Archive for May, 2017

KATHY KOSINS: A MULTI-MEDIA ARTIST UNCOVERS HER SOUL

May 22, 2017

AN ARTIST INTERVIEW WITH KATHY KOSINS
By Dee Dee McNeil/jazz journalist

You can’t just call Kathy Kosins a jazz singer, because her artistry touches all genres of music, from her roots in the soul and R&B music of Motown, to the smooth sultry West Coast jazz singers she emulated on her CD, “Ladies of Cool”. She’s also an award-winning ASCAP songwriter. When you listen to Kathy, you hear Blues, jazz, rock and soul all mixed up, like a beautiful, rich stew.

Kathy’s early love of music led her to songwriting. This blossomed into a career of singing. Recently, I talked to her about some of her roots as a performer in the music business.

KATHY: “It was 1977 or 1978. I had two cassettes made with some of my original song material and it was all R&B. Those cassettes were used for the purpose of taking them around to various recording studios and trying to get in the door as a session singer; a background vocalist. … I heard it from somebody that Michael Henderson was in United Sound studio. It was this humongous studio where Aretha recorded. Everybody was using that studio, because it was a big, popular studio back in the day. I walked in with a couple of cassettes. Michael Henderson was recording that day and he wouldn’t see me, but his manager came out, or his musical director; Eli Fontaine.** He took the music from me and I remember this like it was yesterday. They didn’t even have to buzz me in. I just walked in and I went to the receptionist and asked to see Michael Henderson. … So, Eli Fontaine came out and took the cassettes from me. My phone number was published right on the cassette. About a week went by until I got a phone call, and they said, Michael wants to see you in the studio the next day at 3-o-clock. They needed one more voice to round out the background voices. So, I showed up! Michael Henderson told me himself, I really like what you put on those tapes and I need a third singer.”

** NOTE: Eli Fontaine was a good friend of this journalist in Detroit. He was a well-respected reed player who worked on sessions at numerous Detroit studios. It’s his horn you hear on the top of the historic Marvin Gaye recording of “What’s Going On.”

KATHY: “… When I got there, I was introduced to the girls who sang with the Brides of Funkenstein or backed up Parliament Funkadelic. They were part of George Clinton’s crew. I’m sure he recorded there too. They all did. Sure enough, we went on tour. I wound up doing background vocals for this man’s band for a while. In that band, I met a woman named Carol Hall. She was one of the singers, and then there was this girl from the Parlets. Carol and I went on the road, as background vocalists, and in that band was a guitar player named Randy Jacobs. I knew randy from the Motor city music scene. We were all in bar bands at that time, … playing in bars around town. Carol was in a band. I was in a band. But now, we were on tour with the Michael Henderson band,” Kathy told me.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Michael Henderson, he is an American bassist, lauded for his work playing with Miles Davis and he’s also a competent vocalist. As a Buddah recording artist, Michael Henderson collaborated vocally with the late, great Phyllis Hyman and had several hit records on his own, including the popular “You Are My Starship,” Recording, when he was featured vocalist with Norman Conners. Later, Henderson recorded a duet with Hyman using the same song.

At age twenty-four, Kosins was a seasoned background singer and was busy composing music and singing around town. She ran into David Weiss, better known as David Was and Don Fagenson (aka: Don Was) of the band ‘Was/Not Was’. In 1982, Don Was produced Kathy’s first single release entitled, “You Shook Me All Night Long”, a re-make of the AC/DC tune.

KATHY: “After touring with Michael Henderson, the next thing you know, I did the same thing. I knocked on the door of Sound Sweet recording studios. It was located in a bad part of Detroit and Don Fagenson ( aka: Don Was) was in there making the very first Don Was (Was Not) record. It was the same thing; being in the right place at the right time. Don asked me not only to be a background vocalist for his band, but to hire the other two singers. So, I had to contract singers. Who did I call? Carol Hall and Sheila; I wish I could remember her last name. The same girls from the Henderson tour. One thing led to another, and suddenly I was doing a whole lot of session work in the city of Detroit.”
Kathy Kosins doesn’t come from a musical family. Her father built an empire in Detroit as the owner of the most popular men’s store in the Motor city. During the sixties and seventies, Ford Motor company was employing a multitude of blue-collar workers, business was booming, and Berry Gordy’s Motown was growing to nationwide fame, with Gordy’s hit records pouring out of radios coast-to-coast. Kathy recalled that time in her life.

KATHY: “If you knew Kosin’s clothes, and you did, ‘cause you lived in Detroit,” (she said to me confidentially) “my dad sold to Motown artists. I remember when I was a little kid, my dad used to grab me and he’d say, let’s go for a ride and take mister Gordy his suits. We’d drive up Woodward Avenue to Boston or Chicago Boulevard area to Berry Gordy’s big, white mansion or we’d take clothes to Mayor Coleman Young. My dad sold clothes to pimps, politicians, entertainers, funeral parlors, when they had to bury somebody in a nice-looking suit, or if you were getting married, you got your suit at Kosins,” she told me.

