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The music on Thin Air Tango is quite intimate and quite quiet in many parts. Sometimes a solo dialogue from Jeff Covell's piano and then a dialogue with the soprano sax of Ed Fiorenza - and sometimes it is just the saxophone alone. Reflective and tranquil are a couple of the emotions the music raised with me - there are also hints of Erik Satie and Debussy in the music. The music is impressionistic and very reflective. This is an album of stillness and of space - in every sense of the word. While I am listening to this album I am looking out of my window at a typical grey British autumn day verging on the cusp of winter and somehow the music I am hearing seems aptly suitable as a soundtrack. I don't think the music here is likely to bring much lightness to the soul, it reaches into the darker depths lighting up lost thoughts. The eight tracks are split into three suites, with all but one track composed and improvised by the musicians - the exception is based on a Japanese traditional melody. The tracks are: Thin Air Suite: Nebula/Scatter/Thin Air, Sakura Suite: Elegy For Joe Viola/Tango Di Callisto (#14)/Sakura Sakura, Europa Suite: Lift Off/On Europa. Thin Air Tango is a triple D recording, which means it makes the most of the digital technology - the sound is spacious to the max, crystal clear and maximising the space between the two instruments. While the musicianship is very high, and the music expressive I can't see this as an album to lift the spirits - indeed, I think it is a soundtrack for a specific mood. But only the listener will know which mood this will illuminate.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.originalcopyrecords.com
I know it's a bit of a tiresome cliché when someone says 'I know what I like', but that was the case when the first notes of Ki Eshmera came out of the speakers. Klezwoods are a rootsy band from Boston playing a mix of Kletzmer, Irish, Gypsy, bluegrass and rock and jazz, Oy Yeah! is their new album [debut?] and it is a joy to listen to - a real toe tapper and if you have the energy it is an album to dance to. The ten tracks certainly have a strong vein of Jewish, Arab and Eastern European influences running through them - with the instrumentation to match: tuba, accordion, clarinet, sax, trumpet, lots of percussion, bass and guitar. Track three, Bahar Dansi certainly has a happy, upbeat feel to it. The rest of the tracks are: Gankino Oro, Mache Teynista, Cuperlika, Hey Lady, Nassam Aleyna, Syrtos, Giant Jew and Chassidic Medley #1. I didn't realise Boston was such a cross-roads of fertile musical inventiveness. The band is led by violinist Joe Kessler and consists of nine musicians who create this marvellous diversity of sounds. Of course there is a subtext relating to the fact that these various ethnic types of music share much and the people of the Middle East should take note of this. That aside, Oy Yeah! is a joyous album stuffed full with great tunes and emanating fantastic vibes. Highly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.myspace.com/klezwoods1
This album literally explodes from the off when you press the play button - Synonymous Dichotomy is the first track's title and whatever that means I don't know, but I can tell you that pianist Alva Nelson and his trio won't be taking prisoners with this track. It is a fast paced six minutes of eruptive pyrotechnics by all three musicians that would make Thelonius Monk a very happy man. The album then settles down with a beautifully melodic ballad, Soul Eyes, followed by the more upbeat and trio-orientated Gemini Baby. The album does change direction after that initial hyperactive splurge of energy and becomes a competent and highly listenable album of jazz-pop-soul instrumentals in the manner of Erroll Garner. The album contains eleven tracks, mostly compositions by Alva Nelson with a version of Thelonius Monk's 'Round Midnight and a few other selections from the great American Jazz Song Book. I rather liked Mr Nelson's spirited and downright dirty sounding Sanctified Blues - probably my favourite track of all from this album. The trio consists of Chris White - bass and Cecil Brooks III - drums, with guests Harry Anderson - bass and Larry Washington - percussion on a few of the tracks. On the whole this is a lovely collection of mid-tempo instrumentals, with some fine caressing of the keys and some memorable tunes - once you get past the hyperactivity of that first explosive track you have something sweet and charming, and very easy on the ear.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.myspace.com/alvanelson
At the outset of this recording you can tell it is going to be a hard blowing, take no prisoners session. Recorded live, this gig is totally spontaneous and improvisational and from the sounds of the audience's cheering they loved it. The quartet performing here consists of Rich Halley - tenor sax and percussion, Bobby Bradford - cornet and percussion, Clyde Reed - bass and Carson Halley - drums. The location is a barn in Potter Valley, some distance north of San Francisco, used to host the Penofin Jazz Festival, and this was its fifteenth year [the gig was recorded in 2008]. The CD contains four lengthy tracks: The Blue Rims, Streets Below, Grey Stones/Shards of Sky, and The River's Edge Is Ice - all the tracks were composed by Rich Halley. Most of the tracks last eight to nine minutes but Grey Stones/Shards of Sky is an epic fifteen minutes. The music is extremely robust, with strong free form and improv sections and there are times when it sounds like there are more than just four men playing. I have to admit that improvisational jazz isn't really my forte and I found the music a bit too jagged and angular for my tastes, but one can't argue with the commitment of the musicians and the way they propel each piece along. This is the debut release of Pine Eagle Records and this is about as striking a first album as it can be. If you enjoy free form and improv jazz or just like hard blowing music then I suggest you check out the URL listed below and listen to any sample tracks there, and if you like then buy this album and support this new label and its musicians.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.richhalley.com
This is the first album in five years as band leader for saxophonist Alexander McCabe. Quiz has seven tracks of original compositions and covers, all performed with gusto by his backing quartet of Uri Caine - piano, Ugonna Okegwo - bass, Greg Hutchinson - drums and Rudy Royston - drums. Overall, the music in this album is post-bop with a hard edge and a dash of free form running throughout. There is certainly a strong pulse of rhythm running right through the album, and Mr McCabe's alto sax glides over this and sometimes pulverises through it to get the message across. I imagine this album will appeal to fans of everyone from Miles Davis and Charlie Parker to the more radical musical forms of Ornette Coleman. The tracks are: Weezie's Waltz, Lonnegan, Kalido, Quiz, Good Morning Heartache, St. Pat, and How Little We Know. While most of the tracks are fast paced the epic-length and very mellow Good Morning Heartache allows the musicians to stretch out and solo for twelve minutes - it is also more mid-tempo and the listener can gather their wits while listening to it. And finally with How Little We Know we have a very mellow late night track, allowing romance into the mix. So, that is Quiz, an album of robust straight as a road jazz that should appeal to a lot of jazz fans and perhaps encourage non-jazz music lovers to give it a go.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.amccabemusic.com
