Archive for September, 2017

NEW CD RELEASES: JAZZ COLORS MUSIC FROM NEW AGE TO OBOE: FROM VOCALS TO BEBOP & STRAIGHT AHEAD

September 14, 2017

NEW CD RELEASES: JAZZ COLORS MUSIC FROM NEW AGE TO OBOE: FROM VOCALS TO BEBOP & STRAIGHT AHEAD
By jazz journalist, Dee Dee McNeil

September 14, 2017

As summer winds down, I’ve received a number of newly released CDs that merit time and attention. I had to pry myself away from the television and the heart wrenching videos of families, homes and lives torn apart by Hurricane Irma, a storm that devastated Florida, the Virgin Islands and touched down in other states like North Carolina and Georgia. Before that, there was Hurricane Harvey that flooded and battered Texas. I believe music is healing and sometimes calming to the nerves. Today, I needed calming, as I continue to pray for the millions affected by these sever hurricanes, I put my music on.

Speaking of calming, the first CD I listen to is by CATHERINE MARIE CHARLTON, a pianist/composer who creates New Age music in celebration of painter, Andrew Wyeth. Next, SHERMAN IRBY & MOMENTUM offer an ensemble of iconic jazz men and original music that is straight-ahead jazz at its best. Vocalist, MICHELLE LORDI, serenades her listeners with familiar jazz standards. Trumpet connoisseur, JOHN DAVERSA, featuring BOB MINTZER, has penned an album of wonderful original compositions and so has vocalist, composer, pianist, CAROL ALBERT. There’s a beautiful, innovative album by GARY MEEK, another excellent composer who plays a mean tenor saxophone. Finally, there’s PAUL McCANDLESS and his adventures with oboe, featuring PAUL WINTER CONSORT. Explore these artists in my latest column at http://www.musicalmemoirs.wordpress.com

CATHERINE MARIE CHARLTON – THE WYETH ALBUM – “I DREAM ABOUT THIS WORLD”
Phil’s Records

Catherine Marie Charlton, piano/composer/arranger; David Darling, cello; Nancy Rumbel, English horn

New Age would be the description I would use for this piano music by Catherine Marie Charlton. Grammy Award-winning producer, Phil Nicolo, has established a new record company and has signed this artist to be one of the first on his label.

The reference to ‘The Wyeth Album’ refers to a fascination Charlton has for the paintings of Andrew Wyeth (1917 – 2009) and his illustrator and artistic father, N.C. Wyeth (1882 – 1945). As Catherine Marie Charlton searched for inspiration to compose and play her beloved piano, she found a connection with these two artists.

Here is a smooth blend of classical, easy-listening and New Age music. She debuted her music from this album on June 29th at the Brandywine River Museum of Art, during the opening week of an exhibition celebrating the 100th anniversary of Andrew Wyeth’s birth. Most of her recorded music features Charlton’s original compositions and Charlton says that she uses painted art, nature and poetry as catalysts and meditative touchstones to create her music.

Charlton claims to have found her ‘authentic’ self during the creation of this album and has expressed it musically through her self-penned compositions. Notable covers include “Die Luft 1st Blau”, a solo piano improvisation on a Schubert melody and her world premiere of a chorale composition by Andrew Wyeth’s sister (Ann Wyeth McCoy) “Helga Suite:Chorale”. She also incorporates Opus 75, No. 5, by Jean Sibelius in cut #2, Granen (The Spruce).

I found Charlton’s music both compelling and spiritual. There is something other-worldly about her connection with the piano in these sparse, but provocative arrangements. It’s a music I would recommend listening to during meditation or moments of contemplation. It’s the kind of peaceful music you hear at the Spa during your massage. There is something spiritual here that reverberates with each song played. Her careful collaborations with New Age GRAMMY® Award-winners, cellist David Darling and English horn player and producer, Nancy Rumbel are lovely. Also, she collaborated with producer Will Ackerman on this project.

Charlton earned a degree in both engineering and music at Cornell University. She was named one of the “Top Ten College Women” in U.S. GLAMOUR Magazine. She’s been a Steinway Artist and Independent Music Awards winner, noted for her classically-based improvisations that bridge Jazz and New Age music styles. Like Wyeth’s paintings, this album of music is definitely a work of art.

For more information see: wyethalbum.com or visit http://www.CatherineMarieCharlton.com
* * * * * * * * * * * *

SHERMAN IRBY & MOMENTUM – “CERULEAN CANVAS”
Black Warrior Records

Sherman Irby, alto saxophone; Eric Reed, piano; Gerald Cannon, bass; Willie Jones III, drums; Wynton Marsalis, trumpet; Elliot Mason & Vincent Gardner, trombones.

