|Updated: 7/02/14 | © 1999 - 2014 Cool Bunny Media | Da Cool Bunny sez 'Spank that Plank, Baby!'|
Laura McMillan is a pianist/composer working in the New Age field, and Linger Longer, which can become a tongue twister if repeated several times quickly, is her second album. Ms McMillan is also a music teacher and that has partially inspired this album - the theme is taking the time to take pleasure in the moment, whether listening to [and performing] music or viewing a place of beauty. The music has a certain theatricality to it, a hint of classical structure and melodic theme. This isn't jazz, but instrumental music of a high order. The heft of the music here is emotion and mood, for Ms McMillan it is a remembrance of visiting Cape Cod with her mother and the happy times they shared there - for the listener they should substitute their own happy memories and then use this album to trigger them. The album contains a dozen tracks: The Window, December 12th, Twirling, With All My Heart, Empty, Dear Heaven, Linger Longer, Letting Go, Without You, Wings, July Lullaby, Raspberry Rain. In many ways the music is quite dramatic, Ms McMillan is a forceful performer, utilising the full range of the keyboard and its pedals to enhance the drama of the music. In other words Linger Longer is no snoozefest to relax to but demands the listeners' full attention. This album is well recorded, with the piano superbly miked and mixed - the sound is warm and full. A credit to the unaccredited sound engineer. Highly recommended to piano fanciers.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.perhapspiano.com
With pop and rock music being in something of a humdrum hiatus over recent years it is refreshing to see that within the jazz movement there is a continuing stream of new and exciting talent emerging every year. Trumpeter Josh Rzepka is one such musician and Into The Night is, I think, his second album as a bandleader. It is, to be fair, a very listenable album, with many fine original compositions by Mr Rzepka. He is also no mean hand on the trumpet and flugelhorn - his solos are concise and lucid and not over-padded. As with some other recent jazz albums received here at The Borderland, the musicians eschew the more overused hard blowing, sky-scraping theatricals of their predecessors and use the dynamics and interplay between musicians and their instruments to create more mood inspiring music that doesn't require the volume being turned down. In the case of Mr Rzepka and his sextet the addition of latin rhythms to many of the tunes enhances their impact immensely. The band are Josh Rzepka - trumpet/flugelhorn, Andy Hunter - trombone, Steve Kortyka - saxes, Jackie Warren - piano, Peter Dominguez - bass, Ron Godale - drums. Into The Night contains nine tracks and their titles are: Into The Night, Twenty-Five, Stasis, Salsa Queen, Blues For CT, When I'm With You, Sarah's Samba, Liam's Leaving, Con T. I think Into The Night is a marvellously approachable album for anyone who enjoys good music, the subtle interplay and good humour shines through all the way through this album and I defy any non-jazz fan not to find something that they will like. Highly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.joshrzepka.com
There are moments when a new CD starts to play and you just know that you are listening to something special. That was the case when I popped multi-instrumentalist Jose Luis Serrano Esteban's album A New Horizon onto the stereo. The album contains sixteen tracks, all instrumental, focussed on Ms Esteban's lyrical guitar playing. What came as a surprise while listening to the album was how much his electric guitar playing sounded so similar in style to that of Mike Oldfield. The music is not quite so rock-orientated as that of Oldfield's, but the clarity of tone, the sheer musicality is very similar. That apart, this is a wonderful album, a mix of acoustic and electric and electronica with dashes of Spanish flavourings and perhaps a hint of Balearic zest. Mr Esteban plays guitars, synths, keyboards, and percussion - other musicians involved on the album are: Santiago Puente - clarinet, Nuria Felix and Elisa Mon - violins, Covadonga Serrano - piano, Maria Gloria Esteban and Carlos Calvo - flutes, Nacho Serrano - 12 string guitar and bass guitar, Cristobal Caballero - double bass. Mr Esteban's ten month old daughter makes her vocal debut on the opening track Carmen (The Victory Of Life). A New Horizon was originally released a year or so ago, but this special edition re-release includes two extra tracks, so much better value for money. I really enjoyed this album, the mix of gentle melodies and plangent electric guitar over slightly exotic soundscapes was continually interesting. If you are a Mike Oldfield or Gordon Giltrap fan then I strongly urge you to check out Jose Luis Serrano Esteban.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: http://jlsemusic.com
This is the third album by guitarist/composer Joseph Sullinger, and while I don't have the previous albums to compare it to, I think it is safe to say that they would have to be very special indeed to be better than Earth Voyage. With musicians from the Mexico City Philharmonic Orchestra backing him, Mr Sullinger has created an album of gentle Latin American-inflected World Fusion instrumental music that offer some very mellifluous soundscapes. We may be voyaging out to sea on this music but the ocean is as flat as a mill pond - no 'perfect storm' here. Mr Sullinger's guitar playing is wonderfully melodic and romantic-sounding. The term 'nimble fingers' has never been more appropriate... The ten tracks may only last thirty-eight odd minutes but that is long enough to be lost in a world of music that just allows the listener to sink down into its ambience and relax. The track titles are: Drawn By The Wind, Voyage, Escape, Ships At Sea, Sailing [NOT the Rod Stewart version], Another World, New Shores, High Tide, Sands Of Time, The Ocean. With Mr Sullinger playing all the guitar and bass parts, alongside Melodeon and percussion, the rest of the musicians involved are: Adrienne Galfi - violin, Dwight Sullinger - tuba, Axel Ruiz - keyboards, Timi Sullinger - vocals, Tom Sullinger - keyboards, Guillermo Ruiz and Eric Darken - percussion, Greg Morrow and Chris McHugh - drums. Earth Voyage is a lovely album, it eschews the glitz and glamour of many modern albums and concentrates on melody and the sound of that wonderful guitar. Highly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.josephsullinger.com
Guitarist John Stein's albums are no stranger to The Borderland, and it has been some time since his last one, so welcome anticipation after his new album Hi Fly came through the letter box. John Stein plays jazz, a rather nimble version with latin nuances mixed in with some swing and a little bop. The ten tracks are a mixture of original compositions and a few covers, all performed in an intimate [aka closely miked in the studio] style. His usual trio format has expanded into a quartet for this album, and the added keyboards offer a fuller sound: more swing, more vibrancy. The band are: John Stein - guitars, Jake Sherman - piano/Hammond organ, John Lockwood - acoustic bass, Ze Eduardo Nazario - drums. The ten tracks are: Speak Low, Skippin', Hi Fly, Lazy Afternoon, Laura, Threesome, Plum Stone, Sea Smoke, Love Letters, Funkin' It Up. Mr Stein's playing sounds understated but he leads from the front while leaving enough space for his colleagues to also have the spotlight on a number of succinct but always valid solos. Hi Fly is perhaps not so Latinesque as some of his previous albums, but it is no less listenable for that. The jazz here is quite restrained, but very melodic and the sort of music to relax to with a nice tumbler of single malt. The album is beautifully engineered by Peter Kontrimas - this is going to sound good on your hi-fi or your iPod. All in all Hi Fly is a wonderful album of quality music, with some depth to it that will be discovered on repeated playing. If you are a fan of John Stein already then you won't be disappointed and will probably find much to surprise you - if you have not discovered the guitar of John Stein before then get on board for a very enjoyable experience.