As a youngster, Kathy worked at her father’s popular clothing store and was introduced to celebrities like Dinah Washington, Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, the Temptations, Lou Rawls and the Four Tops. She learned the art of salesmanship. Later in life, when promoting her own CD projects and her solo career, that talent of selling surfaced to her benefit. To this day, she’s a meticulous business woman.

Kathy and her younger brother both were bitten by the music bug early on. When she was taken to New York by her dad, to attend the Broadway musical play, “Hair”, sitting in the theater with young, impressionable eyes glued to the stage, Kathy knew this was her destiny. She wanted to sing, write music and perform. Her brother, David, played guitar and had gigs in local bands. While he was inspired by and listened to Lester Bowie and the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Bud Powell, Miles Davis and John Coltrane, Kathy was busy listening to soul, blues and rock music, while writing songs and singing her heart out with local bands and in various studios. She says Janis Joplin greatly inspired her.

After her affiliation with the Don Was/Not Was Band, she collaborated with a number of Los Angeles and New York based writers to compose several songs she hoped to present to some popular jazz singers on the scene. Among those she hoped would record her work were vocalists like Dianne Reeves, Nancy Wilson and Diane Schurr. She prepared a number of songs, becoming her own song-plugger. Somehow, her demo fell into the hands of Schoolkids Records and they loved her material. It was 1996 and the next thing Kathy knew, she had a record deal and her debut album was released, entitled, “All In A Dreams Work”. It placed in the top 20 of the Gavin Report.

Her next release was on Chiaroscuro Records, in 2002, titled “Mood Swings” and received rave reviews. In 2006 she followed that success up with the release of “Vintage” on the Mahogany Jazz label. Then, six years later, Resonance Records released her popular “Ladies of Cool” album followed-up with “The Space Between” on Mahogany Jazz label. Kathy told me this 2013 album was a combination of her jazz influenced recordings and her Rhythm and blues roots. It was this turning point in her recording career that has led her to this most recent recording project titled, “Uncovered Soul”.

On her latest endeavor, Kathy Kosins circles back to her soul-infused, blues drenched, Motown roots. This new album introduces a fresh direction, moving Kosin’s from mainstream jazz to a more groove-oriented production. With producer Kamau Kenyatta by her side, she is reaching towards a more global approach to her music and is already being critically acclaimed in the UK music market. Producer, Kenyatta, is praised for his Gold Record, Grammy Award-winning collaboration with Gregory Porter.

The first cut, “ Don’t Get Me Started “ is a sensual, funk-driven production that showcases Kathy’s rich, sultry sound, driven by Eric Harland on drums and written by Gene McDaniels, pleasantly remembered for his hit records, “Compared to What” and “A Hundred Pounds of Clay.” Greg Moore’s tasty guitar punches the rhythm and Kathy’s voice is full of expression, warm and inviting.

Aaron Neville first recorded the song, “VooDoo.” Kathy and Kamau produce it as a combination of New Orleans soul and Kem-like grooves. ‘Kem’ is a familiar R&B star, based in Detroit, who has several soul-charted hit records and a signature sound. Mitch Foreman, on synthesizer-organ, adds a jazzy spice to the production and guitarist, Greg Moore, (or G-Moe as he is affectionately called), is gritty, raw and soulful.

Cut #3 is the CD’s title and one of Kathy’s original compositions. It captures a Smooth-Jazz/R&B flavor, and reminds me of a song Phyllis Hyman might sing, with a melody that Kathy’s warm vocals embrace and embellish. Another original is track #6, titled “A to B” and pretty much sums up the artist’s current state of mind. It’s one of my favorites on this CD. The lyrics say it all. For example, she sings:

“Those who came before me had so much to say. I listened to their stories as I try to find my way. … I’m just trying to get from A to B. Nobody ever told me, it don’t come easily. If I ask for inspiration, please shine a light on me. I’m just trying to get from A to B. Don’t try to be impatient, says a whisper in my head. When you trust your good intentions, you’ll be better off instead … Each and every day I’m thankful for following my dreams.”