Hailing from the Boston area, the Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra have been together for twenty-five years, their speciality playing the music of local composers. Composer, conductor and arranger Darrell Katz provides much of the music on this their eighth album. The music here is big screen jazz, larger than life and full of what we Brits call 'vim and vigour'. Many of the dozen tracks are bundled together into mini suites, with singer Rebecca Shrimpton providing heart and glamour with her vocals. The band consists of over twenty musicians [far too many to list here], many of them band leaders in their own right. The versatility of the band is breathtaking, ranging from moody blues to ear splitting bouts of cacophonic climaxes - in other words, this is a band that blows mighty hard. Along with Mr Katz's own compositions A Wallflower In The Amazon also includes music by Duke Ellington [I Like The Sunrise], Willie Dixon [Hoochie Coochie Man], and Big Maceo Merriweather [Tuff Luck Blues]. There is no denying that Wallflower... is an overly dramatic album of modern jazz and in terms of personal taste I found it a little too in your face for my tastes, I prefer a bit more swing and a lilt in my music. But I am sure there is an audience for this type of jazz and you should go to the website listed below and seek out any sample tracks before buying.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.jazzcomposersalliance.org
Now this was an album that I liked from the moment I popped the CD into the player - a big band sound with touches of swing and latin in the mix. The Either/Orchestra is a multicultural band with musicians from America, Mexico, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic which, of course, allows for a rich mixture of rhythms and sounds. The first track, The (one of a kind) Shimmy, is a great opening track, a sort of cocky sashay that swings between the speakers. Likewise Beaucoups Kooko, with a dash more Latin rhythms and percussion. Track three, Coolocity, even pretends to be a bit of Miles Davis as if he came from the Caribbean. There are ten tracks, all originals written by band members Russ Gershon, Joel Yennior and Rick McLaughlin - the remaining tracks are: Portrait of Lindsey Schust, Ropa Loca, Thirty Five, Latin Dimensions, The Petrograd Revision [which sounds like the next Bourne thriller by Robert Ludlum!], Suriname and History Lesson. The band contains a dozen members which offers an opulent mixing palette to draw on - and having been active for twenty-five years with many of the same musicians there is quite a wealth of experience to draw on. Mood Music For Time Travellers is an excitingly good album, full of big band verve yet loose enough for the music to breath and swing. If you like your jazz with a dash of Latin sauce and a lightness of touch than I can recommend this album to you with confidence.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.either-orchestra.org
(Hot Cup 102)
This is one of the most unusual albums I've received here in a long time - essentially one seventy-eight minute long sax solo split into twelve tracks or sections. The style is jazz but very avant-garde, not very tuneful but more a force of energy. The saxophonist Jon Irabagon is supported by Peter Brendler on bass and Barry Altschul on drums in this exploration of the sixteen bar form. This is strong in your face stuff with little subtlety, or perhaps it was just too subtle for these ears. Anybody looking for a little romantic sax music will be horribly disabused within seconds of the CD starting to play. However, if you enjoy extreme music and want to hear how extreme you can get with a sax then this is the album for you. On the other hand I did enjoy the beautiful women in the photo spreads in the inlay booklet. I regret it wasn't music that falls within my comfort zone - but if you enjoy experimental or avant-garde music or post-bop jazz then you should go to the website and try any sample tracks there.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.jonirabagon.com
This is something of a schizophrenic album, taking in the music of J.S. Bach on the one hand and Afro-Caribbean rhythms on the other. Greg Burk is the pianist and Vicente Lebron the percussionist, and together they have what is effectively two albums in one. The basis of the album is Bach's The First Invention, which is apparently his most famous keyboard piece. From this root there are twenty-three tracks, of either variations of the Bach interspersed with African percussion workouts - sometimes they actually combine. Not surprisingly the music was recorded in separate sessions and only mixed together in the mixing. The Bach variations come in all forms: prepared piano, reverse recordings, treated recordings. Unlike previous attempts to subvert Bach this album is quite avant-garde, rather than jazz, more akin to a Picasso 'cubist' view of music, the sound is angular rather than organic and I have to admit that it didn't do anything for me. I'm afraid that I found Unduality just that bit 'too far out' for me to appreciate, but if you enjoy avant-garde music and J.S. Bach then I urge you to seek this album out and try it.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.accuraterecords.com
The TP stands for Ted Piltzecker, a whizz on vibraphone, piano and percussion. I think this is his debut album as a bandleader, and he has recruited a band of hot young musicians to play his music. A veteran of the legendary George Shearing Quintet, the music on Steppe Forward is mellow jazz with a touch of Brazilian rhythms. The seven tracks are: Steppe Forward, Flight Following, He Sent An Angel, Nica's Dream [written by Horace Silver], Kalunga, Why So Long? And Reunion Blues. The rest of the musicians are Rogerio Boccato - percussion, Sam Dillon - sax, Nick Llerandi - guitars, Jerad Lippi - drums, Mike Kujawsi - bass [Harvie S on track 3]. As I say the music is predominantly mellow, especially on He Sent An Angel, but it also swings [listen to Nica's Dream to hear what I mean] and has a powerful kick in places. Mr Piltzecker has a sprightly touch on the vibes, its sonorous tones weaving in and out of the other instruments and never hogging the limelight throughout. I think Steppe Forward is one of those jazz albums that the anti-jazz will listen to with pleasure - I've certainly been playing this regularly on my audio system for pleasure, and I do that with only few of the albums I receive here at The Borderland for review. Available from Amazon MP3, CD Baby, iTunes and other retailers for download or as a CD.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.tedvibes.com
Trapeze Project is the work of composer Sarah Wilson and her sextet. Despite six musicians being involved on the album the sound is actually quite sparse and solitary in places. There is an academic feel to some of the music, if it was classical music it would be a Baroque chamber suite. The musicians are Myra Melford on piano, Ben Goldberg on clarinet, Jerome Harris on bass, Scott Amendola on drums and Ms Wilson on trumpet and vocals. One of the tracks is called Melancholy for Place and the overall sound of the album and the music seems to fit that definition. I found the album rather downbeat for much of its length - not exactly aided by a cover of Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart it has to be said, it was one of the last songs the band's singer wrote and recorded before killing himself. It is sad to admit that I found this album leaving me feeling rather on a downer - perhaps I was in the wrong mood in the first place when I listened to it. But it just left me feeling cold and alienated. I'm sure this isn't what the musicians intended for their listeners to feel, but the magic just isn't working for me. If you like your jazz a little more cerebral and perhaps not pushing the happy buttons so much then I strongly urge you to visit Ms Wilson's website listed below and try any sample tracks there for yourself.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.sarahwilsonmusic.com