Mozik are pianist Gilson Schachnik and drummer Mauricio Zottarelli, and through one of those strange ironies of fate they only began to play Brazilian music after arriving in Boston from Sao Paulo, Brazil. The reignited passion for their homeland's music has led to this, their debut album - a collection of eight tracks of vibrant, good humoured Brazilian Jazz. With some of the tracks written by these gentlemen and others being covers of tracks by Jazz giants such as Herbie Hancock, Thelonius Monk and Antonio Carlos Jobim, this an album rich in those exotically lush melodies and rhythms. The remaining members of Mozik [for this album at least] are: Yulia Musayelyan - flute, Fernando Heurgo - bass, and Gustavo Assis-Brasil - guitar. The eight track titles are: Web's Samba, A Felicidade, Eye Of The Hurricane, O Amor Em Paz, Pannonica, Zelia, Desafinado, Canto Das Tres Raças. This may be Jazz, but there is a strong vein of pop also running through the album - it is very easy on the ear. You wouldn't know it from listening to this album but some of these musicians didn't meet or play together until the recording dates, which seems phenomenal to these humble ears, as it sounds like they have been playing together for many years. They just sound so connected. It is rare to find an album that just radiates sunshine and good vibes from the first note, but Mozik is one of those rarities and should be embraced and cherished for the upcoming winter months. Highly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.mzdrums.com/ & http://gilsonmusic.com
It isn't many singers who can lose their voice via a vocal chord injury and then, after surgery, become a singer again. That is what happened to Jazz vocalist Shirley Crabbe, and this is her debut album, a testament to the work of the surgeon and her powers of recovery and the resolve to sing again. This is a beautiful sounding voice, rich and lush, full of emotion - you have to applaud Ms Crabbe's determination to recover what she had lost. Home is an album of nine tracks, full of Jazz ballads and romantic songs, all wrapped in the velvet soft tones of Ms Crabbe's voice. The songs writers include: Leonard Bernstein, Sammy Cahn, McCoy Tyner, Oscar Brown, George Gershwin and Stephen Sondheim. The entire album is a paean to the art of the song and you are simply going to fall in love with the voice here. It also helps that Ms Crabbe has a wonderful assortment of musicians supporting her - they are: Jim West and Donald Vega - piano, John Burr - bass, Alvester Garnett - drums, Brandon Lee - trumpet, Dave Glasser - sax and flute, Matt Haviland - trombone, Houston Person - tenor sax. Some of the solos these gentlemen play are understated yet plangent in the extreme. The nine tracks are: Lucky To Be Me, You Taught My Heart To Sing, Home, Seasons, Detour Ahead, Strong Man, Not While I'm Around, So Far Away and Summertime. As American Songbook albums go this is a great one, the selection of songs veering away from the obvious, and fitting into Ms Crabbe's theme of regaining her voice and being back home in the world of music. Shirley Crabbe is a vocalist of rare distinction and deserves to be heard - this album is highly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.shirleycrabbe.com
Multi-instrumentalist and composer Paul Avgerinos is no stranger to The Borderland, we have reviewed at least two, possibly three, of his earlier albums. Mr Avgerinos' music is set at the spiritual end of the new age spectrum and while British cynicism may raise an eyebrow at the overtly colourful descriptions of the nature of the music it is true that the music itself is always highly melodic, technically complex, and emotionally pointed directly at the heart. Bliss is the newest album and continues the spiritual theme but there are some thematic differences to the previous albums. Part of Mr Avgerinos's signature sound is multi-tracked and layered voices for a choral effect, giving a Gregorian Chant sound - these seem to be largely missing from Bliss, and the album is much more of an ambient affair, with slowly shifting drone synths and ethereal percussion creating relaxing soundscapes. In essence Bliss is an album to chill out to, for meditation, or to create a receptive ambience. Essentially, the ten tracks just drift along at their own speed, fading into oblivion at some organically set length. The track titles are: Bliss Is, Contentment, Fertile Soil Of Peace, Flowering Of Grace, Lightness Of Being, The Clear Light, Gate Of Heaven, Spirit's Breath, Waters Of Life, Stillness. If you have the patience for it then Bliss is a good album to have in your collection for those times when you need to channel out the outside world for a while. For those used to Mr Avgerinos's more ornate music this may take a little while to get used to but the impact is worth waiting for.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.roundskymusic.com
Songwriter and vocalist Tan Ping was born in Taiwan, enjoyed a career as a pop singer there in her youth and now lives in the San Francisco area. Paradise is her fourth album, a mixture of pop, jazz, R'n'B and folk, it contains songs reflecting her being a mother, a mature woman and the community around her. In terms of style the album reminds me somewhat of the so-called 'bedsit' albums so popular back in the 70s by artists such as Cat Stevens, Al Stewart, Nick Drake, etc., where the songs were bedded with acoustic backings. The songs also tend towards the New Age genre in style, sentiment and lyrical content. Ms Ping's voice is a pleasant surprise, a feather-light soprano that rises above the instrumentation. Ms Ping is ably supported by a band of six musicians, they are: John R. Barr - piano, Daniel Robbins - bass, Paul Van Wageningen - drums, Scott Sorkin - guitar, Kristin Strom - sax/flute, Michael Spiro - percussion. The album contains eleven tracks, and they are: Paradise, Lullaby, You Are Always With Me, On This Beautiful Planet, Sky Of Shining Colours, You Inspire My Whole World, Sorrow Away, Ten Years From Today, My Prayer, God Is Speaking To Me, If I Do Not Dream. I have to be honest and admit that the album and Ms Ping's voice didn't really connect with me - the lyrics and sentiments will have more resonance with women listeners, I think. An interesting album but one I feel aimed at the female diaspora.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.goodyheart.com