The new Kathy Kosins’ album, “Uncovered Soul,” is based on the urban landscape of Detroit, pulling from the popular music of the early 1960’s and 70’s, she’s digging deeply into her rock and soul roots. When you combine this with Kathy’s jazz overtones and the hip-hop groove of danceable tracks, you begin to see a new side of this vocalist. Kathy describes her project as “Detroit-centric;” a tribute to her city, with music that paints a picture of an urban Detroit and its rebirth, its repurposing towards prosperity and renewed hope. She uses obscure tunes by gold-record composer/artists that include Bill Withers, Gene McDaniels, the Neville Brothers, Burt Bacharach, Curtis Mayfield and more, to thread a needle of unique artistry that holds the fabric of Kathy’s truth in place like a CD jacket.
Kathy Kosins is a multi-talented singer/songwriter who lives, breathes and paints music. When she’s not working on new songs, recording or touring, this multi-talented woman utilizes time as a visual artist and creates Modernist art.

KATHY: “I paint the sounds that I hear. Strains from Miles Davis’ trumpet, Charlie Parkers’ sax and Bud Powells’ piano translate into color and texture. I never have an idea or color scheme in mind when I pick up a brush. I paint strictly from my intuition. It was no different with the old jazz masters. They could play endless solos all night, using the same form.”

Her paintings bear the names of a number of jazz icons and jazz songs. For instance, the modern abstract painting that once hung in the Los Angeles office of the Monk Institute is called “Monks Dreams.” She began painting in 1990, and examples of other titles for her extensive work are: Miles Ahead, ‘Round Midnight, Corcovado, Joy Spring, Ornette, Green Dolphin Street and November Twilight.

http://www.kathykosins.com/artshow/kathykosins_art/index.html

Although this vocalist has recorded straight-ahead jazz and standards, on her new album, (scheduled for a September release), she reaches back to her beloved beginnings in the music business and combines styles. The result is jazzy and pop, soulful and R&B, uniquely mixed for strong crossover appeal.

Kathy Kosins will preview her “Uncovered Soul” album on June 8, 2017 at Catalina Bar & Grill in Los Angeles, California. Hit time is 8:30pm. See you there.
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JAZZ RELEASES HIGHLIGHT NEW COMPOSERS & ARRANGEMENTS OF OLD SONGS

May 16, 2017

May 16, 2017

By Dee Dee McNeil/jazz journalist

If you appreciate the beauty of a jazz flute, you will enjoy two composers who are both outstanding flautists; Lori Bell and Ed Maina. Maina plays all the reed instruments and has composed nearly every tune on his “In the Company of Brothers” CD. Lori Bell, also a fine jazz composer, teams with the very talented guitarist, Ron Satterfield, fitting like ring to finger in a marriage of duo music. Ronny Whyte brings us his compelling piano/vocal mastery. Mari & Leo Nobre celebrate being alive with world music arrangements, covering Gershwin to Jobim and vocalist Sylvia Brooks uses a cast of West Coast, all-star musicians that add sparkle to her production. Enjoy!

LORI BELL – “BLUE(S)”
Independent label

Lori Bell, C flute/alto flute; Ron Satterfield, guitar/vocals.

Tenacious flautist, Lori Bell and guitar master, Ron Satterfield, have joined together, fitting like ring to finger, in a marriage of duo music. The theme of their current CD release is “Blue(s),” using a string of beautiful compositions that include the word ‘blue’ in each title. Beginning with the Lori Bell original composition, “Bell’s Blues”, we enjoy nearly four minutes of a very happy, straight-ahead jazz tune that is punctuated by Satterfield’s guitar, walking bass lines, and his voice echoing the melody. Bell displays her usual flare on flute, swinging hard and freely improvising; even ‘trading fours’ with Satterfield’s innovative scat singing. The Bill Evans composition, “Blue in Green” has a Brazilian arrangement, created by the gentle and persuasive strumming of Satterfield, with Bell’s flute singing sweetly atop the rhythm. Both musicians are so timely and tempo conscious, I don’t even miss the drums. Satterfield has written lyrics to the Evan’s tune and sings his prose after Bell’s awesome solo. You will enjoy the Thelonius tune, “Blue Monk”, the Joni Mitchell song, “Blue”, Oliver Nelson’s “Teenie’s Blues,” McCoy Tyner’s “Blues on the Corner”, the Miles Davis jazz standard, “All Blues” and a couple of more original compositions by the talented Ms. Bell. One of her compositions especially touched my heart entitled, “Blue Butterflies” that made the fluttering wings of the insects dance cheerfully off of my CD player. Lori and Ron blend together, like pancakes and syrup; sweet, tasty and satisfying.

The duo will celebrate the release of this CD during a concert at Dizzy’s in San Diego on Saturday, July 15 at 8PM with special guests Duncan Moore on drums and percussionist Tommy Aros.

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RONNY WHYTE – “SHADES OF WHYTE”
Audiophile Records

Ronny Whyte, piano/vocals/arrangements; Boots Maleson, bass; Sean Harksness, guitar; Lou Caputo, tenor saxophone/flute; Mauricio De Souza & David Silliman, drums; Alex Nguyen, trumpet.

