Breaking Free – New Music and Unique Expressions

BREAKING FREE – NEW MUSIC AND UNIQUE EXPRESSIONS
By Dee Dee McNeil/Jazz Journalist

June 10, 2018

CATHY SEGAL-GARCIA – “THE JAZZ CHAMBER” Dash Hoffman Records

Cathy Segal-Garcia, vocals; Bevan Manson, piano/producer; Tom Rizzo, Dori Amarilio, Jamie Rosenn, guitar; Edwin Livingston, Kenny Wild, Domenic Genova, bass; Joe LaBarbera, Matt Gordy, Steve Hass, drums; Lolly Allen, Nick Mancini, vibes; Chuck Findley, brass; WOODWINDS: Rob Lockhard, Bob Sheppard, Catherine Del Russo, Phil Feather, Greg Huckins, Jeff Driskill, Matchell Manker; STRINGS: Amy Hershberger, Ben Hudson, Rafi Rishik, Susan Rishik, Jennie Hansen, Alan Busteed, Andrew Shulman, Irina Voloshina, Armen Ksajikian. GUEST BASS CLARINETIS/SOLOIST: Bennie Maupin. GUEST VOCALISTS: Kate McGarry, Mon David, Tierney Sutton, “Fish To Birds”, Ashley Maher, Emile Hassan Dyer, Cecily Gardner, Mon David Adrianne Duncan, Tracy Robertson.

The beautiful and very familiar song, “Star Eyes,” is the opener for Cathy Segal-Garcia’s new album. It’s a stunning arrangement. “Star Eyes” was written by Gene de Paul and Don Raye for a 1943 film called “I Dood it.” Over time, it’s become a jazz standard. Cathy’s amazing arrangement perpetuates the idea of Cathy Segal-Garcia as a vocal risk-taker. Here is no easy arrangement to sing, yet this vocalist makes it sound simple. You have to be serious about pitch and timing when you sing with these extraordinary string players. Under the direction of Bevin Manson and co-producer, Dennis Dreith, this jazz chamber orchestra moves like a wild, Santa Ana, California breeze, twirling and changing direction at will. Somehow, the vocalist manages to stay focused on the sensitive and lovely melody of an old and beloved composition. The first ‘cut’ is truly Impressive.

Her next song, a Don Caymmi composition, “Velho Piano” is sung in Portuguese and features Grammy-nominated vocalist, Kate McGarry. The husky, alto tone of Segal-Garcia’s voice suits Brazilian music. She wraps her voice emotionally around the melody and although I don’t understand the language, I believe her. She and Kate McGarry blend nicely on this duet arranged by Dori Amarilio. “Time After Time” by legendary rock artist, Cyndi Lauper, is well executed in Segal-Garcia’s own immitigable way. This vocal artist also shows off her lyrical skills by putting words to Vince Mendoza’s composition, “Ambivalence” that she has renamed, “This Moment.” Cut numbers eight and nine are performed as a duet, a medley combining one of my favorite Les McCann/Roberta Flack hit records, “Compared to What?” with the composition, “Universal Prisoner” and features special vocal guest, Tierney Sutton. Cathy Segal-Garcia and Ms. Sutton wave their social consciousness, like a flag, on this production. Although we are living in a time where it is imperative that more people speak up and speak out, I’m not sure that the “Compared to What” tune was a good choice for these stylized voices. I do appreciate Cathy Segal-Garcia’s ability to always explore outside the box and how she looks for unusual ways to present the usual. I always applaud her creativity. She and Sutton include spoken word opinions along with the string orchestration that tempers the arrangement from funk to a more symphonic chamber approach. There are long phrases of free-form scatting that appear to be spontaneous and uncharted. One thing I love about Eddie Harris and Les McCann is the way they put the groove and energy into their songs of protest and jazz. I think that’s what I miss the most about this arrangement. That being said, I have to praise these two talented vocalists for stepping outside the expected arrangement and offering two Eddie Harris and Les McCann recorded songs with a more unexpected and unique production. That’s what makes this entire CD production an artistic exploration. I encourage listeners to tune in and decide for themselves.
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DAYRAMIR GONZALEZ – “THE GRAND CONCOURSE”
Machat Records