Being given a trumpet at the age of ten set Mike Cottone's future path, and once he discovered Jazz a few years later his musical path was set. With encouragement from his high school music teacher, Daniel McMurray, he pursued a musical education. It has culminated in his debut album, Just Remembered, an album of surprisingly mature compositions and performances. The album is dedicated and inspired by his old high school teacher. Performing with a quintet, Mr Cottone's trumpet and flugehorn cut through the ranks and lead the music throughout, but that isn't to say that his band on the album are merely followers. The cut and thrust of musical competitiveness ensure that everyone is at the top of their game. The rest of the musicians are: Jeremy Viner - tenor sax, Kris Bowers - piano, Paul Sikivie - bass, Jared Schonig and Ulysses Owens Jr - drums. The style is post-bop, the sound muscular, vibrant and sometimes slow and romantic, but there is still time and space for melody within each track, and I think I can discern a hint of Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis lurking within on occasion. The ten track titles are: Just Remembered, Selah [by Kris Bowers], Old Blue, Slow Down, Gyroscope, Sloppin', I'm Sure, When Sunny Gets Blue [by Jack Segal & Marvin Fisher], Dear John [by Freddie Hubbard], Stardust [Hoagy Carmichael, of course] - the rest of the music was composed by Mr Cottone. From the maturity on show in this album I think Mr Cottone is going to make his mark in Jazz, and Just Remembered will be considered more than just a calling card in future years.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.mikecottone.com
(Spice Rack Records SR 101-25)
Jazz trio's led by a woman do not seem to have such a high profile as those led by their male counterparts, and women pianists the same. So it is very welcome to see a trio led by pianist Pamela Hines and featuring a female vocalist, April Hall, a lady with a very bluesy voice indeed. Lucky's Boy is Pamela Hines latest in a series of albums, all featuring her own compositions and exploring the boundaries of the piano. The album contains nine tracks, all written by Ms Hines, and all placed the contemporary Jazz genre, though with some bop, swing and a touch of the blues. Along with Pamela Hines on piano the rest of the trio are: John Lockwood - bass, Les Harris Jr - drums and the already mentioned April Hall - vocals. The nine tracks are: Dreamerman, Where I Started, Lucky's Boy, Moment, Twilight Joy (Winter in New England), Idle Chatter, Welcome Blues, Porter Please, Spectrum. Ms Hines is certainly a versatile and very masterful pianist, making the instrument sing [and perhaps even dance] to the melodies she brings out of those nimble fingertips. I think there may be a little bit of that Oscar Peterson magic there. That aside, Lucky's Boy is a fine album, full of vibrancy, confidence and some bloody good playing by all the musicians, and April Hall is a vocalist I would like to hear more of - her voice is special.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.pamelahines.com
Fourthought is the self-titled debut album by a jazz quartet based in New York. Jointly led by drummer Manuel Weyand and saxophonist Nicholas Biello, along with Cameron Kayne on acoustic bass and Kerong Chok on piano and Fender Rhodes, the four musicians combine diversity and musical influences from their birthplaces of New York, Germany and Singapore. All seven tracks are band compositions by either Nicholas Biello or Manuel Weyand, but all four musicians make their mark during the performances. The music is muscular post-bop Jazz, some of it very gritty and in your face, while in other places the music become dark and surreal, experimental and taking Jazz far into the realms of the cutting edge. The seven tracks are: Laurceny, Rumi-Native, Green Dolphin Street, Intercession, Arrival, A Change Of Heart, Amethyst. The performances are suitably robust, with much subtle interplay and individual egos suppressed to create quite an integrated sound. In a way the music on this album takes the listener out of their comfort zone and into new areas ripe for exploration. Fourthought may not appeal to those who enjoy the music from Jazz's historical past - these musicians are pushing Jazz forward into the future, and with anything considered cutting edge that is a scary place to be at the beginning.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.fourthought.net
The Gathering is a 22 track compilation of new age artists produced by Will Ackerman and drawn from the albums released on his West River Records. As such it is a snapshot of a whole world of new age music that may be difficult to find here in the UK. Mr Ackerman has a reputation for creating and producing quality music and artists in the genre, and this album lives up to expectations. Most of the music on this compilation is acoustic, though a few tracks add synths to the mix, and some artists include ethnic influences in their music. From stark solo piano to lush aural soundscapes, there is a lot of variety showcased across this CD. The artists featured include: Masako, Paul Jenson, Stanton Lanier, Kathryn Kaye, Rudy Perrone, Fiona Joy Hawkins, Jeff Oster, Dean Bolland, Frank Smith, Todd Boston, Rocky Fretz, Shambhu, Kori Linae Carothers, Peter Jennison, Denise Young, Devin Rice & Erin Aas, Lawrence Blatt, Ronnda Cadle, Ann Sweeten, Ken Verhecke, Patrick Gorman, and Will Ackerman. Many of these musicians have had previous albums reviewed separately across the MusicWatch pages here at The Borderland, and I suggest you explore further there. The Gathering is a long album, maximising the full capacity of a CD and I think is for sale at a budget price. If you enjoy acoustic music then this collection is really a no brainer and could lead you on some interesting musical journeys. Highly recommended.
