|Updated: 7/02/14 | © 1999 - 2014 Cool Bunny Media | Da Cool Bunny sez 'Spank that Plank, Baby!'|
As the title says, this is a compilation and musical career retrospective of composer/pianist Michael Dulin. Drawn from his six previous albums, this is a rather good way to experience the gentle and melodic world of Mr Dulin. A mixture of original compositions and newly arranged versions of classical music by Satie, Saint-Saens, Beethoven, and Rachmaninoff. That Mr Dulin's own music stands up well in comparison is a tribute to his own musicianship. I guess this album is being marketed as new age, but I think contemporary classical would be equally appropriate. Performing solo on most of the tracks, there are one or two guest musicians on various tracks and vocalist Jeania Major provides lyrics and vocals to Winter Dreams. The full tracklisting is: Once Upon A Time, Simply Satie, The One I Waited For, The Swan, Follow The River, Mary's Babe's A-Sleeping, Night Rhythms, Common Faint, Moonlight Sonata, Siren Song, Wedding Day, Captiva Nights, Bedtime For Little John, Without Word, Promised Land, Winter Dreams. At best These Are The Moments is a collection of gentle and highly melodic instrumentals, suitable for relaxation, meditation, listening for pleasure or perhaps a candlelit dinner with a loved one. In the days when I worked in a record shop [remember vinyl records?] This would have been simply classified as 'easy listening' and somehow I don't think Michael Dulin would mind if this was a label attached to this album. If you want mellow and melodic then this is the album for you. Recommended for the gentle soul within you...
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.michaeldulin.com
Heidi Breyer is a pianist and composer working in the new age field of instrumental music. Beyond The Turning is her new album and as with her earlier albums it uses a sparse palette of instruments alongside her piano to create quite atmospheric and melodic soundscapes. The results are highly successful in evoking imagery and emotions in the listener's mind. This may be a new age album but there is also a world vibe that broaden the appeal. Of the fourteen tracks Ms Breyer has written twelve of them, the remainder being written by Janice Ian and Susan Werner respectively. While Beyond The Turning is mostly instrumental Ms Breyer sings on a couple of tracks, providing a rather wispy and ghostly vocal settings. The other musicians on the album are: David Cullen - guitars, Eugene Friesen - cello, Samite - vocals/adungu, Charlie Bisharat - violin, Bob Colwell - accordion, Premick Russell-Tubbs - lyricon, Max MacFarland - upright bass, Jeff Haynes - tam-tam, Steve Holley - drums, Marc Enfroy - strings, Michael Manring - fretless bass, Jill Haley - English horn. The fourteen tracks are: Farewell, World Without End, My Peace Piece, Rive Droite, The Long Way Home - Passage 1, Moondancing, May I Suggest, Joy of the Road, Adungu Inspiration, Beyond The Turning, The Long Way Home - Passage 3. Ms Breyer's music and style stand out from the usual new age music - more character, a mellifluous way with a melody and lots of style. Well worth seeking out if you want music of depth and subtlety.
Available from CD Baby as a CD. For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.heidibreyer.com
When it comes to Jazz my favourite style is big band and I take Count Basie's band as my benchmark. I think I have now found a new benchmark in The Michael Treni Big Band and their new album Boy's Night Out. This album punches its way out of the speakers full of bravado and a startlingly high amount of energy. And more importantly, this band swing high and mighty, strutting their stuff like a classic period Basie band. Trombonist Michael Treni formed the band several years and I think this may be their fourth recording, but I could be wrong there. However, the eight tracks are a mix of original tracks written by Mr Treni and a selection of covers of music by Leonard Bernstein, Geoerge Shearing, Clare Fisher, Jimmy VanHusen and Billy Strayhorn. The eight tracks are: Something's Coming, Boy's Night Out, Lullaby Of Birdland, Strayhorn, In My Quiet Time, What Is The World Coming To?, U.M.M.G., Here's That Rainy Day. You can take it on the nod that Mr Treni's music matches the covers in quality and listening pleasure. The band is an eighteen piece and far too many superb musicians to list here, but one listen to the opening track, Something's Coming and you will know this is a bloody good band. The Michael Treni Big Band should be much better known, I think there is a world-wide audience looking to listen to a great big band and this could be the contender for that crown. Highly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.bellproductionco.com
(New Artists Records NA1052CD)
For many who purport to be 'in the know' live albums are considered to be rather naff and often they signify the completion of an artist's contract with their record label. I disagree, the best albums, generally those least mucked about with in the studio afterwards, are a discrete moment in that artists' career, often highlighting a significant artistic consequence. That is the case with Live At The Freight - four musicians came together for a tour of the American west coast, found significant common cause and recorded a gig at the Freight and Salvage Coffee house, Berkely, California in the summer of 2011. Tenor saxophonist Jessica Jones and musical partner Mark Taylor on french horn and mellophone joined with rhythm section John Shifflet - bass and Jason Lewis - drums for this tour and recording date, finding improvisational magic every night. So there you have it, an album of improv jazz, post bop in form, lengthy tracks of spacious jazz. Live At The Freight contains nine tracks, all recorded with an edgy clarity that should please the seekers of the music of now. Indeed, the recording is so clear that you can hear the encouragement the musicians pass to each other. The track titles are: Furious George, Waiting For The Vampire's Redemption, By The Park At Midnight (Zamindar's Promenade), The Zamindar Gambit, Waynopolis, Manhattan, Sketch #2, What Purpose Is Your Pain, Breath.Eyes. All the music was written by Mark Taylor or Jessica Jones. This is cutting edge jazz, bleeding with creativity and a record of that moment in time. Good stuff.