Ronny Whyte is a pianist and jazz singer with a vocal style very reminiscent of Frank Sinatra. This album offers sixteen familiar, standard. jazz tunes that feature Whyte’s sextet. It reminds this listener of sitting in a hotel lounge, sipping cocktails somewhere in America, while enjoying a seasoned veteran share his smooth vocals and competent piano playing. One thing that separates Whyte from a typical lounge singer are his composing skills. He has added five original songs on this recording. “It’s Time for Love” has a strong lyrical base and a happy-go-lucky melody. “I Love the Way You Dance,” is another well-written composition that features Alex Nguyen, resilient on trumpet. Whyte slides smoothly past some pitch problems on this tune, but his songwriting skills are strong. Other self-penned, standard-sounding songs are “Linger Awhile,” “I’ll Tell You What,” and “Blame It on the Movies.” Here is an easy listening CD that I’m certain Ronny Whyte’s fans will gobble up like M&M candy.

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ED MAINA – “IN THE COMPANY OF BROTHERS”
Independent Label

Ed Maina, alto & soprano saxophones/clarinet/flute & alto flute/piccolo/percussion/EWI; Rick Krive, piano/vocals; Jim Gaisor & Kemuel Roig, piano; Dave Cabrera, Jonathan Orriols & Gustavo Eraso, guitar; Gabby Vivas, Oskar Cartaya, John DiModica & Abe Laboriel, bass; Hilario Bell, Hector “Pocho” Nuciosup, Daniel Berroa & Charlie Santiago, percussion; Abner Torres, drums; Jim Hacker, trumpet/flugelhorn; Ira Sullivan, trumpet/flugelhorn; John Kricker, trombone; Javier Diaz & Carolina Herrera, vocals; Chuk Wu, prayer; Eddy Garcia, kalimba; Flute, Priscilla Wagner.
Ed Maina is a master of several horns. I’m usually prone to Alto and Tenor saxophones, but Maina makes me enjoy the beauty of each horn he plays, coloring the music like a fine portrait painter. “This Is the Moment,” is a composition opening the production. It’s so bluesy that it draws me in like quicksand. Here is smooth jazz at its best, and all the players bring excellence to this project. I’m enthralled with Jonathan Orriol’s guitar solo. The horn arrangements are complimentary and harmonic. In the liner notes, Ed Maina writes:

“My experiences at the University of Miami Jazz Department, opened up so many doors for me to play with some of the best musicians and bands in the industry. Some include Maynard Ferguson, Frank Sinatra, Chaka Khan, Natalie Cole, Jaco Pastorius … the Temptations, the O’Jays and so many more. … In 2004, I was encouraged by a close friend to record my own project. In the challenge of raising a family, teaching school and pursuing a music career … I realize why this project took thirteen years to complete. It’s also challenging to categorize the music that comes from your heart, having been influenced from Mozart to Motown and everyone in between. Obviously, I have a strong jazz and Latin jazz influence coming from South Florida. … What you’ll hear are all those influences, mixed with a lot of beautiful music from musicians I met and played with. “In the Company of Brothers” is the fruit of that endeavor.”

Maina’s self-penned composition, “You’re Still Here With Me” is delicate and emotional, with Maina’s clarinet flying like a bird across the lush, electronic background instrumentation. Gabby Vivas is solid on bass, walking creatively beneath the production and acting as the basement of the band’s structure. Maina adds Alto flute as a lovely appendage to the sensitive face of this production. When I listen to this Waltz, I am enchanted by the melody. Jim Gaisor exhibits expert chops on piano and fattens the sound.

Then comes “Quelly’s Song,” an ebullient, Latin number where Abner Torres on trap drums locks the groove down along with Hector ‘Pocho’ Nuciosup and Charlie Santiago on percussions. A nice, smooth guitar solo by Gustavo Eraso pushes the music gently ahead. Pianist Rick Krive adds his vocals to accent certain riffs with scat doubling. All the while, Maina’s supreme flute playing dominates this tune’s production. Maina features several original compositions on his CD and they are all sexy and plush with emotional character. One of the things I look for in a music project is believability and emotion. I really want to feel something when I listen and Maina’s musicianship is full of expression. This ensemble plays it all, from Latin fusion to funk; straight ahead to blues. I also love Maina’s saxophone expertise. Ed Maina and his band fit together like familiar garden plants rooted in rich soil. They blossom and grow, bursting with color and fragrance with each song. Here is a bouquet of exquisite music that brightens my home, like bunches of wild flowers or pots of fragrant, fresh herbs. It’s good for the soul.
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MARI NOBRE’S JAZZ BAND – “LIVE AND ALIVE”
Chrome Records

Mari Nobre, vocals; Leo Nobre, bass; Justo Almario, sax/flute; Angelo Metz, acoustic/electric guitar; Sandro Feliciano, drums; Daniel Szabo, piano.