Available from CD Baby as a CD. For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.WestRiverRecords.com
Subtitled "Brainwave synchronization for meditation and healing", you know at once that this is music for the spiritually minded. But is it? Now I am not casting aspersions on the health benefits of music, but being a phlegmatic Englishman I do tend to take these claims with a pinch of salt - but I leave that to you the listener to say if New Age music is beneficially healthful. The sleevenotes are full of stuff about brainwave synchronisation at 8 hertz a second creating harmonic doodads within your mind and body. What I can tell you is that Deep Alpha is a very fine electronica album of dreamlike, ambient, floaty toasty music - think Vangelis and his Blade Runner soundtrack, especially the music depicting the rain slick city at night, the monolithic lit buildings and the police spinners flying over the cityscape. I could also cite the eastern mysticism of Kitaro's music and perhaps a bit of Brian Eno's ambient albums. These images come to mind time and again while listening to this album and I don't find that a bad thing. Frames of reference help accept new music. The album contains fourteen tracks, simply called Deep Alpha 8 Hz (Pt 1 - Pt 14), performed on a Rhodes Mk 7 electric piano by Mr Halpern, plus guest musicians Paul McCandless - oboe and Michael Manring - fretless bass on assorted tracks. The Rhodes has a distinctively timeless sound, far removed from the acoustic piano and offering a cosmic spaciousness that is very appealing. Deep Alpha sales may be hindered by its focus on the inner mind and health - it also should be repackaged for the electronica and ambient markets where it is sure to find a welcome. Highly 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.stevenhalpern.com
Uwe Gronau is no stranger to The Borderland, his epic double album Midsummer was one of my favourites of 2011. In 2012 he has released Time Rider, a single album this time, but again a magic mixture of instrumentals and songs. He has one of those whispery voices, which adds some mystery and whistfulness to the songs. With twenty tracks and a playing time of 75 minutes, this makes for a very varied album - the music ranges from gentle piano pieces to electronica and funky rock, plus a bit of new age-ish smoothness here and there. I love it. Oh, and on tracks like Jardin Exotique you will think you are listening to the Pink Floyd's late Richard Wright. While Mr Gronau wrote all the music, the lyrics were written by Michael Höing or Ursula Goldstein. I think Mr Gronau also played most of the instruments [especially the various keyboards and synths] but the following musicians also play on the album: Wolfgang Demming and Martin Brom - guitars, Angelique Damschen - vocals, Andy Kohlmann - percussion. The twenty tracks are: Talking Keys And Congas, Sweet Memory, Novel Scene, Night Tune, Searching For The Truth, Jardin Exotique, Far In The East, Oriental Journey, A Fairy's Advice, Inner Face, Flotsam & Jetsam, Caged, In Silence, Time Is A Sound, Time Rider, Calena, Far In The East, Remarks You Made, Interlude, I'm At Home. For those looking for that special album to test out their new hi-fi then look no farther, Time Rider is very well produced and engineered and will sound excellent on those new speakers you have just bought. Highly Recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.uwe-gronau.de
With the Christmas and new year celebrations now over the body and soul is plain knackered after all that partying and overindulging - and direly in need of some spiritual TLC to survive the rigours of the remaining wintertime. This is the time to give the party CDs the elbow and dig out some music of a more reflective bent for relaxation and meditation. You couldn't really do much better than get yourself a copy of Peaceful Journey by composer/keyboard player Tron Syversen. This is Norwegian New Age music - feel the fjords and the ice-flows... In reality what we have here is a collection of nine instrumentals, many with very ethereal wordless vocal accompaniment. The music is gentle and extremely melodic, very reflective and soothing. Probably just right for that post hangover downtime. Thanks to a number of extra musicians and some orchestral synth pads the sound is quite rich, extremely spacious, really. The other musicians are: Elin Løkken - vocals, Sunniva Bergsaune/Åse Haga/Lise Sørensen - violins, Glenn Kristiansen/Rolf Kristensen/Jørn Takla - guitars, Per Elias Drabløs - bass, Henryk Eurenius - English horn, Randi Krogvold Lundquist - flute, Sije Katrine Gotaas - cello. The nine tracks titles are: Silent Dream, Rivers, The Beginning, Amorous, Nearness, Lullaby To Love, Your Dream, My Love, Longing. As with all new age stuff the music meanders gently along, rather than gallop, and most tracks are long enough for the listener to appreciate the musicianship as he drifts off to a meditative state. Very pleasant album, one that I am finding myself returning to often after a strategic withdrawal from the local supermarket!
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.tronmusic.com
Not sure if it is my imagination but Michael Brant DeMaria's new album, Bindu, seems to have a sparser, more open sound than his previous albums. Straddling the New Age/World Music marketing spectrum, Bindu seems to be rooted somewhere between the ethnic sounds of the native American Indian, the Australian Aborigine and the Indian subcontinent. Bindu is a Sanskrit word used to describe the moment of creation, in both the physical and personal sense of the word, and the music on this album is intended for healing one's spirit. So while the music is spiritual it also has a strong ethnic sound which will appeal to those whose musical tastes travel the world. Mr DeMaria composed all ten tracks and played every instrument you can hear. The music is peaceful rather than downbeat, quite ethereal at times, restful and soothing - the sound is lush yet it drifts dreamlike through a number of different soundscapes. Bindu is no party album but perhaps the album to play AFTER the party when you need to come back down to Planet Earth. The Ten Tracks are: The Way Beyond, Journey Within, Anahata, Twilight, Other Side Of Silence, Journey To Nowhere, Timeless Dawn, Bindu, Tripura Sundari, Turiya. Bindu is a bit of a slow burner of an album - you will find it's charms unfolding slowly on repeated listening, and that is arguably where the magic lies. Highly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.ontosmusic.com
For those who like hard hitting Jazz, with spikiness and power reserves matching the USS Enterprise then I commend Sound Stories to you. A quintet led by composer/trombonist Marshall Gilkes, Sound Stories is an in-your-face experience with all five musicians competing for space. In terms of style I guess this a mix of post bop and a dash of swing. All eleven tracks are written by Mr Gilkes and they certainly explore the dynamics of the trombone and its relationship to the other instruments. The rest of the band are: Donny McCaslin - tenor sax, Adam Birnbaum - piano, Yasushi Nakamura, bass, Eric Doob - drums. Mr Gilkes believes in allowing his music to breath, so many of the tracks on this album range from five to ten minutes in length - plenty of time for all the musicians to explore and solo. The eleven tracks are: Presence Pt 1, Presence Pt 2, Anxiety Pt 1, Anxiety Pt 2, Downtime, Slashes, Bare, Armstrong Pt 1, Armstrong Pt 2, First Song, Thruway. This is Marshal Gilkes third album as bandleader and composer, and it is very impressive stuff. There is a stark clarity of purpose to the music and he allows space for all of his musicians to make their contribution and have it felt. Sound Stories certainly shows that the state of modern jazz is good, that there are new composers and musicians coming through to replace those who have gone to the great gig in the sky.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.marshallgilkes.com