12 Preludes & Fugues (Tapestry 76014-2)
It isn't often that I come across an album of music that is so extraordinary in its substance that its musical DNA straddles several genres. This is the case with composer Michael Pagán and his album 12 Preludes & Fugues. The title of this CD would have you believe that it is a classical work in the contemporary style, and its structure of twenty-four tracks of alternating preludes and fugues rather confirms this. Yet, it also holds a brief for jazz in many of the stylings too. The album actually starts off sounding rather Baroque, with interweaving sax runs and the time signatures and sound is reminiscent of the music of JS Bach and Vivaldi. As the track numbers move on so does the style of the piece, alternating between various classical and jazz modes. The music is performed by the Colorado Saxophone Quartet, and they play magnificently throughout. This piece of music certainly does much to enhance the reputation of the saxophone from just being a honking noise used in jazz and rhythm and blues of the 40's and 50's. The Colorado Saxophone Quartet seem to have a floating membership of five musicians, who all took part in this recording - they are: Pete Lewis, Andrew Stonerock, Tom Meyer, Kurtis Adams and Clare Church. In practical terms it will be interesting to see where this album will be well received, will jazz or classical radio stations give it airplay, likewise for press attention. It would be a damn shame if this album was ignored because it didn't fit into some pigeonhole or other. So it is important that you music listeners are proactive out there and discover for yourselves this album of prodigiously eclectic, rich and warm music.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.michaelpaganmusic.com
A debut for a former sideman now bandleader, saxophonist Matt Garrison has recorded an album of mostly his compositions showcasing his smooth style with both tenor and baritone sax. Familiar Places sounds more in the west coast cool jazz style, like that of the late Shorty Rodgers to my ears, with a dash of Miles here and there. It is quite a fluid style and his band of ten musicians [too many to list here] are equally adept, offering close support and some hot solos across the nine tracks. I will mention trombonist Michael Dease, who played on, produced the album and contributed a track as well. With such a large band involved the instrumental colours are strong and rich and the music almost swings in a way that Count Basie or Duke Ellington would recognise. The tracks are: Try Another Day, A Thoughtful Attempt, Convergence, You Know I Love You, You'll Know When I See Her, Familiar Places, Left Behind, With You - No Me (To Dizzy) and A Clear Path. Mr Garrison knows how to write a good tune and leave enough space enough for his band to shine, which is both a good and generous thing to do. I also appreciated the way the musicians actually play, rather than honk skywards, throughout the album. I could see Familiar Places appealing to the non-jazz listener as it is inherently a mellow album and doesn't scream into your face like some recent jazz albums I have reviewed. Strongly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.dclefrecords.com
Some say that there is nothing more impressive than a symphony orchestra in full flight, and that is true, but the same can also be said for a jazz big band too. Here we have the proof - Dave Liebman Big Band's As Always is a live album recorded at a number of different gigs. Dave Liebman is the composer and bandleader, providing featured solos on all tracks - he plays soprano sax and wooden flute. The band itself is directed by Gunnar Mossblad, a multi-instrumentalist playing alto and soprano saxes, flute and clarinet. The band is nineteen strong, far too numerous to list here, but take it from me that they play up a storm on all of the six tracks. Virtuosity abounds, with several of the musicians playing more than one main instrument and while all the music is original it follows in the tradition of Ellington, Stan Kenton and even the coolness of Miles Davis. All the tracks are lengthy workouts varying between seven and fifteen minutes long - plenty of space for the band to take the music and make it their own. Track titles are A Bright Place, As Always, Anubis, New Breed, Philippe Under The Green Bridge and Turn It Around. Like a symphony orchestra, the various sections of the big band shine during sections of each track, and the band as a whole shines brightly throughout. Playing live also helps - there is always that indefinable something that comes about when playing to an audience which eludes the sound engineer in the recording studio. If you want to hear a modern big band playing at the height of its powers then try this album for size, you won't be disappointed.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.mamarecords.com
I guess the title of this album may offer a clue to you as to its theme - if not then I can tell you that Americanvas is a themed album based on the work of various American painters. The album is jazz, post bop, full of improvisation. The musicians involved are Joe Gilman - keyboards and main composer, Ben Flocks - saxes, Chad Lefkowitz-Brown - saxes and composer of two tracks, Zach Brown - bass and Adam Arruda - Drums and percussion. The painters who have inspired this music include Mark Rothko, Keith Haring and Norman Rockwell amongst several others. The music is certainly full on and vibrant and the moods created vary from frantic and very loud to more meditative moments. As you would expect with two saxophonists in the line up they tend to monopolise the sound, but Mr Gilman's robust piano playing always carries the music forward while the rhythm section push forcefully from behind. I think the ten track titles mostly refer to famous paintings by these artists so I'll list them: Gossip, Where The Wild Things Are, Cebola Church, Whaam!, Monkey Puzzle, Nighthawks, Color Arcs in Four Directions, Nothing At All Of This Is Fixed, Nocturne Du Romare [written by Malcolm Javier Santiago], and Yellow Red Blue. The one constant with Americanvas is that it is fizzing with energy throughout and I can imagine that any live versions will be highly impressive to watch and listen to.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.caprirecords.com