On this celebration of life CD, multi-linqual vocalist, Mari Nobre, interprets songs from Benny Golson’s “Whisper Not” to Jobim’s “Corcovado” and “Chega de Saudade”. Ms. Nobre sings in Portuguese, in Spanish and in English during a ‘live’ recorded concert at the Jan Popper Theater on the campus of UCLA. Surrounded by her husband/arranger, Leo Nobre on bass, and the incomparable Justo Almario on reeds, this Italian queen holds a jazzy court. Mari Nobre was born and raised in Naples, Italy and began singing at age fourteen. She transplanted to New York , met Leo Nobre, who was playing bass with Sergio Mendes at that time. They married and moved to Los Angeles.

This project was recorded last year, only three weeks after Mari Nobre had an operation to remove cancer from her body. Thus, this musical expression becomes Nobre’s testament to life and the healing power of music. Their Brazilian arrangement on Gershwin’s “Fascinating Rhythm” is jubilant and showcases Almario’s flute and Nobre’s voice flying freely. They are like two improvisational birds. The thoughtful solo of Angelo Metz on guitar is a warm introduction to Daniel Szabo’s piano improvisation on “Corcovado”. Mari Nobre has composed one song with co-writer, Patrick Lockwood. It’s titled, “Linda” and moves at a happy Samba pace, with a staccato melody that punctuates the title. Actually, (I read in the liner notes) the Portuguese meaning of “Linda” is ‘beautiful’. Mari Nobre dedicated this song to the beauty of womanhood. “Dance Me to the End of Love” gives Leo Nobre a chance to solo on his electric bass and Almario adds his jazzy saxophone to the mix. “Frenesi” is a familiar song to my ear and Nobre lets her second soprano voice sing it with gusto. It’s a proper and energetic way to end this album.

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SYLVIA BROOKS – “THE ARRANGEMENT”
Independent label

Sylvia Brooks, vocals; Otmaro Ruiz , Jeff Colella & Quinn Johnson, piano; Christian Jacob, piano/Fender Rhodes; Sezin Ahmet Turkmenoglu, Chris Colangelo, David Hughes & Trey Henry, bass; Aaron Serfaty, drums/percussion; Tom Brechtlein, Jamey Tate & Kendall Kay, drums; Kim Richmond, alto saxophone, Bob Sheppard, tenor saxophone; Francisco Torres, trombone; Juliane Gralle, bass trombone; Brian Swartz & Michael Stver, trumpet; Ron Stout, flugelhorn; Jeff Driskill, sax; Will Brahm & Larry Koonse, guitar; Bruce Babad, flutes/sax;;

This vocalist is wrapped tightly with a blanket of excellent arrangements and wonderful musicians, who create a bed of comfort for her voice. Otmaro Ruiz, one of the pianist/arrangers on this project, has prepared silky smooth musical sheets, with his horn section punching at just the right spaces on Sylvia Brooks’ premiere tune; “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps.” Aaron Serfaty’s percussion greatly compliments her arrangement, enhancing the Latin-feel. The Hank Williams country/western tune, “Cold Cold Heart” is performed as a smart blues, once again featuring a well arranged horn section. I love the production and arrangements on this CD. The vocalist has good pitch and a pretty voice. However, do I believe her lyrical stories? That is the question. Part of being a believable singer is to sell the songs and infuse them with strong, individual emotion. However, the musical productions are so strong, you easily give Ms. Brooks a pass. For example, the awesome arrangement of “Body and Soul” by Jeff Colella is fresh and captivating. Her song choices are to be commended. She offers the listener fourteen well-respected and recognizably popular songs from the Beatles to Matt Dennis; from Cole Porter to Sammy Cahn.

As a composer, Brooks co-wrote two original songs that have good lyrics and memorable melodies; “What Was I thinking (The Mirage)” and “Sweet Surrender” are well-written with stellar horn arrangements. Bravo for hiring all these amazing and accomplished musicians and arrangers. Sylvia Brooks collaboration with some of the best jazz musicians in Southern California make this project sparkle.

Sylvia Brooks will appear in concert to release her new CD on June 7, 2017 at the famed Catalina Jazz Club in Hollywood. Hit time is 8:30PM.
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POLITICS AND POINTS OF VIEW REFLECTED IN TODAY’S MUSIC

May 2, 2017

POLITICS & POINTS OF VIEW REFLECTED IN TODAY’S MUSIC
New CD reviews by Dee Dee McNeil – Jazz Journalist – May 1, 2017

TINA RAYMOND – “LEFT RIGHT LEFT”
Orenda Records

Tina Raymond, drums; Art Lande, piano; Putter Smith, bass.