Dayramir Gonzalez, piano/Fender Rhodes/synthesizer/composer/vocals; Antoine Katz & Alberto Miranda, Elec. Bass; Carlos Mena & Zwelakhe-Duma Bell Le Pere , Acoustic bass; Zack Mullings, Keisel Jimenez Leyva, Jay Sawer, Willy Rodriguez, Raul Pineda & David Rivera, drums; Paulo Stagmaro, Marcos Lopez, Mauricio Herrera, Congas; Mauricio Herrera, Pedrio Martinez & Paulo Stagnaro, Bata Drums; Paulo Stagnaro, Gregorio Vento & Yosvany Terry, Surdo/ Cajon/Giro/Pandeiro /miscellaneous percussion; Marcos Lopez, Timbal; Harvis Cuni, Trumpet; Oriente Lopez & Kalani Trinidad, flute; Rio Konishi, Dean Tsur & Yosvany Terri, alto saxophones; Edmar Colon & Dean Tsur, tenor saxophones; Ameya Kalamdani, acoustic & electric guitars; CHORUS: Tatiana Ferrer, Jaclyn Sanchez, Nadia Washington . LEAD VOCALS: Pedrito Martinez, Nadia Washington, Gregorio Vento. VIOLINS: Ilmar Lopez Gavilan, Audrey Defreytas Hayes. Tatiana Ferrer, viola; Jennifer Vincent, violoncello; Caris Visentin Liebman, oboe; Amparo Edo Biol, French horn.

There is something infectious about Cuban music. It captures your imagination and inspires your spirit. Dayramir Gonzalez is a Cuban pianist with a very exciting and energetic style. He is the product of Havana and Cuban traditional music, mixed with a large dose of contemporary Afro-Cuban jazz, perfectly blended into the vanguard New York jazz scene. Gonzalez plays with tempos and time, teasing us with melodies and percussive beats that infatuate and motivate. Starting with the first tune called, “Smiling”. It’s fast paces and just under two-minutes long, but it sticks with me and makes me pay attention. There are ghostly voices mixed down into the track and rhythms that pulsate. The second cut is more esoteric and electronic. Once again, Gonzalez and his enchanting piano arrangements build the excitement, using percussion, voices, synthesizers, but most of all it is the driving piano and his talent at the keyboards and on the keys that propel this music like a shooting star across the sky. “Moving Forward” will certainly make you want to move. Gonzalez is a competent composer and has written every song on this production. I found this entire work to be fascinating, hypnotic , well-produced and beautifully arranged.

“Sencillez” features a lovely flute solo by Oriente Lopez, who flies over the chord changes like a beautiful, wild, drunken bird. Then Gonzalez takes over and his piano fingers fly over the keys with the same elegant energy that Lopez brought to the piece. Background voices add chants while drums and percussion lift the piece higher. “ Lyesa Con Miel” features the strong, melodic lead vocalist, Pedrito Martinez. I love the Afro-Cuban feel of this song. His is an album plush with talent and creativity.

Dayramir Gonzalez grew up in Cerro, a humble Havana neighborhood, during a very tough economic time in Cuba’s history. This lack of financial stability did not stop the growth and promotion of music education on the island. His father, Fabian Gonzalez, is a well-known and successful Afro-Cuban jazz trumpeter. Gonzalez was attracted to the piano early and his talent was evident to many. He attended the famous Cuban National High School for the Arts (ENA) and at age sixteen began working professionally with various groups, including recording with Cuban drum legend, Giraldo Piloto and his group, “Klimax”. In 2004 he won first place in performance at the annual JoJazz Festival and competition, popular as one of Havana’s top venues for up and coming jazz artists. In 2005, he won first place in the composition category. In leaps and bounds, he became a skilled artist, bandleader and composer. His first album would win three Cubadisco awards. Those are awards comparable to our Grammys. He walked away with Best Debut Album, Best Jazz Album and Best Engineered Recording. In 2009, Gonzalez received an invitation to audition to attend the highly praised Berklee School of Music in Boston. He was the first Cuban national to receive a full scholarship. By 2011, he was signed to record for Berklee’s Jazz Revelation Records. In 2012, he was invited to perform at Carnegie Hall as part of their Voices of Latin America series.

This production is stellar, creative and the culmination of cultures, hard work, practice, talent and tenacious determination. Bravo!
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ADI MEYERSON – “WHERE WE STAND” Independent Label

Adi Meyerson, bass/composer; Joel Frahm, tenor & soprano saxophone; Freddie Hendrix, trumpet; Camila Meza, guitar/vocals; Mike King, piano; Kush Abadey, drums.

This is the premiere album release for Adi Meyerson, composer and bassist. She has composed all of the music, a labor of love for the past five years, that reflects her life in New York City and celebrates the legacy of her father who left this earth too soon.

“Rice & Beans” is the opening tune and begins a journey of Straight-ahead jazz. Her ensemble is cohesive and they present her original compositions with energy and swing. The second cut on this album, “A “D” Train” continues to race with Freddie Hendrix on trumpet and Joel Frahm playing saxophone and taking time to call our attention to their talents with ample solos. I’m impressed with Meyerson’s composition skills. She writes beautifully. The third song that is called “Eunice” finally let’s me hear Adi Meyerson play her double bass. I thought she was mixed too far down in the former two tracks. Now she is solo and out front where she belongs. The tune begins without accompaniment. It’s bass a’Capella for several bars, until she sets down a deep blues groove. That’s when Mike King enters on piano. Next the two horns join them, playing a very modern jazz melody on top of a blues shuffle bass line. Several bars later, we are all the way into the blues, with Hendrix stepping out front to serenade us once again on his fluid trumpet. “Little Firefly” features Camila Meza on vocals. She’s also a fine guitarist. I’m a “Hard Bop” kind of girl and this album hits a spot dead-center in the pit of my heart and soul.