Lua Hadar is a jazz singer with something of a difference - her music is infused with latin and other 'world music' elements, plus her voice has a rather more dramatic and operatic style to it, which means she tends to be a dramatic vocalist in both style and sound. Her version of Simon and Garfunkle's Bridge Over Troubled Waters is a prime example of this. Ms Hadar is also a multi-linguist, and she sings in several languages across the albums' ten tracks. The ten songs on the album come from all over the world, with Ms Hadar singing in French, Malagasy, Portuguese, Japanese, Spanish, Italian and of course English. The track titles are: Bridge Over Troubled Waters, Beyond The Sea/La Mer, Raha Mbola Misy, San Francisco, Child Of Man, Imagina, Sukiyaki/Ue O Muite Aruko, Ojala Que Llueva Cafe, Isfahan, Strageta Dall'Amor/Ravel's Bolero. The overall tone of Like A Bridge is quite dramatic jazz with global influences, not surprising as Ms Hadar is also an actress. Her band Twist provide the seamless [and equally dramatic] backing that allows Ms Hadar's effortless voice to glide. The band are: Jason Martineau - piano/musical director/arranger, Dan Feisli - bass, Celso Alberti - drums, Ian Dogole - udu/dumbek/shakers/cajon, Larry De La Cruz - saxes/flute, plus various guest on some of the tracks. There is a strong sense of timeliness throughout the album, thanks to the various languages it feels like one is drifting around the world. Lua Hadar brings out the inherent dramatic essence in all these songs and I imagine a live performance will be quite something to behold. If you like your jazz to have a sense of the dramatic to it then I think you will enjoy Like A Bridge a lot. Recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.luahadar.com
You just have to love a band called The Odd Trio, don't you - it conjures up all sorts of questions as to why they are odd in the first place. Well, I think I can answer that one myself - the instrumentation of guitar, sax and drums is not your ordinary jazz trio format. And then there is the music, many times during the album you get the impression that the guitarist is playing rock, the drummer jazz and the saxophonist is getting downright funky - and then they switch genres and the drummer is funky, the sax funky and the axe jazzy. And so forth. In other words trying to categorise this band is going to be a hard one. The Odd Trio are: Brian Smith on guitar, Marc Gilley - sax, and Todd Mueller - drums. The twelve tracks on the album are all written by the band and, boy, are they a showcase for the musical chops being pounded here. Imagine a band with Jeff Beck, Charlie Parker and Ginger Baker - that would be one hell of a trio, well these are the bastard [in a positive way] offspring of that union. You really don't know what to expect when playing this album - there is a lot of fire and brimstone coming out of the speakers, but at the same time you could also get down with some of the grooves being created. The twelve tracks are: Raucous Bacchus, Persephone's Pomegranate, Pasiphae's Wild Ride, Birth of the Minotaur, Perseus (5-7-8), Deckard's Dream, Information Fatigue, Sunday Morning Improvisation, Ricio De Mare, Whiskey, Sleeping Ariadne, Raucous Bacchus (Coda). As you will see from the titles several are inspired by Greek mythology, and the first four tracks are linked together as a sort of Prog-Jazz symphony. Sea Urchins, Blade Runner and Tequila are also unlikely influences on these tracks. Birth Of The Minotaur blazes a bright trail, and I'm not sure if I like the music yet but it is damned impressive and coruscating in its execution. And I recommend it to those who like listening on the dangerous side.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.oddtrio.com
This is the debut album by a new American jazz band, Manner Effect. It is quite an impressive package, an audio CD and DVD containing a thirty minute documentary and a collection of videos of live performances. Their mix of modern jazz, soul, r'n'b and rock is highly singular to the band, and could be groundbreaking. The majority of the material on the album has been written by the band, individually and collectively, plus a choice selection of covers of songs by Michael Jackson, Antonio Carlos Jobin, and Chick Corea. There is a strong New York sensibility to the music, of experimentation and of a melting pot of styles being explored. With thirteen tracks on the CD there is plenty of variation, and vocalist Sarah Elizabeth Charles' version of Jackson's Earth Song certainly brings out the emotional heft of his lyric that was somewhat obscured by his own overwrought recording. The rest of Manner Effect are: Caleb Curtis - saxes/flute, Logan Evan Thomas - keyboards, PJ Roberts - basses/guitars, Josh Davis - drums/percussion. Watching the documentary on the DVD you get the impression that the band members are a product of New York's diversity, and that their respective talents only shone when they came together. Manner Effect are an impressive band, but it remains to be seen if they can break out of New York and embrace the world stage. For what it's worth I think they can.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.mannereffect.com
Tim Carey is a Seattle-based bassist and composer and I think this is his debut solo album. Containing ten tracks, all written by Mr Carey, the music on Room 114 has a strong Latin feel to it, along with very likeable smooth and melodic tendencies. His music has been likened to that of guitarist Pat Metheny, which I guess is a pretty good analogy. They both tend to occupy that musical zone where Jazz and Pop meet. All the music on the album is instrumental, and Mr Carey has surrounded himself with a number of very good musicians. These are: Brendan Odonnell - guitar, Eric Verlinde - keyboards, Jeff 'Bongo' Busch and Tarik Abouzied - drums. These musicians add the melodic muscle to Mr Carey's music, with his supple and melodically inventive performances to the fore. While this is all new music it sits easy on the ear, unlike some modern jazz that I receive, and I can see this music appealing to listeners who perhaps would run a mile away from a lot of jazz. The Latin rhythms certainly help in this. The ten track titles are: Waiting For One, Bass Baiao, Lead The Way, Ohio Beach, Frog Dance, Room 114, Wilmington, Catch Up, Honey Bee Dance, Chico. Room 114 is an impressive and exceptionally listenable album of new Jazz music - it should please any smooth Jazz fan and it is a great musical calling card for Tim Carey.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.timcareymusic.com
This is the second Bruce Kaphan album I have received for review and as with Hybrid [click here for review] trying to find an easy way to describe the music on this album isn't to be easy. Mr Kaphan plays the pedal steel guitar, not an instrument normally associated with jazz - country music, of course, but little used in jazz. Then again, to call Bruce Kaphan Quartet [BKQ] simply jazz does it and the musicians a disservice - the album simply veers across musical genre's like an out of control ice skater. Jazz may be the basis but pop, rock, and country are all in there, even ambient, as evidenced on the opening track Aether. There is always something otherworldly about the sound of the pedal steel, and it is even more so here when filtered through synths and echo boxes. And yet, on Birdland and Jessica it takes on the mantle of a lead guitar and rocks the joint. The band are really tight, laid back on the ballads but swinging hugely on the uptempo material. The BKQ are Jason Lewis - drums/percussion, Jeffrey Wash - fretless electric bass, Bruce Kaphan - pedal steel guitar/synths, John R Burr or Rich Kuhns - piano, John Wiitala - upright acoustic bass. Apart from some well selected covers the rest of the eleven tracks on BKQ were written by Mr Kaphan and/or other members of the band. They are: Aether, Waiting, Been Here Soon, Grapple With The Apple, Iz Isn't, Birdland, What's New, Running With Big Dogs, En Noir Et Blanc, Jessica, Highways Remembered. Bruce Kaphan Quartet is a hugely inventive and beautifully evocative album that should crash through a few musical preconceptions and barriers. Mr Kaphan and his band should be very proud of this album. Highly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.brucekaphan.com