The thing that strikes me right away about this recording is that the drums are mixed crisply and upfront. Steadfast and timely, Tina Raymond steps forward, obviously, the leader on her trap drum instrument. She is exceptionally creative and her drum talents stand out in situations of musical production that usually call for the percussion to be in the background. Raymond can roll those drum sticks, smooth and rhythmically, like an expert baker. The resulting pie, of both sweet and peppery sounds, invites us to taste her percussion mastery.

Glancing down at the titles of the songs she picked for this premiere recording, it is obvious Tina Raymond is intent on making a statement with her music. Musically, Raymond is calling our attention to a sadness and frustration that she claims to have felt in the days following our most recent presidential election. Starting with “Pastures of Plenty” by Woody Guthrie and followed by, “Battle Hymn of the Republic”, “America”, “Union Maid”, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and “Saigon Bride” (by Joan Baez), and inclusive of the CD title, “Left Right Left,” she depicts two extreme political factors in the United States. Raymond explains in her liner notes:

“As a drummer and percussion teacher, I say the words ‘left’ and ‘right’ often. I spend a lot of time thinking and talking about what combinations of left and right are the most efficient way to execute rhythms. … In politics, the terms ‘left wing’ and ‘right wing’ date back to the French Revolution … two opposing parties in relation to the king. I was very disillusioned when a man with no qualifications defeated a woman, who is probably one of the most qualified people ever to run for president. I think America still doesn’t respect women. … The name of my CD refers to the political landscape of the U.S.”

Art Lande on piano and bassist, Putter Smith each rise to the task at hand, delivering artistically the very best of themselves. Both are lauded and seasoned players. Lande is Grammy-nominated and extremely improvisational on piano. You can hear his Avant Garde harmonics brightly supporting the diametrically opposed left and right on “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Putter Smith is as solid as a judge’s gavel, pounding out the rhythm on his double bass with power and authority. Smith has worked with Art Blakey, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Ray Charles, Burt Bacharach, Percy Faith, Art Pepper and a host of others. Lande has seventeen albums released as a leader and his piano skills are clearly a catalyst in the arrangements on this recording. I was taken by the sweetness and sincerity he infused during the composition, “Union Maid.” Although the lyrics, by Woody Guthrie, strongly support American work unions from a fearless woman’s point of view, Lande’s piano execution is sensitive and lovely. The song lyrics read, “There was a union maid, she never was afraid of goons and ginks and company finks and the deputy sheriffs who made the raid.”

Similar to the lyrics of that song, Tina Raymond is another strong female, a forward thinker and a change-maker. She isn’t afraid to express her revolutionary spirit on this compact disc of music. Her arrangements are powerful and expressive. Her artistry; undeniable. Endorsed by Sabian, Regal Tip and Remo drum manufacturers, and currently a professor of music at Los Angeles City College, she is one of a few women throughout the country in a full-time faculty position in jazz. Even more importantly, she is an exceptional drummer. Every cut on this CD is an exclamation mark on the word excellent.
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ROCCO JOHN IACOVONE – “PEACE AND LOVE”
Unseen Rain Records

Rocco John Iacovone, alto & soprano saxophone/piano; Ras Moshe Burnett, bells/tenor saxophone/flute; Sana Nagano, violin; Michael Lytle, bass clarinet; Rich Rosenthal, guitar; Phil Sirois, bass; John Pietaro, percussion; Dalius Naujo, drums.

I was eager to review this piece of art, mainly because of the CD title. I, myself, always answer my phone, “Peace and love” and it’s really my life mantra. Like Rocco John Iacovone, I recognize we need people to reflect and embrace more peace and love on earth. Consequently, I was eager to experience music that boasted an inspiration for the goodness of love and peace in three musical Suites. The first reflects the “Aurora Borealis”; the second is composed in consideration of “Evolution” and the last Suite is titled, “What If the Moon Were Made Out of Jazz?”

Rocco John Iacovone has long been a major influence in New York’s improvisatory musician’s community. As a student of Sam Rivers and Lee Konitz, his alto and soprano saxophone talents reflect Avant Garde inspiration. He founded the Improvisational Composers Ensemble (ICE) as an outlet for music specific to featuring improv as a major compositional element. “Peace and Love” is his fourth album as a leader and composer. His ensemble generously reflects the premise of freedom and creativity. They band together to compliment his original music, with ample time given each musician to express themselves within each suite. This recording was made “Live” inside “the Stone” (John Zorn’s place) to a standing-room-only audience. It is dedicated to the memory of Will Connell, who had encouraged Rocco’s residency and ultimate recording venture, but passed away November 19, 2014, before he could witness the dream come to fruition. Connell received a CAPS grant for orchestral composition and as a copyist/arranger/sideman, Will Connell worked for musicians ranging from Stevie Wonder and Roberta Flack to Horace Tapscott, Sam Rivers, Elton John, Rahsaan Roland Kirk and King of Pop, Michael Jackson.