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FLAVIO SILVA –“BREAK FREE” Independent Label

Flavio Silva, guitar/composer; Seamus Black, tenor saxophone; Alex “Apolo” Ayala, bass; Curtis Nowosad, drums. SPECIAL GUESTS: James Francies, piano & Rhodes; Michael Mayo, vocals.

“Africa” is a composition by Flavio Silva and opens his second album release titled, “Break Free.” Silva is a jazz guitarist who blends together African, Afro Brazilian and World Music to take the listener on a cultural and adventurous musical ride. Silva’s music has contemporary overtones. On the very first number, the guitar sets up the groove with a beat pattern calling to mind a Temptation’s R & B tune. But believe me, Silva is jazz all the way. No compunction. The expressive tenor saxophone solo by Seamus Blake quickly lifts this tune to another level, with Curtis Nowosad on drums, spinning the rhythms around and around like the propellers of a jet plane. He sends the group flying! The drums are paramount in tying this ensemble together and are prevalent in ‘the mix’. Flavio Silva plucks his guitar strings to regain our attention and then improvises around the melody with short spasms of string energy. Silva has composed seven of the eight songs on this album and arranged one cover song by the great Brazilian vocalist/composer, Chico Buarque titled, “Samba e Amor.” Silva’s “Royal Song” features the scatting skills of Michael Mayo on vocals. The melody is complicated and challenging. Mayo makes the intervals sound easy and fluid. But after a while, I want to hear some lyrics. I want to know the story behind the “Royal Song.” Silva’s original song, “Prayer #2,” is another one of my favorites on this album. The unique drum groove adds to the interesting melody. Special guest, James Francies, spiced the production up with his piano solo on the title tune, “Break Free”. All in all, here is a debut recording by a talented young guitarist on the scene who offers his original composition skills as an additional gift to the listener.
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SAM JAVITCH QUARTET: PEOPLE AND PLACES
Independent label

Sam Javitch, piano/composition; Rich Perry, tenor saxophone; Adrian Moring, bass; Matt Niedbalski, drums.

The first outstanding statement I hear on this CD is by pianist Sam Javitch. His solo on “The Pitch to Rich” races out of the gate right after Rich Perry,on tenor saxophone, establishes the melody. This pianist is someone to watch and enjoy. He’s assertive on his instrument and unafraid to color outside the proverbial lines. As a student of Mulgrew Miller, James Weidman, Harold Mabern and Cecil Bridgewater, you would expect nothing less than this musician’s dynamic approach to the keys. His compositions are melodic and interesting. This album is a tribute to the many people and places that have helped to shape him into the musical person he is today. He has written “Lifted: A Song for Grew and Those Who Knew” as a nod to his mentor, the late, great Mulgrew Miller. It’s plush with gospel chords and emotion. “Level Up!” is another one of my favorite tunes on this production of fine music. Javitch raises the bar and picks up the tempo, exploring the upper register of the piano and punching the chordal rhythms appropriately with his left hand. Matt Niedbalski pushes the rhythm with flaming drum sticks and Adrian Moring locks his bass into the mix. When Rich Perry enters with his rich tenor saxophone sound, the composition is expanded with the fury and freedom that jazz can sometimes inspire. This is a great song.

Sam Javitch began to study piano at age three, after it was recognized that he not only had a keen interest for the instrument, but also that he had perfect pitch. He’s a familiar presence on the New York contemporary jazz scene.
Rich Perry adds excitement and innovation on his tenor saxophone. Bassist Adrian Moring and drummer, Matt Niedbaski studied at William Patterson University with Sam Javitch and one of their favorite professors was Mulgrew Miller. They bring a commonality and a hunger for jazz excellence to the bandstand. This is a young and thriving quartet who each obviously bring their heart, soul and talent to the music.
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LARRY GOLDINGS, PETER BERNSTEIN, BILL STEWART – “TOY TUNES” Pirouet Records

Larry Goldings, Hammond organ; Peter Bernstein, guitar; Bill Stewart, drums.