The barriers between classical and pop music have been eroding for quite some time, with many artists singing repertoire from both types of music with success. Soprano Darlene Koldenhoven has a few extra skills to add to her sensational voice. She plays keyboards on her new album Solitary Treasures, and she also composed a couple of the songs and arranged and orchestrated every one of the dozen tracks. You have to admit that cuts down on the budget... The album opens with Puccini's Nessun Dorma, an operatic favourite here in the UK since Pavarotti sang it at a football match. Instead of a tenor showcase, Ms Koldenhoven turns it into one for a soprano, and reaches for the stratosphere. While there are one or two more pieces where she sings as a classical soprano, most of the album is spent with her lovely voice pitched lower, and in a more intimate setting. This is a big production album, with a large number of instrumentalists and choir involved [too many list here]. But some of the settings are just Ms Koldenhoven and an orchestral synth pad and her voice. The twelve tracks are: Nessun Dorma, Lo Specchio, Claire De Lune, Bella's Lullaby from Twilight, Kiss From A Rose, All I Am, Ay Carino, A Celtic American Treasury, Lucid See, The Last Words You Said, Remember Me, The Prayer from Quest For Camelot. Solitary Treasures is a fine showcase for Darlene Koldenhoven - both as vocalist and as musician - and it does make you wonder why one of the major record labels hasn't discovered her and helped her become an international star. For British readers: if you like Katherine Jenkins then you are so going to love Darlene Koldenhoven. Highly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.darlenekoldenhoven.com
There are times, gentle readers, when the rock and roll of the Ramones just won't do - your nerves are so frazzled that the soul needs something calm and nurturing, something to gently reset the core of your being. Well, I have the antidote to a riotous life, or perhaps normal life just getting too much. It is the sweet sounding piano of Ann Sweeten. This composer/musician has the gift of making albums of melodic peace and calm that will wrap around you like that favourite duvet and give you a hug. In The Wake is her latest album, a collection of eleven tracks of very pleasant instrumentals - mainly just her Steinway piano but with occasional instrumental accompaniment by guest musicians. These include William Akkerman on guitar and production, Trisha Craig on flute, Akane Setiwan on oboe and English horn, Andrew Eng on viola and violin, and Liz Ehrman on cello. There is a strong sense of the arcadian to the tunes, making you think of being out in the countryside or perhaps looking out to sea. In The Wake is certainly an album to relax to. The eleven tracks are: Was It Yesterday?, Falling Leaves, Metamorphosis, Love Remembered, A Chance For Goodbye, In The Wake, On Wings Of Light, Out Of Embers, The Abyss, October Sky, Now And Again. You will find this album in speciality and New Age shops or online at Amazon.com, CDBaby.com, CDUniverse.com, and for download from iTunes, Rhapsody and Spotify.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.annsweeten.com
Music from the Indian subcontinent has always had a cachet of strangeness to it. It has continually sounded alien to western ears, its musical structure and form exotic to a high degree. But over time, and thanks to countless curry houses, takeaways [and Ravi Shankar] it has spread across the world and the sound of India has permeated into western consciousness. The music has inspired many western musicians and composers, including multi-instrumentalist Dan Blanchard who has drawn on Indian classical music to create his new album Awakening Raga Bhairav. This album contains a raga created to inspire morning meditation to focus mind and movement and create energy for the day ahead. What we have is an eight track collection of tracks where the music flows seamlessly on a magical journey. Mr Blanchard plays Santoor, Tanpura, Swarmandal and harmonium, other musicians include Sheela Bringi - bansuri flute, Brian Campbell - tabla, Gabe Marihugh - udu/djembe, Sangeet Mishra - sarangi, and Nisha Narsai - vocals. Outside of the sitar and tabla I am unfamiliar with Indian instruments, so I can't really tell you what I am listening to, but the overall sound is quite ethereal at times, and the lead instrument seems to be the Indian equivalent to the zither. A most pleasing sound, it seems far more flexible and nimble than the sitar, so the drone like sounds are minimal here. There is certainly a strong sense of timelessness throughout this lengthy album - time enough for its magic to sink into the listener's ears. I enjoyed Awakening Raga Bhairav quite a lot and I think I shall be returning for more trips to the exotic east as time passes.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.peacefulvibes.com
The first thing you notice when this album starts is its hard-edged bop-swing, and the competitive nature of the guitar and alto sax. Led by guitarist Jacob Deacon Tribulation is a collection of six original pieces, all of which showcase the hard approach of the band to its take on jazz. The musicians on this album are: Jacob Deacon - guitar, Akeem Marable - alto sax, Nick Rosen - piano, Craig Shaw - bass, Justin Chesarck - drums. Like all the best bandleaders, Mr Deacon doesn't take all the solos for himself, they are spread evenly across the band, and you have to admit that he chose his musicians well. There is quite a creative spark going on here, with all the musicians bringing something to the table. The music is very muscular, tightly focused and with a forward thrust matching that of the original Batmobile. All five musicians form one musical creature. Tribulation has originality in spades. The six tracks are: Tribulation, Eclipse, Hoexster's Hex, Major Differences, Sharp Edges, Sketches Of Trane.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.jacoballendeacon.com
It is safe to say that guitarist Nick Moran's new album, No Time Like Now, starts as it means to continue with a very muscular and exciting cover version of Cream's Strange Brew. That it is followed by nine compositions by Mr Moran is a bit of a brave thing, but his own music stands up to the comparison very well. With Brad Whitely on Hammond B3 organ and Chris Benham on drums, this is a trio to savour - the duets and solos between guitar and organ are jewels throughout the album, and the drums add the cohesion and glue everywhere. In fact, when this trio is flying you can guarantee first class performances all the way. Mr Moran's electric guitar offers a lovely sound: supple and jumpy and romantic when required. I wouldn't describe this as 'easy listening' jazz but it is very easy on the ear and I can imagine many listeners hearing a track and thinking 'this is a bit of all right'. So in that sense this is very approachable jazz that can and will find a home in many places. The ten tracks are: Strange Brew, My Beautiful, Intention, Slow Drive, Wishful Thinking, No Time Like Now, Say Hi To Paris, Natalya, The Physicist Transformed, Renewal. No Time Like Now is a very fine album and even if you think you don't like jazz you will be won over by its charms.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.nickmoranmusic.com