I have always found something warm-hearted about the sound of the vibraphone. Its mellowness of tone stands out against the bluster of the sax and trumpet and always sounds far more sociable and good humoured. The L.A. Sessions pretty much confirms that view, and vibist [is that the right term?] Mark Sherman exudes good time bonhomie throughout his album, plus some very tasty performances. The album consists of nine classics from the bebop section of the American Jazz Book, plus three alternate takes, so a dozen tracks altogether by jazz greats such as Dizzie Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, John Coltrane, Milt Jackson, Miles Davis, plus Mr Sherman proves he can write as well as he can perform. Supported by a superb trio of musicians who met for the first time at these recording sessions, they are: Bill Cunliffe - Hammond B3, John Chiodini - guitar, Charles Ruggiero - drums. The dozen tracks are: Woody'n'You*, Quasimodo*, It Could Happen To You, Celia*, Far Away, Whisper Not, Moment's Notice, Bag's Groove, Serpent's Tooth - titles marked with an * include the alternate takes. The L.A. Sessions is a swinging, upbeat album, it has its mellower moments, but always the inventive musicianship of all four musicians is at the forefront of the sound. And that brings me onto the sound of the album - it is warm and intimate, wrapping around the listener like a lush duvet. Kudos to the audio engineer and producer - this albums is going to sound so good on your hi fi and your iPod. Highly recommended.
For those of a grotesque bent, the name of the band on this album refers to a medical condition left after a patient has recovered from Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Coincidentally this is the illness that brought drummer and bandleader Rick Drumm and his friends together and created the music for Return From The Unknown. It is often said that music is a healing force and that is the case here when these musicians rallied around Mr Drumm and supported his fight against this cancer. So onto the music, well, it is jazz, obviously, with its roots in the early days of Fusion: Weather Report, Miles Davis and The Crusaders. It ranges from the atmospheric and almost ambient to places where the twin guitar line-up get downright funky. The album is a compilation of moods and vibes, mostly upbeat, with the compositional credits split between the two guitarists in the band. And I have to say that a band formed from rallying around a friend fallen onto bad times is a wondrous thing. Tight as can be, the musicians bring considerable musicality to these nine tracks. The band are: Rick Drumm - drums, Fred Hamilton - guitar, Corey Christiansen - guitar, John Benitez - bass, Axel Tosca Laugart - piano, Frank Catalano - sax, Mike Brumbaugh - trombone, Pete Grimaldi - trumpet. The nine track titles are: Fatty Necrosis Sings The Blues, Gentle Spirit, Indi Funk, Not Whatever, Detours, Pulled Pork Sandwich, Out The Door, Just A Drop, Return. For me the gentle and soulful Not Whatever is the best track on the album, but Return From The Unknown has several more tracks that will stay in the head long after the CD has finished. Note that 25% of the CD's proceeds is being donated toward www.strikeachordforchildren.org/ a charity that provides musical instruments and music lessons for children with life threatening illnesses. Highly recommended - buy this album and do some good at the same time.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.rickdrumm.com
The Calling, by pianist Romain Collin, is a cut above the usual jazz trio format - even though most of the album is performed with a trio Mr Collin uses programming techniques to layer extra textures to make the music more involving for the listener. The music on The Calling may be infused with jazz influences but it also draws on pop and rock, especially prog rock sensibilities to bring something much more colourful to the listener's ear. The album contains a dozen tracks, all written by Mr Collin, and all feature his distinctive performances on the piano. The rest of the trio are: Luques Curtis - double bass, Kendrick Scott - drums, plus guest musicians John Shannon - guitar and Adrian Daurov - cello, who perform on a few of the tracks. Born In Cannes, France, and growing up in Antibes, Mr Collin's take on jazz is a uniquely French version, with more emphasis on the melody and the atmosphere of each piece. It seems to be a bit of a backhanded compliment to call the music on this album 'smooth', but compared to much modern jazz which is angular and jagged sounding the music here is well-rounded and mellow. And perhaps you could amend that to be romantic jazz, music with some heart and humanity to it. The dozen tracks are: Storm, The Calling, Runner's High, Stop This Train, Burn Down, Pennywise The Clown, Greyshot, Strange, Nica's Dream, Airborne, Aftermath, One Last Try.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.romaincollin.com
Ro Sham Beaux is a new quartet that doesn't know if it is post-bop jazz, a spiky funk band or a juicy-fruit indie-rock group. The music falls somewhere between all these categories. One thing for sure is that the music is brash, in your face and quite loud in a kindly stentorian way. Ten of the eleven tracks are written by the band, with the eleventh being a cover of Björk's Jóga - rather appropriate as both artists are explorers of the borders between music and sound. Ro Sham Beaux, the band, offer a vibrancy of sound that will please many. Their use of loops and effects to add colour and is adventurous and playful, and on occasion sounds are created just for the fun of it. The band are: Zac Shaiman - sax and effects, Luke Marantz - keyboards, Oliver Watkinson - bass, Jacob Cole - drums and glockenspiel. It is, to be sure, an unusual line-up of instruments for your standard jazz or rock performance, but put them together and it makes for angular, shard like music - some of it quite melodic in places, and in the extreme it is anarchic. The eleven track titles are: Bearblade, Slave To The Cube, Keut Str8 Boiz, Town, Soul Crusher, Tejas Drive, Meatballs Are The Way To A Woman's Heart, Jóga, Dreamulator, High Society, Anthem. I have to be honest and say that I found the music on this album a bit hard to get on with at times. It stretches the parameters of music to a point beyond me, but I have to emphasise that that is my personal taste and I applaud the commitment and musicianship of those involved and I am sure they will find an appreciative audience for their music. I do urge you visit the website below and sample any downloadable or streaming tracks there and see if Ro Sham Beaux is the music for your soul.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.rprmusic.net