Rocco said, “Will used to sign his emails, “Peas and Lub”. So this CD, ‘Peace and Love,’ is dedicated with much love to the spirit of Will Connell.”
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GREGORY LEWIS – “ORGAN MONK, THE BREATHE SUITE”
Independent Label

Gregory Lewis, Hammond B3 Organ; Nasheet Waits & Jeremy “Bean” Clemons, drums; Marc Ribot, guitar; Reggie Woods, tenor saxophone; Riley Mullins, trumpet.

Gregory Lewis brings together a federation of musicians who have joined in musical protest to remember the names of African Americans who have become symbols of the racial divide in America. The first name, “Michael Brown” opens ethereally, with a musical freedom and Avant Garde attitude that leaves plenty of room for solo expression. “Chronicles of Michael Brown” allows each musician in the Gregory Lewis ensemble to step forward and make an improvisational statement. We experience the musical mood-changes dramatically. Reggie Woods brings a moody blues with his tenor saxophone. Riley Mullins doubles the tempo and melodically screeches his trumpet protest to the wind. Nasheet Waits is a monster on drums, sometimes frenzied and powerful, other times beating a slow funk rhythm into the pulse of the music. As an example, he holds the groove in place beneath Marc Ribot’s soulful, electric guitar solo. This solo quickly accelerates in pace, pushing crescendos of energy into a mild explosion of sound and cymbals. Lewis uses the organ’s upper register to calm the group, with a staccato approach, playing repetitious notes that dance on rolling trap drums like water drops in hot grease. This first movement sets the tone of his album and takes the listener to some unexpected places. For those who don’t remember, eighteen-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by a white, Ferguson police officer and that sparked civil unrest in the streets of this Missouri city.

The second movement, dedicated to the memory of Trayvon Martin, a young African American teenager whose life was taken by an impetuous police-wanna-be, (citizen patrol person) as Trayvon was walking back to his father’s house on private property. Lewis’ organ style on this composition reminds me of the late, great Jimmy Smith with a bebop feel and melodic organ improv. The arrangement is quick and assertive, like the unpredictable fight between the killer and the boy, ending in the unarmed man-child’s life being taken. I’m impressed by the way the organ melody and the drums of Jeremy ‘Bean’ Clemons play in unison at the top of this tune. Clemons displays the same kind of high energy and precision drumming as Waits and plays on four out of these six tunes.

The third Movement is in memory of Little seven-year-old, Aiyana Jones, and titled “Aiyana’s Jones Song,” beginning with Lewis on organ and Ribot on guitar setting an Eerie, dirge like mood. It reminds us of how police officers raided a house in Detroit, Michigan, May 16, 2010, and shot and killed the child lying innocent on her couch. Officer Joseph Weekley was charged, with reckless endangerment with a gun and involuntary manslaughter, in the child’s death. Two different trials ended in mistrials. The dirge-like music soon lightens, with melodies that are playful and happy, perhaps representing the spirit of the little girl before this horrendous incident.

The Fourth Movement is in tribute to Eric Garner, a man accused of selling single cigarettes, in July of 2014, and ultimately NYPD officers put the large man in a choke hold that led to him mumbling “I can’t breathe” and soon after he died from that police altercation. On this musical reflection, the arrangement is other-worldly and ominous.

Gregory Lewis is providing a musical platform for the stories of African American casualties from horrific episodes brought to public light by cell phone recordings and multi-cultural defiance against unnecessary violence, by police, against people of color. Thus, the rise of movements like ‘Black Lives Matter’ and protests nationwide. Lewis feels these are incidents and names we must never forget. He explained himself by saying:

“I can’t protest, because if I protest I go to jail. And if I go to jail, I can’t feed my five kids. So, what I can do is what I do. I write music. I want to get this record to each of the people, even if it brings joy for just a minute to these families.”

Lewis closed with the Fifth Movement titled “Osiris Ausar and the Race4 Soldiers.” It’s a speedy, Straight Ahead number that bebops its way across space and reflects the story of Ausar that begins in the ancient kingdom of Kush or what is presently known as Sudan. Ausar was a genius leader and scholar, who taught agriculture, theology and is said to have known the language of the Gods. He married Auset or Isis, and was later murdered in his sleep by his jealous brother. His body was dismembered into fourteen parts and the various body parts were left in diverse territories of Kemet. Ausar’s wife, Isis, searched until she found thirteen of his fourteen missing body parts, washed each one, anointed each with oil and wrapped each in linen for a proper burial. Later, she bore a son, who grew up and killed the evil uncle and retook their land. His son, Heru, is commemorated over several temples in Egypt as a carved, winged sun, known as the Heru Bedet. It is meant to serve as a reminder of virtue and order and a warning against jealousy and hedonism. Osiris is known, to this day, as an Egyptian God, usually identified as presiding over the afterlife.