From the number of jazz trio recordings I have received recently it seems that the format has been rejuvenated and reinvigorated. And here is further proof, Red Sparkle, by drummer Jeff Hamilton and his trio is an album that swings mightily. The album title, by the way, was inspired by the colour and finish of Mr Hamilton's first drum kit. The trio of Jeff Hamilton on drums, Christoph Luty on bass and Tamir Hendelman on piano have been together for ten years and it shows in the interaction and polish of the musicians as they perform the ten tracks on the album. A mixture of compositions by Mr Hamilton and Mr Luty, the rest are covers of songs by Thelonius Monk, Stephen Bishop, Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen and Ray Brown. The one common thread throughout is the blazing musicality shining from each track - plus, I suspect the musicians' smiles in the studio during the recording sessions. The feel of the album reminds me of the great Oscar Peterson and his trio, and that can't be a bad thing. I enjoyed Red Sparkle a lot - and the Jeff Hamilton Trio is one I shall be looking out for in the future. This is a very fine album, full of wit, spark and good vibes, and in these stressful days you can't get enough of that, can you? The ten tracks are: Ain't That A Peach, Bye Ya, On And On, Hat's Dance, Too Marvelous For Words, Laura, A Sleepin' Bee, Red Sparkle, I know You Oh So Well, In An Ellingtone.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.caprirecords.com
On my initial listen to this album I thought that the vocalist was a male, the delivery was lower registry and husky, and while not exactly a Tom Waits growl it did make you stop and wonder. That vocalist is actress and singer Susan Krebs, and reading that she is a well established actress who has appeared in many TV shows and movies you begin to understand the overt theatricality of her vocal delivery. Supported by a quartet of fine jazz musicians her new album, Everything Must Change, is a trawl through lesser known songs from the Great American Song Book. On many of the tracks the musical accompaniment is of the 'less is more' variety, and the musicians keep the arrangements relatively simple but still give them space to play. The musicians are: Rich Eames - piano, Ryan McGillicuddy - bass, Jerry Manning - saxes, Jerry Kalaf - drums. The final tracks also features Scott Breadman - percussion, Steve Huffsteter - trumpet and Riner Scivally - guitar. Composers featured on the album include: Freddy Hubbard, Cole Porter, Billy Strayhorn, Kurt Weill and many others. Ms Krebs has a voice unlike many others, she inhabits the lyric and gives it life - it takes a little getting used to, but the rewards are high once that connection is made. The eight tracks are: Up Jumped Spring, What's This Thing Called Love? A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing, Everything Must Change, Lost In The Stars, Wheelers & Dealers, Our Love Rolls On, Are Ya Havin' Any Fun?
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.susankrebsmusic.com
In my first listen to The Piano Diaries, by singer Joanna Weinberg, I was aware of a strong sense of theatricality with both the songs and the performance. Not surprisingly when I read the press sheet and I find that Ms Weinberg has written three musicals and nine one-woman shows in her musical career and these have been performed in as disparate countries as South Africa and Australia. The theme of the album is of a woman returning to take piano lessons after thirty years. So something of a personal storyline, and yet the album has a lot of fun tracks as the path of self-discovery ensues. The style is jazzy, with a sort of vaudeville dash to it. Ms Weinberg has one of those light and bubbly voices, very pleasant but it leaves you wondering if some helium sniffling was part of the studio regime... Surprisingly, she only plays piano on one track, leaving that job to her piano teacher and album producer, Rafael A. Nazario, who also plays all the other keyboards and other non-listed instruments. The other musicians on the album are: Kate Adams - cello, Mark Ginsburg - saxes/flute, Martijn Hadders - guitar, Jonathan Zwartz - bass, Simon Fishburn - drums, Blair Greenberg - African drums/percussion. The twelve tracks are: Freckled Angels, Innocence, Daughters of the Empire, The Artists Are Leaving, Benjamin and Penelope, The Winds Of Fear, Wide Open Eyes, Beautiful Old Man, Witness, Mama Buy Your Baby A Piano, Trophy Wife, The Piano at the Cabaret. The Piano Diaries is pretty unique, a sort of jazz cabaret cum burlesque show - it is perky and uplifting. Joanna Weinberg has a way of capturing characters and bringing them to life in her songs. This is an album that will bring much enjoyment to listeners.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.thepianodiaries.com
Bill Barner is a clarinettist, and this is his exploration of what the clarinet can do within a jazz/worldgroove format. Yes, I know that sounds a little arty-farty, but in reality what you have when you place this CD into your CD deck is a very approachable and listenable album of small band jazz with a lively sound and something of an exotic world music vibe going on. There is certainly a bit of a Kletzmer [minus the accordion and fiddle]/Middle Eastern vibe going on throughout the album - not specific enough to be drawn from one country or another. The clarinet is one of those instruments that the term irrepressible describes ideally, and Mr Barner is most definitely an irrepressible performer. It sounds at times as if the instrument is dancing and laughing as he plays it, and you can't really call Ten Tunes a sad or emotionally down album in any way or form. The three musicians playing with Mr Barner are as equally up for it as he is, and I can only imagine that the recordings sessions were happy and fast ones. Ten Tunes is a quartet album and the musicians are: Bill Barner - clarinet, Stan Smith - guitar, Roger Hines - bass, Danny Aguiar - drums. The ten tracks are: Opening Gambit, Flying Monkeys, Charm Offensive, Wide Stance Dance, Barbaro, Squeaky Rico, Connecting Dots, Toddler Dance, A War of Words, Palmas. Ten Tunes is a great listen and great fun - the musicianship is high quality and this is an album that will make you feel good for the rest of the day. Certainly better than any chemical high you may usually take. Highly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.billbarner.com
I have to admit that this is my first experience of the Austrian-based American Native Indian band Big City Indians. From the press pack I received they seem to have been around for some time and have released several well received albums and are very popular in the USA and across Europe, though are perhaps not known here in the UK. TUWA is their latest album and it is very impressive - well, I've been playing it frequently for pleasure as much as for reviewing... TUWA is a concept album highlighting the way humans have strayed the ecological principles of life - it also focuses on the Hopi and other Native Indian tribes prophesies for 2012 and that it is time for action and not words to protect the environment. Quite noble and prescient motives for an album. As for the music, well there is a strong rock element mixed in with the Native Indian rhythms and beats, it is funky and often has an ambient feel to the instrumental sections. Most tracks have slow or mid-tempo grooves, though the opening track, Horses Thunder, is the showcase that will catch your attention and get the feet going. The band are: Bernhard "Wolfsheart" Weilguni: lead vocal/native flute/perc, Chris Pogats: guitar/perc/voc, Gigi Skokan: keyboards/harmonica/perc/voc, Werner "Firefly" Haller: bass/perc/voc, Roy Pete: traditional voc/dance. The dozen tracks are: Horses Thunder (Soquili~Unole), Ina Makoce (Mother Earth Healing Prayer), Breath Of Water, In The Shadow Of The Light (feat. Kelly Montijo Fink), May You Walk (Hozógo nasádo), Earth Is Crying (Dry Her Tears), Flame Of Native Pride, Heart´s Desire, Thunder Message, Seven Leaves (Cherokee Rose), The Dawn Of The Fifth World (2012 Prophecy Symphony), Never Fading Spirit Of Mother Earth. I really enjoyed TUWA, along with the worthy eco message the album has a unified sound and each track logically follows the next increasing the drama and intensity. Big City Indians deliver on their fourth album and I hope it is picked up by many new listeners.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.bigcityindians.com, a video of Horses Thunder is available to view on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOohahd5aac&feature=plcp