Cerulean is a deep, blue color glowing like a clean, clear sky, and this CD is steeped in shades of blues. Starting with “Racine,” this arrangement offers an introduction, like a prayer or a meditation featuring bassist, Gerald Cannon. The song suddenly bursts into a moderate tempo’d, straight-ahead masterpiece of both composition and musicianship. From the very first strains of this original jazz composition by Irby, I am hooked. The harmonic horn arrangements brightly color the theme and allow a platform for the individual solos to be spotlighted. Sherman Irby embodies his musical influences, including Cannonball Adderley, Benny Carter, Jimmy Dorsey, Johnny Hodges and Charlie Parker. However, Irby’s saxophone sound, tone and style are all his own.

The second cut, “Blues for Poppa Reed,” allows pianist, Eric Reed, to stretch out his busy fingers and to interpret his inner-most feelings, carving creativity across the black and white keys. On the Mulgrew Miller tune, “From Day to Day,” Irby tributes the pianist/composer who left us way too soon, (Miller passed at fifty-seven-years-young), and was a personal friend of Irby’s.

This is Irby’s eighth album as a leader. His outstanding cast of musical characters make up the group he titles, Momentum, each member, a genius artist in their own right. Irby has written “Willie’s Beat” (aka: The Sweet Science), to showcase the talents of Willie Jones III. Jones makes good with every swipe of his sticks and each polished rumble of his masterful trap drums. There is a very melodic ‘hook’ to this song that sets up a memorable groove where the musicians can solo and Jones makes technical magic on his several bar solo. He’s also ever present and powerful beneath the band.

Wynton Marsalis makes a couple of guest appearances on cut # 8 and cut #10. The eighth tune is titled “John Bishop Blues” and it is a nitty-gritty, low-down blues with Irby and the bass setting the production firmly in place at the introductory top, before piano and drums join them. When Marsalis adds his distinctive trumpet voice to the mix, it soulfully encapsulates both gospel and New Orleans jazz flavors. The trumpet and saxophone harmonics, interplaying between Reed’s soul-laced piano improv, reminded me of an old White House Coffee sponsored jazz show out of Chicago that I used to listen to on radio many, many years ago. There was something nostalgic about Irby’s blues tune.

Irby has shared his talents as an artistic member of such groups led by Marcus Roberts, Roy Hargrove, Elvin Jones, Papo Vazquez and more recently, as part of the tour with McCoy Tyner. He participated in the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead Program and leant his talents to youth education, as part of the Jazz Masters Workshop.
Everything recorded here puts the capital E in excellence. The arrangements are astonishing and the song choices apropos to represent legendary jazz history with 21st century influence. For example, Irby adopts songs like Stevie Wonder’s composition, “Smile Please” as a straight-ahead jazz production and succeeds in a marvelous way. I admire Irby’s smart and innovative sax solo on this tune. This project inspires happiness and after all, that sums up the title of Wonder’s tune, doesn’t it?
* * * * * * * * * * * * *

MICHELLE LORDI – “DREAM A LITTLE DREAM”
Independent Label

Michelle Lordi, vocals: Bill Avayou, drums; Mike Frank, piano; Larry McKenna, tenor sax; Matthew Parrish, bass/producer; John Swana,. Trombone; Sonny Troy, guitar; Jay Webb, trumpet.

Michelle Lordi opens with the title tune of her new CD and sets the precedence for what will follow. She has a pleasant, inviting tone and vocal style. Her ensemble is seasoned, featuring Philadelphia jazz veterans who support her with well-performed musical strength and sensitivity. The horn section is nicely arranged and compliments Lordi’s vocal execution. This is especially evident on Irving Berlin’s popular song, “They Say It’s Wonderful,” and on “No Moon At All.” Larry McKenna has written stellar arrangements and Jay Webb’s trumpet solo is memorable on “No Moon At All.” Guitarist, Sonny Troy, executes a short, but very well played solo on “The Lamp Is Low” followed by Larry McKenna on tenor saxophone. Mike Frank adds his bluesy artistry at the piano and trumpeter Jay Webb gets to add his say-so before the vocalist rejoins the group to complete the song.

Produced by bassist Matt Parrish, who has recorded with luminaries like Regina Carter, Wynton Marsalis, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Paquito D’Rivera, this is an easy listening music project with songs we love to hear that are well played and well sung.
* * * * * * * * * * *

JOHN DAVERSA featuring BOB MINTZER – “WOBBLY DANCE FLOWER”
BFM Jazz

John Daversa, trumpet/EVI; Bob Mintzer, tenor saxophone/bass clarinet/EWI; Zane Carney, guitar; Joe Bagg, piano/Hammond B3 organ; Jerry Watts, Jr., bass/U-bass; Gene Coye, drums.