This “Osiris Ausar and the Race4 Soldiers” composition seems to be a final blessing on those souls departed and the legacy they left behind. There is a sixth cut on this CD that is a reprise of the fifth. My only criticism of this piece of musical art is that at times, the organ is not pulled up enough in the ‘mix’.

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HIROE SEKINE – “ONE WORLD ONE SUN”
Sony Music

Hiroe Sekine, piano/composer; Yukihiro Isso, Nokan/Dengakubue; Kazuhiko Kondo, soprano saxophone/bass clarinet; Michael Valerio, acoustic bass/fretless bass/elec. bass; Peter Erskine, drums; Alex Acuña, cajon/bombo/drums; Antonio de Jerez, palmas & voz; Kaori Aoi, Sanshin; Paul Livingstone, sitar; Brad Dutz, tabla; Charlie Bisharet, violin; Eric Rigler, Uilleann pips; Geoff Dent, Gendér/Reyong; Dimitris Mahlis, oud; Larry Koones, tenor ukulele; Edgar Huaman Vera, zampoña; SPECIAL GUEST: Hiromitsu Agatsuma, Tsugaru-Shamisen player.

In a world perforated by bullets of war and muddied by cultural misunderstandings, Hiroe Sekine endeavors to bring people together with new music that celebrates a variety of countries, pulled lovingly under the umbrella of jazz. She has composed every track on this compact disc with the obvious intention of showing us how much alike we are and unified, instead of divided. Music can do that.

Pianist Sekine has incorporated instrumentation from various parts of the world to color her melodies and expand her arrangements, starting with “Nippon Barre, (a Japanese Sunny Day),” that reflects her own culture and the country of Japan. Incorporating the native instruments of Nokan an Dengakubue and using minor mode harmonies and scales, this artist brings her country to our ears. The Nokan is a flute from the Japanese Yokobue Edo period that dates back to the 1800s. The famed player, Hiromitsu Agatsuma (Courtesy of NIPPON Columbia Records) brings ancient authenticity with the Tsugaru-Shamisen instrument that resembles a banjo in appearance, but is very, very different in sound and frets. Upon listening to this song, I am transported to Nagoya, with it’s beautiful and ornate, outdoor, winter ice sculptors or Kyoto, full of temples, castles and supreme noodle shops. There is a very warm spot In my heart for Japanese culture and jazz. My first solo gig as a jazz singer was in Nagoya, Japan with a very excellent Japanese jazz band.

Hiroe Sekine whisks us off to Spain on cut #2 titled, “Brillo del Sol” translating to Sunshine. Kazuhiko Kondo is stellar on his soprano saxophone solo and Michael Valerio tells an engaging double bass story. Sekine’s melody runs like a thread throughout this song and connects everyone with needle-like precision, the same way her theme of sunshine touches the title of every tune. It’s a very charming composition and concept.

Tune number three has a reggae feel, so I immediately know we are somewhere in the Caribbean. “Sunshine (Caribbean)” unfolds, and I wish I had felt more ‘joi de vivre’ in this song. I’ve spent time in those islands, where energy and music is married and infectious. Sekine’s arrangement is a bit too laid-back for my taste, featuring Russell Ferrante’s melodica, and sounding rather like easy-listening instead of jazz. I did enjoy the addition of steel drums, but they still couldn’t lift the music by themselves.

Representing the people, culture and music of India, the fourth composition is titled, “Soorya Kaa Prakaasha” or Sunlight. The sitar of Paul Livingstone sings the melody along with Sekine and Brad Dutz adds the Tabla, a south Asian percussive instrument similar to bongos. Livingstone brings out the beauty on this song with his sitar solo, playing tag with Hiroe Sekine’s piano runs. ON “Tidanu Hikari (Rays of the Sun – Okinawa), Sekine steps forward to lay a lovely ballad at our feet like a gift, wrapped in the warm cloak of Kaori Aoi’s Sanshin instrument. I found this composition very beautiful. The Sanshin is a traditional Japanese instrument that has a very banjo-like quality of sound.

Sekine is quite generous with her musical space, giving several guests free-wheel to roll around this disc, exploring her memorable melodies with solos and improvisation. She completes this album by reflecting the music of Ireland, (incorporating violin and Uillean pipes). She celebrates Indonesia, with the distinctive sounds of Gendér and Reyong instruments, followed by tributes to Morocco, Hawaii and Peru. Each original composition mirrors the brazen and necessary beauty and warmth of our sun, as well as the title of this album, “One World One Sun.” Without the sun and each other, we will surely perish.

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