Ciro Hurtado is a Peruvian-born guitarist now living and working in America. I reviewed his previous album Guitarrista [click here to read review] and enjoyed that very much. Mr Hurtado plays what he calls 'Andean Blues', a mixture of Andean folk music and the rock and blues music from America and Britain that influenced him as a youth. I have to say that the music on Los Angeles Blues is more a mixture of his Peruvian roots and Southern Delta blues, but ultimately it is a uniquely intimate style all his own. All eleven tracks on this new album are instrumental with just Mr Hurtado playing solo, apart from a couple of tracks where Julio Ledezma joins him on Bombo and Cajon. Despite the very focused sound of the single guitar here, this is a very upbeat collection of music, redolent of Andean culture as well as the folk and blues from the UK and USA. What is lacking is the bombast found in such music - Mr Hurtado has created a collection of... well, 'tunes' tends to diminish what you hear, this is music of depth and charm, elegant in conception and performance. The track titles are: Los Angels Blues, Aguas, Camino a Cuzco, Spring in the Hills, Tahuampita, IrlAndes, Reencuentro, Reflection, La Campanera, La Negrita Tomasa, Bordón Triste. This is a lovely album every bit as good as Guitarrista was, perhaps better and it certainly transcends the New Age classification on the back panel of the cover - this is Roots music at its finest. If you enjoy the acoustic music of Al Stewart, Richard Thompson, Gordon Giltrap and Ry Cooder then you will find much to enjoy here. Highly recommended!
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.cirohurtado.com
This is latin jazz vocalist Anna Estrada's third album, and the third to be reviewed here at The Borderland, check out Soñando Vuelos and Obsesión - click on the hot links. Though a jazz album, Ms Estrada uses several latin musical styles throughout the CD: samba, tango, Brazilian tropicalia, a little salsa. She has a wonderful voice that can soar the heights but is equally happy pitching it downwards into an earthy sexuality. She is also equally at ease with English, Spanish and Portuguese lyrics. The album consists of twelve tracks, a mixture of Latin American songs and some pop and jazz too. The tracks are: Wild Is The Wind, Cuando Vuelva a Tu Lado, Happiness Is A Warm Gun/I Want You, Mais Que Nada, Patiencia, Dueño de mi Corazón, Al Empezar el Beguin, Everybody's Talking, Pure Imagination, E Preciso Perdoar, Patiência [Portuguese version], Dueño de mi Corazón [acoustic version]. The songwriters featured on the CD include Dmitri Tiomkin, Lennon & McCartney, Jorge Ben, Cole Porter, Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse. There is a rather impressive band supporting Ms Estrada on this CD, sadly far too many to list individually here, but under the direction of producer/arranger/guitarist Ray Scott they lift her voice into that zone where the magic happens. Volando is a beautiful album, its mood is less party and more reflective, the pace mid tempo, designed to relax and entrance. Well worth investigating if you like latin music. Recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.annaestrada.net
(Jazzma Records JMR1004)
Kat Parra is a well-respected Latin jazz vocalist who isn't afraid to broaden her reach by incorporating ethnic music influences from around the world. I reviewed her previous album, Dos Amantes [click to read review], a year or so back and that was an impressive experience then. Her new album, ¡Las Aventuras de Pasión!, is more the same rich melodic inventiveness mixed with one of the best voices I have heard in a long time. The new album has a stronger Latin feel [ Bomba, Bolero, Afro-Jazz, Cha-Cha, Ballad, Rumba and Nuevo Sefardi] and there are many tracks suitable for that summer party or barbecue. At the same time Ms Parra has once again delved into the ancient Sephardic Mediterranean culture for lyrics and rhythms. So, this is a hugely rich musical adventure that bring medieval and modern cultures together. Not an unimpressive thing to do. The eleven tracks are a mixture of songs written by Ms Parra, public domain folk songs arranged by co-producer Wayne Wallace and songs and music by Linda Ronstadt, Eric Satie, Faure and Eden Ahbez. The track titles are: Iko Iko, Dieziocho Anyos, Call Your Name, La Comida de la Manyana, Morenika, La Siento Mi Vida, Yo M'Enamori S'Un Aire, Oye Papi, Durme Durme, Nature Boy, Man On A Wire/Gymnopedie No. 1. Despite a long list of musicians performing across the eleven tracks, this is quite an intimate sounding album, and needless to say the musicians are all excellent and sympathetic to material. I don't have space to list them, sadly, but their contribution to the album is considerable. ¡Las Aventuras de Pasión! Is an excellent album by a pioneering musician. Highly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.katparra.com
This album, dedicated to the music and musicians of the Duke Ellington Orchestra, was recorded under the auspices of the American Jazz Institute. The focus is on the great saxophone players associated with Ellington, and the Mark Masters Ensemble is a essentially a sax and rhythm section playing the music they love. While Ellington's music is ate the core of it the dozen tracks also feature music by Paul Gonsalves, Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney, Ben Webster and Jimmy Hamilton. I have to admit that I really enjoyed Ellington Saxophone Encounters - it is a blast from the past yet the music is still relevant today despite modern jazz being discordant improv. Thanks to tight charts this music swings mightily and what improv there is doesn't veer too far away from the core of each tune. The sax section consists of: Gary Smulyan, Pete Christlieb, Gary Foster, Don Shelton and Gene Cipriano; rhythm is supplied by Joe LaBarbera - drums, Tom Warrington - bass and Bill Cunliffe - piano. The twelve tracks are: Esquire Swank, The Line Up, LB Blues, We're In Love Again, Ultra Blue, Used To Be Duke, Jeep's Blues, Get Ready, Love's Away, Rockin' In Rhythm, Peaches, The Happening. While Ellington Saxophone Encounters doesn't slavishly copy or replicate the Ellington sound it spotlights the musicality that was always at the heart of the Ellington sound. And, boy, do they nail it with a warmth and love that will get many jazz fans digging out the original vinyl from the lofts and reminding themselves of what they had forgotten. But for people like me this album is a window on a form of jazz that still has a lot of heart to it. Highly recommended and one of my albums of the year! PS - please do a similar album for Count Basie?
