Chillida, who I have to admit I have never heard of before. However, this new album by guitarist Gabriel Riesco was recorded in one day, a spontaneous session where the music came out of jamming. The musical style is jazz, the performance format a quintet featuring guitar, sax, piano, bass and drums. As you would expect with improvisational music the results vary. Never having seen any of Mr Chillida's sculptures I can't say if the music has any relationship with his work. However track 2, Chillida, does have a bit of a swinging bebop vibe to it [all eight minutes plus of it] which is very pleasant on these ears. I also enjoyed Simba's Samba, a tune with some Latin heat within. I usually find improv music mostly unlistenable but this album is different, mostly thanks to Mr Riesco's restrained and melodic playing. I found myself enjoying Sculptures In Time quite a bit - it's a lively album with some mellow periods, and the musicians are all contributing to the music in a fine way. Mr Riesco seems to have a good ear for a tune and doesn't take it out too far on the limb, always coming back to a musical resolution. If you enjoy jazz music at the improvisational end of the spectrum then I think you will find this album of interest - then again, if you like your jazz safe and recognisable you might like to dip your toes into improv with Sculptures In Time and be surprised at how listenable it can be.
For more information about this artist and album and availability contact: www.gabrielriescoproject.com