This is the second album by pianist Kathryn Kaye to be reviewed here on The Borderland. Like its predecessor Dreaming Still, Heavy As A Feather is a collection of acoustic piano pieces with extra accompaniment. The eleven tracks are all slow, dreamy soundscapes, very pastoral and lushly romantic. Ms Kaye is a subtle composer, her music calling in influences of various classical composers such as Chopin and Liszt. There is a strong chamber quartet/quintet feel to the tracks featuring the larger groups of musicians. The track titles are: Mountain Laurel, Meadow Morning, An Empty Street In Prague, Wind In The Tall Autumn Grass, So Much Sky, Earth, Summer Afternoon, How Deep How Simple, Dusk At Rockhouse Creek, Heavy As A Feather, One Last Quiet Breath. As you can see, the titles are mostly descriptive of being outdoors, indeed Ms Kaye lives in the Rocky Mountains region of Colorado, and I wouldn't be surprised if that was the inspiration for much of this music. The musicians playing on this album are: Will Akkerman - guitar/production, Eugene Friesen - cello, Jill Haley - English Horn, Ramesh Kannan - Percussion, Tony Levin - bass, Charlie Bisharat - violin, Tom Eaton - accordion/rainstick, Michael Manring - fretless bass. Heavy As A Feather is marketed as being either New Age or Acoustic Instrumental, which is fair enough, but I think Light Classical is equally descriptive of what is on the CD. This is a quietly stunning album, musically rich and ideal for reflection or finding a little peace in one's life. Highly Recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.kathrynkaye-music.com
Jazz and Country music have been kissing cousins more often than most people think - most notably with the southern country swing of Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. This though, I think is the first time that the music of Merle Haggard has been performed within a jazz framework. And you know what? It works amazingly well, thanks to the inclusion of some country-familiar instruments playing alongside the jazz ones the music is recognisably country too. I have to admit that hearing bebop-honking horns over country picked guitar takes a little acclimatisation, but many of the tracks have a dance rhythm underlying the improv so there is always something to hold on. I have no idea what Merle Haggard fans make of it, but I would like to think that they see it as a way of keeping his music alive using different musical frameworks. It is obvious that Bryan and the Haggards have a lot of love and respect for the country superstar. Bryan Murray leads his band The Haggards through a selection of eight tracks on Still Alive And Kickin' Down The Walls, six of them written by Haggard. The band are: Bryan Murray - saxes, vocals, tin whistle; Jon Irabagon - saxes, clarinet, piccolo, penny whistle; Jon Lundborn - guitar, banjo; Matthew 'Moppa' Elliot - bass; Danny Fischer - drums. The eight tracks are: Ramblin' Fever, Seeing Eye Dog, Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Star, Sing A Sad Song, Mixed Up Mess Of A Heart, Turnin' Off A Memory, San Antonio Rose, If We Make It Through December. Still Alive And Kickin' Down The Walls is an album that will grow on you, and sometimes they are the best albums to buy - the rewards are higher for the listener.
One doesn't associate 'world music' being sourced from the USA as it has become a huge melting pot of ethnic variety over the decades. However, there are many millions living in America still holding onto their native languages rather than English, and that means that songwriters also still write in their home tongues too. In Love Songs Of The Americas vocalist Mili Bermejo and her trio of musicians have created an album of romantic songs drawn from the Spanish, Portuguese and English American songbooks. With mostly just piano, cello, bass and percussion to support Ms Bermejo's distinctive and haunting voice, the overall sound is stark and intimate. Some of the tracks have sparse orchestral colourings, giving the songs an emotional boost. Most of the songs are slow and could be described as depicting love as either torturous or rapturous - you take your pick. The overall feel of this album is of the languid Argentinean Tango or the Portuguese Fado - this is an album to savour slowly over a bottle of suitable wine. The musicians supporting Ms Bermejo are: Eugene Freisen - cello, Tim Ray - piano, and Dan Greenspan - bass. The twelve tracks are: Pasarero, Noche, To Say Goodbye, Fuimos, Te Amairé, Pura Bellaza, Gringa Chaqueña, Tú, I've Never Been In Love Before, Te Abracé en la Noche, La Luz de un Fósforo, Mais Que a Paixao.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.lovesongsoftheamericas.com
I have found over the years that Capri Records can be depended on to release albums of interesting music and intriguing new artists. That is very much the case here with the Mike Wofford/Holly Hofmann Quintet. The theme of their new album Turn Signal is to pay tribute to late jazz legends and contemporary masters. For a quintet the sound, at least on the first two tracks, is actually very contemplative and soothing - the band play mostly in unison and overt soloing is minimal. Indeed, there is something of a late night atmosphere to this album, and the soothing nature of the music, despite being jazz, will help the listener to chill out. The quintet's musicians are Mike Wofford - piano, Holly Hoffman - flute/piccolo, Terell Stafford - trumpet/flugelhorn, Bob Thorson - bass, Richard Sellers - drums. The albums seven tracks are: The Dipper (For Horace Silver), Esperança, Karita, Soul Street, Pure Imagination, The Girl From Greenland, M-Line. The farther into this album that I go the more impressed I am by the restraint shown by the musicians. One gets so used to jazz being loud and extremely brash but here the music is not exactly restrained but the inner volume control of these musicians has been set at a level where the listener can enjoy each of the five musicians and follow their instruments as they weave in and out of the unified sound. With the majority of the tracks lasting between 7-9 minutes there is plenty of space for solos and yet the band sound as one throughout. I am very impressed by this album and the musicians - the musicianship and the quality of the performances are very high and I recommend this album to any one who thinks most jazz is just a load of bluster and arty-farty nonsense.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.caprirecords.com
The jazz quartet format can be such a versatile thing, with any permutation of instruments you can think of. Baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan has settled on Hammond B3, guitar and drums for his new quartet recording - and that makes for quite a beefy sound. In fact Smul's Paradise is a very muscular jazz album, with all four instrumentalist playing in synch throughout yet having the space to solo where appropriate. Mr Smulyan has a strong presence on his baritone sax, yet for me I found the Hammond organ, whether solo or duelling with the sax, to be equally exciting. There's a bit of a retro feel to the music, it oozes 60s/70s chic - dark, underground smoke-filled clubs full of chilled out people. Mind you, I find the retro feel and sound adds resonance to the music. The musicians supporting Gary Smulyan are: Mike LeDonne - Hammond B3, Peter Bernstein - guitar, and Kenny Washington - drums. The album contains eight tracks, three by Gary Smulyan, the rest by a variety of jazz composers such as Sonny Stitt and George Coleman, and I found Mr Smulyan's music stood the test of comparison with the covers. The eight tracks are: Sunny, Up In betty's Room, Pistaccio, Smul's Paradise, Little Miss Half Steps, Aires, Blues For D.P., Heavenly Hours. Smul's Paradise is an amiable hour of good jazz, excellent musicianship from all four musicians, and full of good vibes. Recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.caprirecords.com
