JAZZ MUSIC BLOSSOMS FROM THE HEART

By Dee Dee McNeil
July 26, 2018

ROGER DAVIDSON QUARTET – “MUSIC FROM THE HEART” Soundbrush Records

Featuring: Hendrick Meurkens, vibraphone/harmonica; Roger Davidson, piano/composer; Eduardo Belo, bass; Adriano Santos, drums.

This musical production, produced by Pablo Aslan, is a happy celebration. Pianist, Roger Davidson, has composed all the Brazilian compositions recorded. The harmonica of Hendrik Meurkens dances in complete abandon from the very first cut of this album titled, “My Love is Only You”. Tastefully enters the piano and the drums. It sounds like a party. Meurkens has his own signature sound on the harmonica and there is a warm familiarity between him and the piano. On cut #2, “Celia,“ the piano plays tag with the harmonica, colorfully tickling melodies that mirror or harmonically enhance the pianist as they interpret Roger Davidson’s lovely composition.

On Cut #3, “Comment Je t’Aime,” sparkles and blinks like candles on a cake. The fourth cut, “The Way You Move My Heart,” is melancholy, but beautiful. I’m impressed with the way Roger Davidson, on piano, always seems to finish Meurkens’ musical sentences and vice versa. They work well together. Davidson is a wonderful composer and offers us fifteen delightful compositions to enjoy. One very melodic original is “Fico Feliz,” where it was nice to hear Eduardo Belo briefly solo on bass. Also, I especially enjoyed Belo when he bowed his double bass on the very romantic tune, “Um Amor, Um Abraco.” Adriano Santos brings rhythm and gusto to the project on drums, showcased grandly on the final Samba. The ensemble enters and ends with a celebratory feeling, sharing “Music from the Heart.”
* * * * * * * * * * * *

KATE REID – “THE HEART ALREADY KNOWS” Independent Label

Kate Reid, vocals; Paul Meyers, Larry Koonse & Romero Lubambo, guitars; Fred Hersch & Taylor Eigsti, piano.

Kate Reid has a voice that reminds me of Julie London, Joni Mitchell and Diana Krall all rolled into one, sultry ball of talent. She has chosen eleven songs to entertain us, each one produced as a unique duo featuring herself and one other musician of excellence. Opening with the Strayhorn/Ellington composition, “Something to Live For” she captures my heart with her tone and emotional connection to both the lyrics and melody. As a pianist herself, although she doesn’t play on this recording, Reid has arranged most of the songs. For this song, Paul Meyers amply accompanies her on his guitar.

Critically acclaimed vocalist, pianist, composer and founder of the vocal group, ‘New York Voices,” Peter Eldridge, produced this album and it’s Kate Reid’s third CD release. He helped her choose this rich repertoire. She has embraced the superb talents of a handful of amazing musicians. For example, Fred Hersch, a ten-time Grammy Award nominee and winner of the 2018 Jazz Pianist of the Year from the Jazz Journalist’s Association. He composed two of the songs she sings, “Stars” and “Lazin’ Around with You.” Hersch takes to the piano and accompanies her on the moody ballad, “No More,” and the familiar standard “If I Should Lose You.”.

On the sassy song, “Confessin’” Kate Reid is joined by a very busy Los Angeles guitarist by the name of Larry Koonse. He also plays on her rendition of Joni Mitchell’s composition, “Two Grey Rooms” that was arranged by Peter Eldridge. I was intrigued with the lyrics of this song and impressed with Reid’s emotional delivery. Romero Lubambo is a Brazilian guitarist. He plays on the Fred Hersch “Stars” composition with touching lyrics written by Norma Winstone. This tune is lilting and infectious, reflecting its South American roots because of Lubambo’s rhythmic guitar excellence. The Hersch melody is challenging and beautiful. Lubambo also accompanies Reid on “Minds of Their Own” composed by famed Brazilian composer, Ivan Lins with lyrics by producer, Peter Eldridge. I really enjoyed Kate Reid’s rendition of James Taylor’s “Secret of Life” composition with Taylor Eigsti taking to the 88-keys, where she sings, “The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.” Well said!

Kate Reid is a Mid-Western talent, born and raised in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. She received her Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Studies from Western Michigan University. She also has a Master of Music degree in Jazz Performance and a Doctor of Music Arts degree from the University of Miami. For a while, she moved to Los Angeles to work at Cypress College as Professor of Music and Director of Vocal Jazz. Currently, Dr. Kate Reid is Director of the Jazz Vocal Performance Program and Associate Professor of Jazz Voice at the University of Miami. This project is exquisite, and in its duo simplicity, amazingly complicated. Singing a duo gig or recording with just two musicians is no easy task. Kate Reid makes it sound easy and seamless, flowing like a lovely river, from one tune to the next and intriguing us with her sensuous delivery and undeniable vocal gift.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

JOHN BAILEY – “IN REAL TIME” Summit Records

John Bailey, trumpet/flugelhorn/composer; Stacy Dillard, tenor/soprano saxophone; John Hart, guitar; Cameron Brown, bass; Victor Lewis, drums/cymbals; Janet Axelrod, flute; Leo Grinhauz, cello.