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.caprirecords.com
This is music that will challenge many listeners into what music is. At the outset the music by Natsuki Tamura and Satoko Fujii is free form and improvisational - whether its roots are in jazz or classical music is really going to be down to the listeners' viewpoint. With Natsuki Tamura on trumpet and Satoko Fujii on piano the sound on Muku is quite stark and at times very desolate - there is nothing soothingly ambient about this music. This duo of musicians have been performing and creating music for a long time and it shows in how well the instruments dovetail with each other. There are seven tracks, all composed by Natsuki Tamura, though I use that term loosely as according to the sleevenotes by Satoko Fujii the written score can be sparsely populated with notes and instructions. The track titles are Dune And Star, In Barcelona In June, Muku, Galvanic, Patrol, In Paris In February, Clone. There are many moments where the music is cohesive and yes, even melodically beautiful, but then everything becomes schizoid and fragments into chaos.
Gato Libre are the above musicians plus Kazuhiko Tsumura on guitar and Norikatsu Koreyasu on bass. Satoko Fujii plays accordion rather than piano throughout Forever. While the music is equally improvised it has more structure and form and, of course, a wider sound palette. Forever is a live album recorded in Tokyo, Japan - sadly the final time this set of musicians will play together as Norikatsu Koreyasu passed away shortly after the recording. The sound is very minimalist and stark, the performances understated, but there is beauty there. The album contains eight tracks, their titles are: Moor, Court, Hokkaido, Waseda, Nishiogi, Japan, World, Forever. I don't think it would be fair to say that these two albums are going to appeal to everyone, their commercial appeal is limited, but for seekers of beyond the musical horizon then these album are for you. They will stimulate, confuse, anger and beguile you.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.librarecords.com
The inspiration for this album is the drummer Elvin Jones and his interplay with bass partners in the various rhythm sections. Jones was the drummer with one of the most influential quartets of the 1960's, John Coltrane, and this album by bassist Michael Feinberg is a tribute to the drummer and Coltrane. Accompanying Mr Weinberg on this album are: Billy Hart - drums, George Garzone - sax, Tim Hagans - trumpet, Leo Genovese - keyboards, and guest guitarist, Alex Wintz. The third album by Michael Feinberg as a band leader, this is something of a tour-de-force - inspired but not emulating Elvin Jones' style, the music here is pretty starkly realised and should appeal to post-Bop and contemporary Jazz fans. The band play as a tight unit, 100% committed to the music - there are moments of gentle reflection and others of drama and high emotion. Yet all the time the musicians are improvising and finding new nuances in each piece of music. The Elvin Jones Project contains seven tracks, with compositions by Elvin Jones, John Coltrane, Steve Grossman, Frank Foster, Jimmy Van Heusen and Michael Feinberg. The titles are: Earth Jones, Miles Mode, Taurus People, It Is Written, The Unknighted Nations, Nancy With The Laughing Face, Three Card Molly. Michael Feinberg is a tight bassist, keeping the band on track while allowing each musician their space and time to solo. This is an impressive album and I imagine any live gigs based on this music will be exciting events.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.michaelfeinbergmusic.com
While Ezra Weiss name is the artist credited to this album, he is the composer/arranger and pianist on a few track. The musicians performing on Our Path To This Moment are credited as the Rob Scheps Big Band plays the music of Ezra Weiss. You could say that it follows the Duke Ellington model for a jazz big band - and I have to say that it works for me. Stylistically, the music and the performances seem to take their cues from the big bands of Stan Kenton and Buddy Rich, less dance worthy than Basie and Ellington, more emotionally cerebral and intense. Definitely more mood music, I think. The Rob Scheps Big Band are on top of the music throughout, with some wonderful playing right across the board. The seven tracks are varied in style and emotion, with many 'quiet storm' moments. The track titles are: Our Path To This Moment, Rise & Fall, It's You Or No One, Kunlangeta, The Promise, Jessie's Song, Wayfaring Stranger. The band are: Gary Harris, David Valdezm Rob Scheps, Scott Hall, Robert Crowell - reads; Rich Cooper, Paul Mazzio, Greg Garrett, Conte Bennett - trumpets; Stan Bock, Tom Hill, John Moak - trombones; Jattik Clark - tuba; Ramsey Embick, Ezra Weiss - piano; Tom Gilson - bass; Ward Griffiths - drums; Chaz Mortimer - percussion. Our Path To This Moment is an impressive album, full of depth and melodically inventive. Those of you who love the big band format should seek out this album and come under the spell of Ezra Weiss's music. Highly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.ezraweiss.com
The Village Vanguard in New York City is one of the legendary jazz clubs, renowned for the artists that have performed there and more importantly made their reputation there. I think the Fred Hersch Trio are the latest to find that the magic of the Vanguard may have been sprinkled on them. Alive At The Vanguard documents a series of dates that the trio played there in February this year . The double CD disc set allows a good representation of the trio's sets over the six nights, and it allows more space for their creativity to flow. The trio is: Fred Hersch - piano, John Hébert - bass, and Eric McPherson - drums. While Fred Hersch wrote several of the tracks, the trio have also dipped into the jazz and classic American songbooks and performed works by: Ornette Coleman, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, Hammerstein & Kern, Sammy Cahn & Jules Styne. There are fifteen tracks spread across the two discs, and they are - Disc 1: Havana, Tristesse (For Paul Motian), Segment, Lonely Woman/Nardis, Dream Of Monk, Rising Falling, Softly As In A Morning Sunrise, Doxy; Disc 2: Opener (For EMac), I Fall In Love Too Easily, Jackalope, The Wind/Moon And Sand, Sartorial (For Ornette), From This Moment On, The Song Is You/Played Twice. Alive At The Vanguard is a vibrant album, showcasing musicians at the top of their game, with space to solo and improvise. Recorded in the club, the sound is crystal clear and offers an intimate soundstage - it is as if you are on the bandstand with them. I don't think you will find a better a trio offering a selection of post-Bop interpretations and if you enjoy jazz trios then this is one of the best.