Jazz trios are one of the most common combinations of musicians in that genre - usually consisting of drums, bass and a lead instrument like a piano or sax. However, the trio represented on Swingin' Never Hurt Nobody is an all string one featuring bass, guitar and violin - a logical selection, if you think about it, but the removal of drums from the line-up does lessen the defining rhythm side a bit. Having said that, I found I didn't miss the drums at all after a couple of tracks. Indeed the album swings mightily throughout on most of the tracks. Bassist Ray Parker is the leader of the trio and uses a variety of techniques, including a bow, to make the double bass both a rhythmic and a melodic instrument. Thanks to the guitar of Jon Hart and violin of Russell George there is a strong echo of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli to the sound - and when the trio start flying the music swings as good as anything Count Basie could achieve. Swingin' Never Hurt Nobody has nine tracks, sampling the American and Jazz songbooks, with choice selections from the song books of Charlie Parker, Cole Porter, Hoagie Carmichael, Jobim, Jules Styne, and Gordon Jenkins. The tracks are: Guitar Sammich/Now's The Time, The Best Things In Life Are Free, My Heart Belongs To Daddy, Always, The Nearness Of You, Too Close For Comfort, Zingaro, Just In Time, Goodbye. Ray Parker [and no that isn't the Ghostbusters one!] and his colleagues have created a lovely album of intimate and elegant jazz that should find favour with many. Recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.rayparkerbassplayer.com
This new album by jazz pianist Mike Longo [no stranger to these pages of The Borderland] is something of a hybrid affair - of the dozen tracks half are by his trio while the remainder add a horn section. It makes for a varied and quite fulsome sounding album, with hidden depths and a lot of musical surprises. The jazz is quite muscular when all five musicians are flying, To My Surprise swings hard in places, yet has its tender moments when Mike Longo's piano playing shines through. Though it seems unfair to single out any musician for sole praise - this is a team album and everyone is giving 100% throughout. Five of the twelve tracks are written by Mike Longo, while the rest are drawn from the work of Ray Noble, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock and many others, including guest musician Jimmy Owens. Along with Mr Longo on piano, the other musicians are: Bob Cranshaw - bass, Lewis Nash - drums, Jimmy Owens - trumpet/flugelhorn, Lance Bryant - tenor sax. The track titles are: A Picture Of Dorian Mode, Still Water, New Muse Blues, Limbo, Alone Again, I Hadn't Anyone Til' You, Old Devil Moon, Magic Bluze, To My Surprise, You've Changed, Eye Of The Hurricane, In The Wee Small Hours. To My Surprise is a very good jazz album, placing musicianship ahead of showmanship, so you can appreciate each of the band's contribution. Recommended. Available from Amazon MP3, CD Baby, iTunes and other retailers for download or as a CD.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.jazzbeat.com
I don't think that I have received so many Christmas-themed albums than I have this year  for review. One could say that I am bloated out on the turkey and plum duff already, but it has been a very pleasant surprise to hear how inventive each artist has been in re-imagining the traditional carols and festive songs. Kyle Pederson's album 12.25 is possibly the nearest to straight renditions of these religious and festive songs, and yet his solo piano rearrangements are distinctly different to the hymn book versions. One could say that Mr Pederson has deconstructed the original melodies, added new elements of his own composition and then rebuilt the melodies. While the performances have the smoothness of new age music the new arrangements have a subtle, jazz-like feel to them. And while the carols retain their religious intentions there is a little fun to be had in listening out for the traditional melodies. Recorded in a church in Minnesota, the acoustics favour the Yamaha piano used on these performances, indeed, a little of that state's bleakness seeps into some of the tracks. There are eleven tracks on the CD, and these are titled: O Come O Come Emmanuel, Silent Night, O Come All Ye Faithful, I The Bleak Midwinter, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Infant Holy, Do You Hear What I Hear, Gabriel's Message, O Holy Night, Lo How A Rose, It Came Upon A Midnight Clear. I have to admit to not enjoying Christmas music most of the time, but I found 12.25 an intriguing album which shines a light on the traditional tunes and then buffs them up into something new and interesting. Highly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.kylepederson.com
This is something of a mammoth proposition to listen to - three CDs of near full length content and twenty tracks per CD. That takes some serious commitment by the listener... But it's well worth the investment. What we have here is a world of electronic music possibilities, composer/pianist Ken Elkinson has traded in his usual piano and brought out the synthesisers and created sixty soundscapes of varying lengths and tonalities. Generally mellow, spacious in sonic density and spacious in the sense of being 'out there'. These aren't the expected dissonances or avant-garde screeches of the art house installation, each track has a distinct melody, multi-layered yet not too complex. The first CD contains Volumes One and Two, ten tracks each volume, and here the music is the most simple, basic melodies stretched out into drone like excursions. On the second CD [Volume Three and Four] the melodies are more sophisticated and perhaps the pop sensibility comes to the fore. The final CD [Volume Five and Six] goes even further with the music here being more complex, atmospheric and, yes, spacey. For me the music is reminiscent of 70s era Brian Eno and his discrete albums such as Music For Films and Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks, and the atmospheric Tangerine Dream albums of the same period when they were signed to Virgin Records. The volumes are also subtitled Monday through to Friday, while Volume Six is called Beyond. If you copied these to your MP3 player with each day as a separate folder then they could provide you with a soundtrack for your commuting or just easing the stress out of your system. I can't really single out favourite tracks yet, these are albums that will unravel with each successive play, but there is some wonderful music here and its sonorous charms will repay exploration. The set of three CDs is available as a box set with a glossy booklet or as separate albums and can be ordered from the website below or from iTunes, Amazon and other music distribution websites.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.kenelkinson.com