This is 2002's previous album to the already reviewed Damayanti, and it is a double disc set - 1 CD and 1 DVD. The music on Deep Still Blue is inspired by the oceans and the aquatic life hidden under the surface. It is also dedicated to the musicians' daughter who was seriously ill during the period this album was recorded. The sound is once again very lush and languid, orchestral with multi-layered vocals. All the instruments and vocals are performed by the extremely talented composers and multi-instrumentalists Pamela and Randy Copus. To my mind there are more of the vocals on this album and more focus on the individual solo instruments such as guitar, flute and harp, which glide effortlessly over the orchestral backings. I said the music is very lush, and I mean it, listening to the album is like having the music wrap itself tightly around you, like a down-filled duvet... As with Damayanti the musicianship is flawless - this is music that draws you in until the final note fades away. The ten tracks on the CD are all beautifully melodic, and depending on your musical ear are either very New Age, Celtic or Traditional. In fact if you love the sound of Enya then this album will appeal to you very much as the sound is in a similar vein. The album packaging and inlay booklet contains photographs by oceanic photographer Susan Saibara, and these are stunningly beautiful - their depiction of the reefs and the marine life there are ravishing to look at. The accompanying DVD consists of the album set to an animated slideshow of hundreds of these images, plus a photo gallery and interviews with the musicians and the photographer. What is overwhelmingly true is that the music and these images fit together seamlessly and bring the beauty of Neptune's kingdom to us all. One could go on a rant about the mismanagement of the marine ecology but there isn't the space here for that, save to say that albums like this can help to open minds to the beauty of our world's oceans and the damage Humanity is doing to it. The ten tracks on the CD are: Where The Stars and Moon Play, When I See You Again, Deep Still Blue, An Ocean Apart, Sarah's Rainbow, Little Angel, Setting Sail, Summer's End, Sweet Dreams, The Voyage Home. I can't recommend Deep Still Blue highly enough, it is just a stunning experience listening to this music for the first time - and it gets better with each successive play.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.2002music.com
Flautist Mindy Canter is a musician who enjoys pushing the boundaries of her instrument and music. Over her varied career she has worked with Michael Bloomfield, Boz Scaggs, It's A Beautiful Day and Yo Yo Ma. Fluteus Maximus is Ms Canter's third solo album, recorded in one session and with one take for all the tracks. With its rich mixture of blues, jazz, soul and r'n'b, and perhaps a little rock and roll too for seasoning, this an exuberant album, full of good vibes and happy moments. Performing in a quartet format, Ms Canter also plays keyboards, Hammond B3 and provides vocals - the other musicians are Denny Geyer - guitar and vocals, Paul Smith - bass, and Roy Blumenfeld - drums. Congo player Danilo Paiz guested on three of the tracks. The twelve tracks are a mixture of original compositions and classic rock, soul and pop covers, all given a new lease of life in these spontaneous recordings. The album breaks down into two halves: the first is a set of upbeat and incisive instrumentals, while the second half features vocals by Denny Geyer. The tracks are: Slider, Watermelon Man, Memphis Underground, Do It Again, Karma, Mercy Mercy Mercy, High Heel Sneakers, Funny How Time Slips Away, Halleluyah, 16 Tons, Over The Rainbow, Happy Trails. Listening to Fluteus Maximus takes me back to the 70s when jazz flautist Herbie Mann was also mixing musical genres to great success. As with his albums this one also has great charm, good humour and unassuming but impressive musicality. This is one of those rare albums that bring a smile to the listener - it is simply a 'good times' album, with no other axe to grind. An album you can just listen to for pleasure, soundtrack a party, or use to dispel the motorway blues. Highly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.mindycanter.comKayla Taylor Jazz - You'd Be Surprised
(Smarty Kat Records)
Now here is an album and a voice that is going to seduce the pants off any red blooded male - and at a pinch George Clooney will do! Kayla Taylor is the voice and You'd Be Surprised is her new album of Jazz classics from the golden era of nostalgia, the 1930s through to the 1950s. The eleven songs are by some of the finest writers of the period: Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Harry Warren, and Rodgers and Hart. Thanks to the seductiveness of Ms Taylor's vocals and the intimate backing of her musicians this is the album for anyone holding a 'Mad Men' themed dinner party. That is, of course, me being a little flippant - You'd Be Surprised is truly a lovely album of classic romantic songs, in a lightly salted Jazz style. An excellent showcase for a vocalist who knows instinctively how to 'sell' a song. The four musicians providing musical gold behind her voice are: Steve Moore - guitars, Michael Dana - drums/percussion, Justin Owen-Head - upright bass, and Will Scruggs - tenor and soprano sax. And the songs? They are: Good Morning Heartache, Just One Of Those Things, You'd Be Surprised, Our Love Is Here To Stay, I Only Have Eyes For You, You're Driving Me Crazy, Treat Me Rough, Where Or When, It's De-Lovely, Devil May Care, Blues Stay Away From Me. The press sheet suggests that Ms Taylor has a vocal style somewhere between Bette Midler and Diana Krall, but I think Julie London is probably more appropriate than the Divine Ms M. Kayla Taylor's voice is an understated object of beauty, she makes every song hers and creates a new modern benchmark for future generations of singers. Highly recommended and undoubtedly an album of the year here at The Borderland.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.kaylataylorjazz.com
It is always thrilling to hear young up and coming talent showcasing their music and that is the case with saxophonist Geoff Vidal. I think She Likes That is his debut album and it contains seven tracks of his own music, so it is a showcase for both his writing and sax playing. It is certainly a lively affair, the five piece band has a front line of trumpet/flugelhorn [Tatum Greenblatt], guitar [Joe Hundertmark], and Mr Vidal on sax, and a rhythm section of bass [Michael O'Brien] and drums [Makaya McCraven]. The music is inventive and vibrant, the performances are lively and the band definitely punch above their weight. It is jazz, of course, and bebop with a touch of swing and rock fusion thanks to the electric guitar. While the album is a rambunctious affair there are some lovely quieter moments, especially on Time Apart where the sax and guitar dance slowly around each other. The seven tracks are: Darjeeling, Different Planes, O-Zoning, Time Apart, Freediver, Lanusa, She Likes That. In the press notes Mr Vidal describes this album as a document of its time, unrepeatable as the musicians have all gone their separate ways now. And in a sense that is what Jazz has always been, the capture of fleeting moments of musical inspiration, no more succinctly captured as here. With its basis on improvisation, Jazz has always been an ephemeral beast, and capturing the perfect moment is as difficult as placing lightning in a glass jar. With She Likes That they did just that.