I can't say that I have come across many female trombonist/vocalists in my musical meanderings - mind you I am prepared to be wrong on that. Natalie Cressman is the talented lady and bandleader on Unfolding, being only twenty when this album was recorded. One can only stand back in awe of such maturity when you listen to the music on this CD. This is small band heaven, Secret Garden contain several excellent and equally young musicians who provide an accompaniment that is akin to a thin suede glove over Ms Cressman's elegant fingers. Of the nine tracks, seven have been written and arranged by Ms Cressman while the remaining two tracks were written by Fats Waller and Charles Mingus respectively. The style is cool post-bop with dashes of rock and funk throughout - the sort of across the board influences you would expect a contemporary young musician to have today. The musicians in Secret Garden are: Ivan Rosenberg - trumpet, Chad Lefkowitz-Brown and Peter Apfelbaum - tenor sax, Pascal Le Boeuf - keyboards, Ruben Samama - acoustic bass, Jake Goldbas - drums and percussion. The nine tracks are: Flip, Whistle Song, Honeysuckle Rose, Echo, Skylight, Goodbye Pork Pie Hat, Waking, Reaching For Home, That Kind. Ms Cressman's trombone and aquiline vocals dominate throughout the album and this is quite a calling card of an album for any musician to have as their debut. Impressive stuff.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.nataliecressman.com
Much is made in this CD's sleevenotes of Kevin Coelho's age - 16 - at the time of the album's recording. That may be amazing but I think what is more important is how mature his playing and interpretative skills are. Listen to Funkengruven: The Joy Of Driving A B3 in a blind test and I really don't think you could guess at how young this musician was. Aided by two other excellent and mature musicians on these recordings in the shape of Reggie Jackson on drums and Derek Dicenzo on guitar, Kevin Coelho's Hammond B3 organ regularly takes flight and becomes incandescent. The B3 is a jazz instrument par excellence, but it also mixes in soul and pop as well. Along with a pair of fiery original tracks by Mr Coelho and a pair of tracks written by mentor and teacher Randy Masters, the album's ten tracks also contain a number of covers of tunes by Miles Davis, Lonnie Smith, Herbie Hancock, Otis Redding and Steve Cropper. The track titles are: Funkengruven, Cantaloupe Island, Take A Stand, Chagalu, Dock Of The Bay, McJimmy, Donna Lee, Tangerine, Play It Back, What's New. Funkengruven... is about as perfect a debut album as you can get, but along with the impressiveness there is a sense of fun and of playing for the sheer hell of it. Highly recommended and one of my albums of the year.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.chickencouprecords.com
Mary Lou Williams was one of the first women pioneers of Jazz, a composer and pianist to rank alongside Duke Ellington and yet her music hasn't fared as well in the musical legacy stakes. Mary Lou Williams: The Next 100 Years is something of a grand title but it celebrates her centenary in style, thanks to tenor saxophonist Virginia Mayhew, who has selected eight of MLW's best pieces and included two of her own in homage to the great lady. Performed with a quartet, the music on this album is performed with muscular gusto and a big heart. There is a lot of discernible affection for MLW and her music, and it is amazing to think that this lady's music ranked with the best of every Jazz style from the 1920's to the 1970s. The other musicians on this album include: Ed Cherry - guitar, Harvey S - bass, Andy Watson - drums, plus guest Wycliffe Gordon - trombone. The ten tracks are: J.B.'s Waltz, Medi II, Medi I, O.W., Cancer, What Your Story Morning Glory?, N.M.E., Waltz Boogie, One For Mary Lou, 5 For Mary Lou. Virginia Mayhew plays with passion and commitment throughout, as do her band. I have to admit that while having heard of MLW I didn't know her music, but from these excellent performances it sounds like both MLW and Ms Mayhew were and are formidable musicians equal to any male counterpart. Recommended.