I have been an enthusiastic listener of 'World' music for many years - from scrabbling around the tuning dial and with my ear glued to the speaker of a short wave radio to today's embarrassment of riches on CD. Arab music is a rich lodestone of influences and cultural history - one of our cradles of ancient civilisation - so this new album by Egyptian violinist Riad Abdel-Gawad is most welcome as this music is under-represented in my collection. As one can infer from the title, Egypt: Mother of the World, is new music composed and performed in the traditional style, no modern electric instruments or studio trickery allowed. So here you will experience the sound of the riqq, bongos, duff, qanun, oud, nay, ragab, contrabass and violin. There are fifteen tracks, all written by Riad Abdel-Gawad and performed by his Middle Eastern ensemble of six musicians, led by Mr Abdel-Gawad's violin. The composer claims that he is also influenced by western music from Joseph Haydn to John Coltrane, but I can't really hear that. The music is 100% Middle Eastern to me. The wonderful track titles conjure up strong imagery: Saltanah, Minarets and Domes, "...Upon the Banks of the Nile", Egyptian Bazaar, Waterwheel and many more. There is a lot of cheap tourist musical tat knocking around but Egypt... isn't one of them - this is the real deal, rich in musical colour and equally vibrant in creating a vision of the country in your mind while listening to the CD. I've been playing this album quite a bit and it doesn't tire, its lively melodies and rhythms perking up these jaded ears - highly recommended and most definitely one of my albums of 2010. If you enjoy traditional music from other parts of the world just buy this and enjoy!
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: ww.musicariad.com
This the debut album of actress and singer Annie Kozuch, and she has produced one of the best jazz and Latin primers I have ever heard. Here With You is so assured and full of confidence and the selection of songs so well done that this is one of the best listening experiences I've had in a long time. It also goes without saying that she has one of the most pleasing soprano voices I have heard in a long time. Furthermore it impresses that she switches so ably between the English, Spanish and Portuguese languages throughout the album. As you would expect the musicianship of those supporting her on this album is exemplary and they are: Frank Ponzio - piano, Saadi Zain - bass, Vito Lesczak - drums, Samuel Torres - percussion, Richard Padron - guitar, Cecilia Tenconi - flute/sax, and Jose Gallegos - electric piano. The eleven tracks on the CD range from the Brazilian 'Tropicalia' of Antonio Carlos Jobim to the Broadway songbook of Irving Berlin. The full set of titles are: Chega De Saudade, I Love Being Here With You, How Deep Is The Ocean, Corcovado/Quiet Nights, You've Changed, I'm Through With Love, Nosotros, Carinhoso, You're Getting To Be A Habit With Me, Who Can I Turn To and Somos Novios. Here With You is simply one of those albums that exudes quality throughout and you can't help wonder where such a vocalist has been. This album deserves to played strongly on the album and picked up by one of the major record labels. Highly Recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.anniekozuch.com
Say what you will about the music of Paul Avgerinos he is a prolific chap, producing a new album every year. Law of Attraction is his new release, and it is a resonant affair, very lush and romantic in feel, mixing eastern instrumentation and rhythms. And then there are his trademark multi-tracked voices which provide a near choral accompaniment to the music. This is very 'new age' of course, and it has a foot in the world music camp as well, which broadens out the appeal. The album contains ten tracks: The Vortex, Ask and it is Given, Follow Your Passion, Gently My Love, Seek Relief, Art of Allowing, Law of Attraction, Endless Expansion, Choose a Better Feeling, and Joy of Alignment. To those readers unfamiliar with Mr Avgerinos music expect to hear music that is unrushed, mellow in the extreme, full of lush detail, extremely romantic and with a mission to soothe and heal the troubled soul. I'm a bit of a sceptic about the latter, but I can't fault the music and the fact that it does bring a calmness to the listener. Mr Avgerinos is a multi-instrumentalist and plays a lot of what you hear, but there are a number of specialist musicians on this album and they add to the exotic nature of the music. Bottom line is that Law of Attraction is a very fine, listenable album that won't raise the blood pressure and may indeed lower it when you play the CD. If you need some peace in your life then I recommend this album to aid you in that quest.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.roundskymusic.com
From this remote point in time it is interesting to see how the traditional music of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland has spread across the world over the last few centuries and been absorbed and adapted in turn by generations of immigrants and settlers. I make this point because on listening to the new album by multi-instrumentalist Bill Leslie I couldn't but feel that I was listening to the sound and style of traditional folk music from Great Britain and Ireland in particular. Simple Beauty contains fourteen tracks of beguiling and gently mesmerising instrumental music that could easily claim a home in Ireland. Mind you, some of the track titles tend to give the game away: Chreagain, Calum Sgaire, Maid of Coolmore and Coinleach Glas an Fhomhair. Thankfully, it eschews that touristy Riverdance sound and is just naturally charming. I guess Simple Beauty will be marketed as 'New Age' in the shops but I think the quality of the music itself ranks it higher than that. Accompanied by six very fine musicians Mr Leslie has crafted this music carefully until it shines brightly. While there is no vocal accompaniment, I think that if you enjoy the music of Clannad and Enya then you may like this - it isn't as glossy or multi-layered as the previously mentioned artists but, in the main, Simple Beauty has that same ocean spanning Celtic connection. I really enjoyed this album for its musicality and for the quality of the musicianship.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.billleslie.com
This is an album for all you sophisticates out there who love jazz in the cool style. Elisabeth Lohninger is an Austrian songwriter and singer with a very composed and detached style of phrasing, one of those voices that seem outside of time. Her new album, Songs of Love & Destruction - lovely ironic title, that - is a collection of twelve songs revealing that love isn't all heart shaped boxes of chocolates and bunches of roses. Ms Lohninger has included three of her own songs [Si Me Quieres, Away And Away Again, and A Little Bit Tricky], while the rest include songs by Joni Mitchell [River], K.D.Lang [Save Me], Lennon & McCartney [Here, There & Everywhere], Cy Coleman [With Every Breath I Take], Sammy Cahn/Jules Styne [I Fall In Love Too Easily], and several others. Ms Lohninger's glowing alto voice is served well by a tight rhythm section of Bruce Barth on piano, Evan Gregor on bass, and Jordan Perlson on drums - with guest musicians Ingrid Jensen on trumpet and flugelhorn, Christian Howes on violin and Donny McCaslin on sax adding their magic on various tracks. Songs... reminds me of those classic jazz albums from the 50's and 60's, on Capitol or Blue Note, they were so drenched in cool that they hovered between jazz and quality pop in equal measure. And likewise Ms Lohninger's voice sits somewhere between Julie London and Dianne Krall. I think Songs of Love & Destruction is one of the finest jazz albums I've heard in a long time, and Ms Lohninger just has one of the dreamiest voices known to Man - she could sing the phone book and still make it edgy and sexy! This album is highly recommended and one of the best vocal albums I've heard in some time.