Publicity notes describe Grammy-nominated artist, John Daversa as an internationally respected performer, trumpeter, EVI player, composer, arranger, producer, bandleader, educator and BFM Jazz recording artist. That’s quite a list of accolades, so I was eager to hear him play. I was not disappointed.

The very first cut, “Ms. Turkey” struts out the gate playfully and flies straight-ahead into the room. After Daversa sets the tone and tempo with his smooth, trumpet sound, Bob Mintzer joins in on tenor saxophone to solo. Joe Bagg adds Hammond B3 organ charm to the mix and as the chord changes climb the progressive ladder, the ensemble builds the energy to a fever pitch and pops the ending in our face like a champagne cork. The music bubbles with energy.

On the jazz standard, “Donna Lee” the ensemble settles into a blues shuffle, with Coye’s drums slapping the groove into place. After Daversa’s solo, the band doubles the time and enter Bob Mintzer on bass clarinet, flying around the disc with improvisational gusto. Joe Bagg takes a turn on piano, with Gene Coye continuously pushing the rhythm with flawless drums. Both tunes are a great way to start this CD and to introduce the listening audience to these masterful musicians. Bassist, Jerry Watts, Jr. locks horns with the drummer and they hold the rhythm solidly in place. Zane Carney’s guitar is a fluid rhythm throughout.

Daversa continues to play at the speed of sound, racing through the changes on “Be Free” until the rhythm suddenly turns down, from a hot boil to a slow stew. They retard the rhythm and the energy, creating an open effect for imaginations to run wild. It’s a bit Avant Garde and dissonant at times, in a pleasing kind of way. When Watts, Jr. starts walking his bass swiftly, the ensemble follows his pace. They continue to exhibit the title of this tune, being free with their improvisational skills. The melody reminds me a bit of the Thelonious Monk tune, “Rhythm-a-Ning”.

The CD’s title tune was named by Daversa’s six-year-old daughter. “Wobbly Dance Flower” is delightful of spirit and tone, challenging the music to march with a touch of Latin charm and big band flavor. This sextet has a big, bold sound on this tune. While Daversa seems to take great pleasure in exploring the full register of his instrument, Gene Coye is given free reins to let loose on his trap drums. He speeds away, like an untethered, wild horse.

John Daversa has won the Herb Alpert Award, the David Joel Miller Award and awarded winner of the Best in Show and Awards of Excellence in Creativity/Originality and Production in the Global Music Awards. He is currently the chair of Studio Music and Jazz at the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami. This is his fifth album as a leader and I’m certain we will be hearing and enjoying many more to come.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
CAROL ALBERT – “FLY AWAY BUTTERFLY”
Independent label

Carol Albert, keyboards/bass programming/lead vocals/piano/producer/arranger; Trammell Starks, drum programming/keyboard/producer/horn arrangements; Rafael Pereira, percussion; Sam Skelton, saxophone/flute; Alfreda Gerald, Tony Hightower, Cheryl Rogers, background vocals; Susan Bennett and Ivette Ballara, spoken word Spanish; Sam Sims, Chocolat Costa & Joe Reda, bass; Chris Blackwell, guitar; Melvin Miller & Darren English, trumpets; Scott Meeder & Wayne Viar, drums.

She’s a singer/songwriter and pianist. This talented woman has recorded a unique and lovely album of her original compositions. She has written every song, with the exception of the very popular “Mas Que Nada” that she plays and sings with silky smooth vocals. This is an easy-listening project, perfect for Smooth Jazz radio airplay. Favorite cuts are: #4, “Across the Sky” that reflects shades of Marvin Gaye and Sadé, wrapped richly in her production and in the arrangement grooves. Cut #5, “One Way” sounds like you should be listening to it while on a highway, driving at maximum speed, and covered by blue skies, sunshine dreams and chasing a ‘Fly Away Butterfly’.


* * * * * * * * * * * *

GARY MEEK – “ORIGINALS”
Independent label

Gary Meek, tenor saxophone/composer; Terri Lyne Carrington, drums; Brian Bromberg, acoustic bass; Michel Forman, piano; Randy Brecker, trumpet/flugelhorn; Bruce Forman & Michael Lent, guitar; Airto Moreira, percussion.