The first thing you notice when playing the opening track of Tim Hagans' new album The Moon Is Waiting is that this is jazz but it is very futuristic Jazz. Going well beyond bebop and post bop, the music here is angular, near mathematical in its time signatures and mixing the lyrical with discordance. Several of the tracks, all composed by trumpeter Tim Hagans, were commissioned by the Michele Bragwen Dance Ensemble, and you can understand that link to contemporary dance. The other element of the album is that the influence of Ornette Coleman isn't too far away throughout the entire album - indeed, one of the tracks is called Ornette's Waking Dream Of A Woman. The remainder of the eight tracks are: The Moon Is Waiting, Get Outside, First Jazz, Boo, What I'll Tell Her Tonight, Wailing Trees, Things Happen In A Convertible. Supporting Mr Hagans on trumpet are: Vic Juris - guitar, Rufus Reid - bass, Jukkis Uotila - drums/piano. For a quartet the sound is full on, brash and very noble. There is much exploration of dynamics and the use of space within the soundscape and the music itself. I have to be honest, this isn't really the sort of jazz I enjoy, it is too far outside my 'safety zone', but there is a lot to admire here, not least its vivacity, and the album should appeal strongly to those who see contemporary Jazz as the cutting edge and the future. For those interested in the thought processes of producing music like this I refer you to the excellent inlay booklet which includes an interview with Tim Hagans.
There is a bit of a conundrum with Surrender, the new album by multi-instrumentalist Jeff Oster - for a start is it Jazz or New Age, or perhaps exotic electronica? Truth is you have to listen to it yourself and decide which musical category it falls within. For me it is a very exotic mix of Jazz flugelhorn and trumpet bedded into a series of electronica and ambient soundscapes, with added vocals. There are only three musicians involved on this album: Jeff Oster - brass, synths, loop programming, vocals, Bryan Carrigan - sound design, synths, drum programming, and Diane Arkenstone - vocals. This is an interesting mix of styles and techniques, Mr Oster's aerie flugelhorn and trumpet float whispery over the ambient electronics, sunk sometimes so low into the audio mix as to be a ghost of what should be, the notes aerated and detached, seemingly hanging in the air. To this voices whisper, Ms Arkenstone's delightful vocals drift through and it all means... What? I'm not sure really, but I like the intrigue it engenders. Mr Oster's brass playing is reminiscent of late period Miles Davis, melodic yet otherworldly, and the electronic soundscapes are very chill out room. And there is an innate coolness running throughout the album, the music is just begging to be used in some art house movie soundtrack. I've played Surrender several times now and it just grows more interesting each time, the flugelhorn, in particular, has a dynamic and sound so unique and dramatic. The eleven track titles are: All That Matters, Você Quer Dançar, Nikki's Dream, The Voice, Essence of Herb, Surrender, 2 Di 4, The Theology of Success, Beautiful Silence, 53 Mirrors, Enlightened Darkness. I'm not sure what it all means, but I like it and it's an album that invites you to investigate it again and again. Highly 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.jeffoster.com
I can't say that I have come across composer/musician Hennie Bekker before, but from the information on the sleeve of his latest album Spectrum he has obviously been a recording artist for quite some time. Spectrum is a compilation album, an anthology of tracks culled from eleven previously released albums - that is some going, I have to say. I note from the press sheet that came with the album that it lists a total of over thirty albums by Mr Bekker. Subtitled "An Anthology of Relaxing Instrumental Music", you will gather that Spectrum is an New Age music album, though to my ears it is more Easy Listening, or perhaps Exotica. While all the music is composed and produced by Hennie Bekker, I am not sure if he performed it solo or with an ensemble. Either way, the sheer diversity of styles and musical language is impressive. It is all very listenable and pleasant music, and yes, it is relaxing - it reminder me rather of the old days of British TV when it wasn't on for 24 hours a day and there were periods when the screen showed a test card soundtracked by relaxing 'library' music. I described the music as Exotic and that is because Mr Bekker seems to have recorded albums in thematic series: Kaleidoscopes Series, African Tapestries Series, Electric and Progressive, Tranquility Series and so on. Essentially, then, Mr Bekker has created a variety of albums to suit mood and taste, and it all sounds perfectly enjoyable if this anthology is representative of his work. The fourteen tracks are: Spring Rain, The Heart of Africa, Bahia Nights, Mystical Mother, Urban Trance, Stormy Sunday, Amani (Peace), Alone in a Dream, Tranquility, Elusive Sensation, Entranced, Always There, Sands of Time, Silent Embrace. There are probably a number of trendy music types who will castigate Mr Bekker's music as being 'Lift Music', but in reality we all need music to relax to in a stressful world, something to soothe the soul rather than get it hyped up for dancing or rocking. Spectrum is the album for that task. Highly Recommended.