This album caught my eye when it arrived as the musician/composer Steven C [Anderson] is accompanied by the London Symphony Strings and recorded at the legendary Abbey Road studios. Now, this is quite classy, these are the string musicians drawn from the various symphony orchestras based in London. In other words, these guys ain't cheap and neither is the recording studio, so this album has had quite a budget spent on it. So what is it like? Well, perfectly pleasant - 'new age'-style piano-led compositions with a strong romantic theme, quite lush sounding considering the rich orchestral backing. There are fifteen tracks altogether on the CD - personally, I would class the album more as 'easy listening' or 'lounge' and it offers similar pleasures to that found on the old albums by Mantovani, Nelson Riddle, and Percy Faith. The music is smooth, glowing with a serious musicality [enhanced by some of the best orchestral musicians in the world], definitely several levels above the usual elevator music style of 'new age'. Track titles include: My Angel, Embraced, Heartstrings in F#, Chloe, Heaven Bound, First Light, Grace, Sundown, Gift of an Angel, Too Many Hats, Over The Moon, Mistress Music, Romance, Opus Derian, and Wedding Day White. Steven C's music is quite mellifluous, gently soothing and massaging the brain cells, easing daily stress and bringing some relief from the daily grind. This isn't an album to change the world but it will help calm your internal one if you allow it.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.stevencmusic.com
This is one of those albums for taking time out to recharge the batteries and finding some inner peace. Ann Licater is a flautist, specialising in Native American and other ethnic types of flute, rather than the concert flute used in classical music. Her new album Doorway to a Dream is full of timeless spaces, a haunting melancholic sound inhabited by her flutes and minimal backing instruments - indeed some tracks are simply wind chimes and the flute, single or multi-tracked. The album contains fourteen tracks of varying length - I found the longer tracks more satisfying, the music has more time to become something tangible in the memory. As you would expect the track titles are evocative of their intentions: Doorway to a Dream, Shades of Light, Into the Heart, Wind & Butterfly II, Xiao Garden, Angel Bird and the like. The overall sound is warm and involving, thanks to the first class engineering. I hope Ms Licater won't be insulted by this but I found this album a great help in fighting my insomnia, the simple melodies and uncluttered sound helped me get to sleep on several nights. It is certainly a very relaxing new age album and if you have a taste for Native American style music then I don't think you will anything better to listen to.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.annlicater.com
The paradise lost in the title of this album was that of the American Indian tribes once European settlers arrived on the east coast of the continent and spread inexorably westwards. After reading this in the sleevenotes I was expecting the usual ethnic rhythms and chants to be part of the music but it came as a pleasant surprise to find that Michael Stribling's new album, Paradise Lost, is in fact more in the ambient/electronica style, and I suppose the 'new age' tribes will also claim it. To my mind it has more of a Vangelis cinematic synth-orchestral feel to it - full of widescreen sound vistas, multi-layered synths creating mind pictures of the great plains and the pastoral lifestyle of the tribes before the invasion. Perhaps there is even a hint of Tangerine Dream in the more rhythmic tracks. The ethnic sounds that you would expect to hear are largely missing but the music still subtly hints at American Indian original music throughout. There are a dozen tracks which depict the life before the invasion, the struggle for freedom during it and the aftermath. Rather than being overly dramatic the music is more reflective and played as a whole is almost symphonic or more like a tone poem to one of history's most tragic episodes. Michael Stribling is a master composer and musician and this albums pacts a powerful emotional resonance without utilising the usual clichés when depicting the ethnic peoples of America. As well as being a damn good listen I think Paradise Lost is an excellent album and deserves to be heard widely. For me, easily one of the albums of the year on The Borderland.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.leela-music.com
Most music in the popular spectrum is of a frivolous nature, simply there to entertain us and be forgotten soon afterwards. This album, Longing For Home: Songs From War by composer/pianist Peter Jennison, has a more important function. It is a musical representation a soldier's life during and after service in Iraq. During the first Iraq conflict Mr Jennison was an army captain and MEDEVAC pilot and probably endured enough traumatic experiences to last a lifetime. In turn he has turned these memories into an album of music that he hopes will show the listener both the horrors of the war and the effects it had on the soldiers. This music is also intended to act as therapy for the returned soldiers and their families. Produced by William Ackerman, these ten tracks are surprisingly mellow, with few intimations of the violence and horror most soldiers experienced at some time in their service. Essentially just piano but with occasional violin, cello and gentle rhythm accompaniment, the album is a melodic tonic that I would imagine will soothe the mental anguish some ex-soldiers will have experienced. I can't say with certainty how effective Longing For Home will be - I suspect that whatever results it has will be personal to each listener. But at least someone is addressing the effects of war and violence on the human psyche and trying in a small way to offer some solace. In musical terms this a perfectly acceptable collection of new age-type melodies, played with self-effacing empathy. Even if you have not served in the military this album may help reduce your stress levels and offer some peace of mind. Available from all the usual online sources: i-tunes, Amazon, CD Baby etc..