Surrounded by a cast of characters who are some of the A-list of jazz musicians, Gary Meek has written a complete CD of original tunes and Mack Avenue Records artist, Brian Bromberg, has produced it. This is an exciting array of talent, compositions and arranging that explores the virtuosic reed talents of a man who boasts several decades on the jazz scene. Gary Meek has contributed to over 150 recording projects. In the eighties, he toured with Dionne Warwick and also the popular Brazilian jazz artists, Airto Moreira and Flora Purim. Airto is a special guest on this current project. For five years, Meek toured with José Neto and a group they formed called, “Fourth World.” Winding their way from continent to continent, they performed in Asia, Europe, and South Africa. Afterward, in 1991, Meek released his first CD as a leader. This production is the follow-up to that project. No matter that it’s fifteen years later, because his sense of excitement, innovative ideas and great composer skills has definitely been worth the wait.

Starting from the tune, “What Happened to My Good Shoes?” the CD is off and running like a bull after the matador. It’s a tenacious composition, fiery and straight-ahead. Brian Bromberg makes a masterful statement on bass during his solo and Meek is solid and stellar on his tenor saxophone throughout, whether soloing or playing harmonies with Randy Brecker. “When You’re A Monk” keeps the motion and movement of this CD high energy and compelling. The melody line strings the solos together like a necklace of freshwater pearls. “Suite for Maureen” is more Smooth Jazz and once again exemplifies Gary Meek’s talent for melody. His compositions leave plenty of room for musicians to be innovative, but he never forgets the importance of melodic basics and he’s good at establishing the sing-able lines right up-front and memorably. I enjoyed the echoed unison lines and the change of pace, three-minutes in, elevating this tune with tinges of Latin joy and percussive beauty. Brecker shines on his trumpet during a spell-binding solo. Airto and Terri Lyne Carrington are amazing on their respective percussive instruments and pump the music up with enthusiasm. Mitchel Forman soaks up the spotlight, opening “Spiritual for Iris” with a tender, acoustic piano solo. But it’s Gary Meek, on his tenor saxophone, that caresses and pets this song alive. He makes me feel the spirituality cocooned inside his music.

To sum it up, I hear a great deal of love obviously wrapped inside each production and every song. Meek has placed his compositions into the hands of stellar players who clearly enjoyed performing the music as much as Meek enjoyed writing it.
Other tunes I found compelling were “Stella on the Stairs”, written for his chihuahua dog and playful with horn lines and solos that race around a minor blues mode. “Pacific Grove Fog” is sexy and reflective of the foggy seaside neighborhood Meek calls home. It is one of my favorite compositions on this CD. There is not one bad tune on this project. You will find beauty from beginning to end.
* * * * * * * * * * *

PAUL McCANDLESS – “MORNING SUN ADVENTURES WITH OBOE” featuring the Paul Winter Consort – A Retrospective
Living Music

Paul McCandless, oboe/English horn; Paul Winter, soprano & alto saxophone; David Darling, cello; Ralph Towner, 12-string guitar/classical guitar; Oscar Castro-Neves & Webster Santos, guitar; Herb Bushler & Glen Moore, Eliot Wadopian, Gary King & Szao Machado, bass; Collin Walcott, Bré & Glen Velez, Guello & Cafe, percussions; John Clark, French horn; Paul Halley, piano/organ; Don Grusin, keyboard; Paul Sullivan, piano; John-Carlos Perea, Jim Scott & Renato Braz, voice; Jamey Haddad & Steve Gadd, drums; Tim Brumfield, organ; Gordon Gottlieb, timpani; Steve Gorn, bansuri.

This musical journey is a blend of classical, easy listening and fine orchestration. It’s a compilation of tunes pulled from various albums. Paul McCandless comes from a very musical family. His paternal grandfather was a multi-instrumentalist who played oboe, violin and the baritone saxophone. His dad taught band orchestra, football band, choir, music theory and counterpoint in the Public-School system. His mom was also a music teacher, who took over her husband’s job as high school band director when he joined the United States army.

At age nine, young Paul McCandless took up saxophone and oboe. His parents encouraged him to concentrate on the oboe. The rest is history. Paul McCandless started playing with the Paul Winter Consort in 1968 and they recorded many albums. This project is a result of several recordings, among them, the Charles Ives Show in 1974, when McCandless and Winter were dark haired and wearing hippie shirts. Other music has been pulled from the Common Ground album in 1977; the 1985 Canyon album, the Icarus album, the Crestone album and more. This is a project that embraces double-reed master, Paul McCandless, recording with the Paul Winter Consort over the past 45 years. If you are a lover of oboe and English horn, here is a musician that brings the very best out of both instruments, complimented by the Paul Winter Consort group.


* * * * * * * * * * * *

Advertisements