“Toy Tunes” marks this trio’s twelfth album together. The first tune on this CD left me feeling unsatisfied and I was surprised because I’ve heard these musicians and I know they are way better than the average cats. Each musician’s resume reads like the who’s who of jazz. That being said, Larry Goldings composition, “Fagen” just didn’t move me. It’s a tribute to Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen, who Goldings says introduced him to a whole new world of harmony and song structure. I found the melody repetitious and annoying. “Don’t Ever Call Me Again” begins with drums rumbling the rhythm and setting the pace. That was exciting. Then, Bernstein climbs on board with his guitar, passionately singing out the melody. This is a composition by drummer, Bill Stewart. Like the Goldings composition, “Fagen,” this song is also repetitious, with a sing-song melody and intervals and harmonics that sound strangely off-key. I start thinking, ok – maybe this is the premise of their trio sound; to be a little off-center or Avant Garde with their arrangements and harmonies. There is a stellar drum solo on this song that showcases Bill Stewart’s talents. I was waiting with baited breath to hear the Bernstein tune, “Lullaby for B.” It’s a lovely composition with an unexpected structure and pretty melody. I’m a lover of the Straight-ahead, Bebop era organ trios, so this trio’s style and presentation challenges me to embrace them with a more open mind. Obviously, they are all great players and competent composers. Their music is complex and doesn’t always groove the way Jimmy Smith, Shirley Scott, Jimmy McGriff or Jack McDuff did. The closest we get is “I’m In the Mood for Love” where they do lay down a groove and then totally rearrange the tune. So, I finally get it. These three musicians are uniquely presenting their individuality and technical virtuosity on a modern jazz exploration of arrangements and original compositions. As the tune fades out to the patter of Stewart’s brushes on his drum kit, I find myself enjoying this little break and percussive showcase. Their interpretation of Carla Bley’s “And Now The Queen” remains memorable. It establishes their unorthodox contemporary approach, yet always celebrating the odd melody written by Bley in her four complex bars. Bill Stewart’s “Calm” tune settled me down. I found it quite beautiful and enjoyed hearing the trio play it, featuring Peter Bernstein’s sensitive guitar work. The album closes with “Maybe” a Strouse & Charnin song that made me happy as it skipped along and showcased Larry Goldings toying with his organ in the most opportunist way. Basically, here are three amazingly talented musicians who enjoy their musical playground to the ‘max’. Thus, the title of their production is “Toy Tunes”. I love Wayne Shorter’s compositions and obviously so does this trio, naming their entire art project for his, “Toy Tunes.”

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MISHA PIATIGORSKY TRIO – STAINED GLASS & TECHNICOLOR GROOVES Natural Drummer Label

Misha Piatigorsky, piano; Charlie Dougherty, bass; Sam Fishman, drums; Jeremy Fishman, saxophone/percussion.

I was attracted to this CD by its colorful jacket. Bright reds, oranges, deep, dark greens and silhouettes of jazz musicians and camels in black were painted into a picture of something mysterious, but happy and promising like the title:“Stained Glass & Technicolor Grooves.” What could this be about, I wondered.

It seems Sam Fishman had a dream of bringing a taste of New York City jazz clubs to his hometown of Glen Rock, New Jersey. So, he made it happen. On January 8, 2017, he took a quartet of musicians he contracted and they recorded this gem of an album ‘live’ at the Glen Rock Jewish Center. The music is as vibrant and colorful as this album title and its CD artwork.

Misha Piatigorsky is a sensitive and proficient composer. The very first tune, “Where’s the Sun?” is provocative and exciting. It makes you want to hear more. He begins very classically, then suddenly bursts into a groove and the musicians join him. The time fluctuates, so they have to be sensitive and inspired. “Nachlaot” is more contemporary and modern. At first, before it kicks into high gear with blues overtones, the pianist and bass player tease the audience with a music-box sounding introduction. I can almost see the ballerina twirling before the tiny, music-box mirror as the music plays. Misha Piatigorsky is an assertive pianist who performs with great expression and technical adeptness. He makes the music blossom right in front of your senses and at the same time, draws you tenderly into his compositions. Sam Fishman is strongly supportive on drums and he knows just when to crescendo with the trio and when to lay-back and solidly set the groove. They play with tenacious intensity and the pianist’s charisma leaps off their disc. I can only imagine how it had to feel, being there in person, to witness this show of stamina and power. On “Superhero,” (another Piatigorsky composition) Charlie Dougherty takes an opportunity to solo atop a very Latin groove. The pianist even throws some Stevie Wonder improvisation into his solo, taken from his popular song titled,“As “, off Wonder’s “Songs in The Key of Life” album. “Close Your Eyes” follows and is done at a moderate tempo; a shuffle/swing. Very nice. However, after all the band’s high energy tunes, I would have loved a ballad. Jeremy Fishman adds his saxophone interpretations on Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro Blue” composition. It adds a nice musical spice to the trio.

It is this trio’s spontaneity and energy that fuels and propels their project, like a rocket ship blasting off into the universe and taking us all with them. Fasten your seat belt!

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