When it come to Jazz music there is a name that is probably the gold standard and benchmark that all jazz artists refer to - and that is Duke Ellington. A colossus in terms of composing and performing, Ellington's music took Jazz out of the ghetto and into the concert hall, and turned it into an art form. Single Petal Of A Rose is a reminder of that genius, a collection of Ellington and his collaborator Billy Strayhorn's greatest pieces. Performed by a nine piece band that includes Duke Ellington's grandson on guitar, the music is brought to life once again with all the love and admiration that the musicians can bring to the project. Not merely a carbon copy of the original, this band find the essence of each piece and bring it to life in a series of exciting performances. The Duke Ellington Legacy band are: Edward Kennedy Ellington II - guitar, Norman Simmons - piano/arrangements, Houston Person - tenor sax, Virginia Mayhew - tenor sax/musical director, Jami Dauber - trumpet, Noah Bless - trombone, Tom DiCarlo - bass, Paul Wells - drums, Sheila Earley - percussion, Nancy Reed - vocals. The album contains fourteen tracks and their titles are: Dedication, Single Petal Of A Rose, Happy Go Lucky Local, In My Solitude, Johnny Come Lately, Home Grown, Blood Count, In A Mellow Tone, Upper Manhattan Medical Group, Squeeze Me, Lush Life, After Hours, Love You Madly, Lotus Blossom. Single Petal Of A Rose is a fitting and wonderful tribute to a master of music, the band play from the heart and one can't ask for more than that. Highly recommended.
This is Jazz of the moment and a pointer to where the music is heading in the future. Its roots may be in the past but A Better Fate looks forward with its mixture of latin, rock, post-classical and post-bop elements. All the music has been composed and arranged by Eric Erhardt, whose tenor sax, clarinet and flute dominate the album. The music is complex and involving, multi-layered and faceted like a jewel. This is not easy listening jazz, this is music that demands your attention and then the time to assimilate it. It is cutting edge jazz, so sharp that it stands alone. The band are an octet of hot musicians who take Mr Erhardt's music and make it their own. They are: Russ Johnson - trumpet/flugelhorn, Sebastian Noelle - guitar, Mike Davis - drums, Linda Oh - acoustic bass, Nick Paul - piano, James Shipp - percussion, Dan Willis - soprano sax/oboe. The eight tracks are: Liddle Rittle, Ambivalence, A Better Fate, Powwow Now, Ten Years, Dance Afar, Not Like Before, Tyler Park. Eric Erhardt is an inventive composer and soloist, his music cerebral yet approachable enough to find heart in it. It won't appeal to everyone, but those with an ear on the future way for jazz will find this album an adventure in sound.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.ericerhardtmusic.com
I know many people decry live albums as simple contract filler, but there is a valid argument that they are a snapshot of an artist at a given time. That is what this album by jazz pianist Sumi Tonooka is - a concert given in New York on March 22, 2010. This is my first encounter with Ms Tonooka and her music, so I have no comparisons to make, I'm taking this on first impressions. There is a stark beauty to the music, solo piano is a most impressive sound, and Ms Tonooka's style includes snatches of the blues along with many of the jazz styles you would expect. Now... is a double album of two halves, two sets from the gig, one made up of covers and the other of original compositions. The covers chosen are a judicious selection of music by composers such as Duke Ellington, Mary Lou Williams, Thelonius Monk, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, and Eubie Blake, while Ms Tonooka's own compositions stand up to comparison extremely well. The tracks are: CD 1 - I Hear A Rhapsody, Heaven, I'm Old Fashioned, Mary Lou Williams Medley, Evidence, All Of You; CD 2 - Phantom Carousel, Sojourn 1 & Uganda, Moroccan Daze, Mingus Mood, At Home, I'm Confessin'. For a live recording the sound is crystal clear and most impressive, the engineer has added lustre to the sound of the piano and caught every nuance of Ms Tonooka's impressive performances. As a document of an artist exceeding her goals this is a worthy artefact and if you are a jazz piano connoisseur then you should seek this album out ASAP.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.sumitonooka.com
According to the sleevenotes of this CD pianist Joe Alterman is one of the new generation of up-and-coming jazz musicians, and Give Me The Simple Life is his debut album both as solo artist and band leader. It is quite an impressive debut, with assured performances throughout and an astute selection of covers [by Hoagie Carmichael, Harry Warren, Oscar Peterson, Hammerstein & Kern amongst many others] to accompany two of his own compositions. He is more than ably supported by a trio of excellent musicians: Houston Person - tenor sax, James Cammack - bass and Herlin Riley - Drums. The arrangements on each track are spacious enough for each of the musicians to shine, which they do throughout the album. The interplay between sax and piano is very tasty indeed. The overall tone of the album isn't exactly laid-back but it is of music that is allowed to breathe and create its own space. Give Me The Simple Life is a soundtrack for chilling or sharing with friends. There are a dozen tracks and they are: Georgia On My Mind, Give Me The Simple Life, The First Night Home, Pure Imagination, An Affair To Remember, I Guess I'll Have To Dream The Rest, Kelly's Blues, Why Try To Change Me Now?, Why Do I Love You?, Biscuits, They Say It's Spring, I'm Yours. You could call Give Me The Simple Life smooth jazz, I guess, but I think that would be a disservice, this is an album to savour and a pianist to watch out for in the future. Highly recommended.
Steve Bowe is a professional composer, producer and musician who works in that ghostly field of creating music soundtracks for the tv/movie and advertising industries. I believe Soundscapes is his second self-released album - a collection of twelve [mostly] instrumentals that can fall into many musical categories, including electronica, world music and rock, sometimes all in the same track. From the get go, the opening track Prayers, you discover two things about Mr Bowe - he can play his varied instruments like a good 'un, and he can write a tune that gets under the skin and stays there. Imagine, if you will, an amalgam of Rick Wakeman, Mike Oldfield and Tangerine Dream, and perhaps a little dash of James Last production magic on the more obviously descriptive tracks. That is a heady brew and a richly melodic one too. Of course Soundscapes also acts as a showcase for Mr Bowe's undisputed talents and is as good a calling card as any musician/composer can create. But Soundscapes also works in the mainstream as well - this a damn fine album chock full of great tunes and mind images. The dozen tracks are: Prayers, Queen Of The Nile, After The Storm, Orpheus, Ile de la Cite, The Return Of Jack Tar, Iceman, Caledonia, Sunset Highway, Rat Race, Somme, A Farewell. Back in the days when Oxygen and Tubular Bells were the benchmark for instrumental albums I could see Soundscapes being released on a major label and quite likely rocketing up the charts. I fear those days are past but if you like quality music then do make the effort to buy a copy of Soundscapes - you won't regret it. It's only the end of February and I've already found my first album of the year. Magic!