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.peterjennisonmusic.com
It is seldom that one comes across an album that has academic and social awareness along with its musicality. That is the case with saxophonist Howard Wiley's new album, 12 Gates To The City. In fact this album is a rare creature indeed, a jazz concept album. Mr Wiley and his associates visited the infamous Angola penitentiary in Louisiana to meet the prisoners and see the conditions there. It is a sad fact that the prison population is largely black, as it is with most American prisons. The result is this album of blues and jazz, led by Mr Wiley and his band but featuring musicians and singers from the prison population. The emotional resonance is extremely high, especially on the more blues-led tracks - there is little hope or future for black people in the American prison system. Musically, this album is very strong with emotional music throughout, the blues moans by the female vocalists are very evocative and emotionally draining. I have to admit that from the listening viewpoint of being a white, British listener, the strength of this album is not as it would be if I was a black American. But I appreciate its strength of purpose and power of the music to try and right a wrong that is universal throughout America. The album contains thirteen tracks, some of them mixing in field recordings from the prison in amongst the studio-recorded music. Music, these days, seldom moves people to activism - the wave of musical activism during the Live 8 concerts did little to alleviate third world debt despite all the sweet words of the politicians, and I fear that 12 Gates To The City will have an uphill struggle to make an impact. But it is an album that should be heard.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.howardwiley.com
I don't seem to receive many rock albums for review so this new album by guitarist Robert Branch is most welcome. This is the real stuff, the classic rock trio format, and if you are a fan of Jeff Beck, Joe Satriani and Hendrix [naturally] you are going to love this. Ten tracks of scorching electric axe wielding, full frontal jazz-fusion-prog-rock pyrotechnics. The rest of the trio are David Gonzalez on bass and Tim Zhorne on drums - both of whom keep up with their leader admirably. I said searing guitar work and that is correct for most of the tracks, but a listen to the track Letting Go and its gentler vibe and you soon realise that Mr Branch can do delicate and melodic along with the full throttle music. The ten tracks are: Courage To be, North of Center, Letting Go, Rhythm Schism, Exodus of Discipline, The Veil Within, Ne'er Do Well, Backyard Hallucination, Delirium, Lullaby For D. I assume there are no overdubs or multi-layered tracks, if so then Mr Branch's fingers are distinctly magical [and bloody nimble!]. This is a first class showcase for this guitarist and his band and I can see the guitar magazines going wild for this album when they review it. So get in there first and check out any sample tracks on the website and buy the album ASAP.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.robertbranchmusic.com
This is the debut album of multi-instrumentalist Henry Darragh [he plays piano, trombone and sings on the album]. Mr Darragh hails from Texas but eschews the Texan blues and jazz sound for something a bit more sophisticated. In contemporary terms if you like British jazz pianist and singer Jamie Cullum then you should enjoy this album, but I found that Mr Darragh's voice has more in common with the lost wistfulness of the late Chet Baker and that of rock guitarist Nils Lofgren. There are eleven tracks, six of them written by Mr Darragh, and he is supported by some very good musicians indeed - they are Seth Paynter on tenor sax, Carol Morgan on trumpet, Erin Wright on guitar and bass, Glenn Ackerman on bass, and Chuck Payne on drums. The album opens with Hey There, a fey, laid-back slice of romantic pop. The same goes for Everything Happens To Me and Once In A While, and then the band start blowing out a bit on Early. This is quite a promising pop-jazz album, light enough for easy listening but also muscular enough on some of the tracks to lay down its jazz credentials. I was very impressed with both Mr Darragh's music and his vocals - his voice may be a little lightweight but it is melodic and tuneful, and conveys emotions very well. I think that Tell Her For Me is a very fine album for a debut and I hope it sells well so that a second one will follow very soon.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.henrydarragh.com
(Blue Bamboo Music BBM016)
Here we have a jazz album which is having fun with the genre and its stylings. The Glennious Inner Planet is a jazz-funk-fusion workout with some sci-fi overtones - influences of Miles Davis, Weather Report, Sun Ra, French prog rock guitarist Jean Pascal Boffo and French prog band BAG are obvious to me, but I'm sure other listeners will find more. It is a lively album, opening with the rambunctious Blue Rondo a la Raad, a variation on Dave Brubeck's Blue Rondo a la Turk. While some of the music on the album is experimental and avant-garde it isn't too way out, there is always a jet propellant rhythm moving things on. The Glennious Inner Planet consists of five plus musicians led by bassist Glenn Akkerman, the rest are: Joel Fulgum and JD Guzman - drums on various tracks, Paul Chester and Chris Cortez - guitar on various tracks, Ted Wenglinski - keyboards, and Woody Witt - clarinet and saxes. A small group but making enough noise to sound like a dozen. Some of the track titles have an evocative charm all their own: There Is A Drop Of Roppongi On My Shorts, The Thing And The Thing That Makes The Thing The Thing, The Angel Of The Odd, Potato Wagon, 4 Is A Feeling and many more. Sometimes you get little mind movies happening in your head when listening to music and with this album I was flashing on some of those old 50s Loony Toons cartoons where the drawing style was all angular and minimalistic. Music can do the weirdest s*** to your head! Anyway, even after several plays I'm still not sure if I like this album or not - but I am still listening, which I think puts me halfway there. I think if you like exploring adventuresome music then The Glennious Inner Planet may well be the album you are seeking.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.bluebamboomusic.com