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.bowemusic.com
Apologies to Chris Bauer for the lateness of the review of his seasonal album - the postal services on both sides of the Atlantic conspired to keep In A Yuletide Groove from me until well into the new year. Well, there's always next Christmas! Anyway, Mr Bauer is a seasoned jazz harmonica player and this is his spicy and yes, groovy, collection of Christmas songs and carols, all done in a lightly jazzy and Latin way. And it is a very pleasant and welcome alternative to the usual po-faced Christmas albums that arrive here. For a start this album is fun, with many of the tracks suitable for a seasonal party playlist. Supported by a quartet, his nimble and at times flying harmonica make the album's sixty-five odd minutes speed by - the musicians are: Glenn McClelland - piano, Matthew Parrish - bass, Chris Ziemer - guitar, and Dave Mohn - drums. Needless to say these musicians provide simpatico support and add to the album's ambience immeasurably. In A Yuletide Groove contains sixteen tracks, and they are: Winter Wonderland, Feliz Navidad, I'll Be Home For Christmas, Frosty The Snowman, Christmas Time Is Here, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, Home For The Holidays, We Three Kings, The Christmas Song, Let It Snow, My Favourite Things, White Christmas, O Tannenbaum, Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town, Ave Maria. So, all in all this is a most enjoyable album that may even make those of us who think Scrooge was just misunderstood re-evaluate Christmas. Highly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.chrisbauermusic.com
Jackson Garrett is the nom-de-plume of composer Christopher Gore and his ten piece big band. And what a band it is - a hybrid jazz and rock band, the sound is huge and beefy, with a punchy impact that will make the listener stare in surprise at his loudspeakers. In terms of style this album falls somewhere between the equally hybrid rock-jazz sound of 70s British 'superband' CCS and The Crusaders. Rock guitar solos sit alongside funky sax, backed up with punchy brass and, one has to say, rather a sexy siren vocal chorus. Let Sleeping Dogs Lie contains fourteen tracks, all written by Christopher Gore, with some co-written with members of the band, while they were all arranged by pianist Marty Steele. The other musicians on the album are: Jeff Stover - bass, Steve Neilen - drums, John Pagels - guitar, Steve Madaio - trumpet, Gary Bliss - sax, Pat Rizzo - sax, Kenny Meier - trombone, Kristi King - vocals, Laura Hagen - vocals. The fourteen tracks are:Kundalini, High Time, The Fire In Your Eyes, Let Sleeping Dogs Lie, The South Side Of The City, Come With Me, Take Me Back To Heaven, You Dirty Dog, Owed To The Dan, It's You I'm Holding Now, Don't Tell Me What To Do, Happy Cat Rap, Virtual Love, The Rock Of Gibraltar. Let Sleeping Dogs Lie is an extremely sassy album, full of in your face tunes and sparkling performances from all the musicians involved. Christopher Gore writes a mean tune and knows how to get the best from both the musicians and the music - he even sings on one or two tracks. Great fun and highly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.jacksongarrett.com
The sequel to her Sentimental Mood album of 2008, pianist/vocalist Kate Reid is back with a new selection of songs from the 'Great American Songbook', The Love I'm In. As before she creates intimate magic with just her voice, piano and a quartet of musicians sympathetic to her style. The quartet are: Ernie Watts - tenor sax, Steve Reid - trumpet, Chris Connor - bass, Steve Barnes - drums, along with guest pianist Otmaro Ruiz performing on a few tracks. And the lady certainly has style, Ms Reid is a direct link back to the grand dames of jazz: Ella, Sarah and Peggy, while adding a little instrumental pizzazz. I think if you like Diana Kraal then you will really enjoy Kate Reid - for me, I find Ms Reid far more enjoyable as a performer, her approach to the songs is more direct and yes, affectionate. It is quite an interesting dip into the songbook, a mixture of golden oldies along with some rarities not so well known. Composers include: Duke Ellington, Johnny Mandel, Lew Spense, Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Jerome Kern etc. The Love I'm In contains twelve tracks: Just Squeeze Me, The Lamp Is Low, Where Do You Want To Start, Nice & Easy, So In Love, I'm Through With Love, I Love You Porgy, Something Good, Portrait In Black And White, With Every Breath I Take, Close Enough For Love, Nobody Else But Me. The Love I'm In is a beautiful collection jazz classics, performed with love and integrity, and more importantly emotional warmth. Recommended to anyone who loves old school jazz vocalists.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.katereidmusic.com
Described by the musicians as 'chamber jazz', Mystic Nights is actually more about improvisation and perhaps a bit of the avant-garde. A series of conversations between Pat Battstone's piano and Richard Poole's vibraphone, each instrument is pushed technically to the limits, especially the piano where direct plucking of strings and various treated sounds offer new vistas of sound. While the album is not as incoherent as much improv music is, it is definitely 'out there' as regards melody. Inspired by the Mystic River which flows beside the recording studio, there is the leitmotiv of running water, abandoned docks and swirling skeins of the river flowing throughout this music. It is rather like an impressionistic painting where the farther back you stand the more you can discern the images in the painting. Mystic Nights contains thirteen tracks, some are rather ambient pieces while others are more active, offering bigger canvas soundscapes. The track titles are: Scottish Heather, Summer Sunset, Gin and Tonic, Something Lurking, Newsreel, Undertow, When Creatures Reigned, The Miller's Tale, Magical Morning, Life Stories, Reflections, Cross Current, Mystic Nights. I have to be honest and say that this isn't really my kind of music, but for those who enjoy the outer reaches of Jazz and improvisational music then they should check out these musicians and their album. Yes, it is outside music's normal comfort zone, and it is pushing away at the borders of what we accept as music, but they said that about Beethoven too.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.bats-tones.com