A trumpet always makes people come to attention. John Bailey’s clear tones, dramatically expelled from the bell of his horn, immediately command my consideration. Next arrives the percussive drums of Victor Lewis and then the horn harmonics of sax and trumpet that mirror New York City’s busy traffic. This tune, “Rhapsody,” is established by the rhythm section’s groove. For a moment, it sounds like smooth jazz; but quickly these musicians are traveling down several straight-ahead lanes. Stacy Dillard joins the production with his saxophone, solo cruising across the busy musical highway. The saxophone spits fire. Then John Hart climbs into the front seat, cool as ice on guitar. Thus, begins my trip with this newly released John Bailey debut album. I’m prone to categorize this production as all fire and ice, heightened by the flaming trumpet virtuosity of Bailey.

John Bailey fell in love with the trumpet at age eleven. It’s been a long and lovely love affair ever since. Seven of the nine compositions contained on this album were composed by Bailey. The second cut is dedicated to his teenaged son, Louis, and titled “My Man Louis”. It has a Pink Panther feel at first, thanks to the creeping bass line of Cameron Brown, who sets the mood and groove. Almost immediately, this tune stretches into the solar system, like a rocket ship taking off, and it’s propelled by the energetic drums of Victor Lewis and the innovative solos by each member of this talented ensemble.

This production gives me an intimate look at a trumpet prodigy who was first celebrated for his amazing talent during high school in 1984, when DownBeat Magazine cited him during their annual Student Music Awards for his outstanding performances in both classical and jazz trumpet categories. Today, after garnering several other awards, he is well known in the New York area as a sideman, studio session musician and educator. Bailey honed his gifts in college, playing with the Buddy Rich Band and he has worked with Ray Charles, Ray Baretto, The Woody Herman Orchestra, James Moody, Kenny Burrell, Dr. Lonnie Smith and a host of other icons. With the release of this production, Bailey lets us know It’s time for him to share his composer skills, musical production talents and sensuous horn playing with the world “In Real Time.”
* * * * * * * * * * *
BOBBY SANABRIA MULTIVERSE B IG BAND – “WEST SIDE STORY REIMAGINED” Jazzheads

Bobby Sanabria, musical director/drums/cowbells/police-whistle/samba-whistle/lead vocals/producer; Darwin Noguera, piano; Leo Traversa, electric bass; Oreste Abrantes, congas/itotele batá drum; second voice on Maria; Matthew González, bongó/cencerro/primo bomba drum/lya batá; requinto pandereta/ganza/Dominican gűira; Takao Heisho, claves/Cuban gűiro macho/cencerro/Puerto Rican guicharo/okonkolo batá drum/maracas (Cuban & Venbezuelan)/shekere/tambourine/cuica/pandeiro/triangle/gong/ police-siren; TRUMPETS: Kevin Bryan, Shareef Clayton, Max Darché, & Andrew Neesley. REEDS: David Djesus, lead alto/soprano saxophones/flute; Andrew Gould, alto saxophone/flute; Peter Brainin, tenor saxophone/flute; Yaacov Mayman, tenor saxophone/flute/clarinet; Danny Rivera, baritone saxophone; Gabrielle Garo, flute/piccolo; TROMBONES: David Miller, Tim Sessions, Armando Vergara, & Chris Washburne, bass trombone; Ben Sutin, electric violin.

Afro-Cuban percussive excitement opens this CD with exuberance and joy. The famed tune, “Maria” never sounded so good or so uniquely arranged. Here is a production of timeless compositions that celebrate the music of Leonard Bernstein (with the unsung lyrics of Steven Sondheim) from the groundbreaking musical, “West Side Story.” Bobby Sanabria has reinvented the music in celebration of the 1957 stage play’s recent 60th birthday in 2017 and also to salute composer Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday this year. Using the stellar talents of his passionate Multiverse Big Band, Bobby Sanabria brings fresh life and exultation to this music. Sanabria explained in his liner notes:

“West Side Story holds a special place I my heart. I first saw the (1961) movie as a young boy when my parents, Jose and Juanita, took me and my sister Joanne to the luxurious Loews Paradise on the Grand Concourse in my hometown., da Bronx. At that time, there wasn’t anything that acknowledged the contributions we had made, let alone the existence of NYC’s Puerto Rican community, other than articles about gangs and crime in relation to us. … Yes – gang life in NYC back in the 50s forms the framework of West Side Story, and of course it’s based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet … but that’s looking at things superficially. It’s a complex story of romance set in the energy of the inner city amidst racism, bigotry, and what causes it; fear, that’s offset by cultural pride, humor and the spirit of fighting for what one believes in, good or bad.”

Using his musical director talent, his musicality on drums and percussion, and his deep love of Bernstein’s composition skills, Bobby Sanbria has produced and packaged his dream on disc. Utilizing the amazing talents of some of the best East Coast musicians alive, this is a recording I have listened to over and over for several days; never tiring of the CDs explosive energy and the beauty it reflects. Bobby Sanabria’s music obviously comes from the heart.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
MAGGIE HERRON – “A TON OF TROUBLE” Independent Label

Maggie Herron, piano/vocals/composer; Bill Cunliffe, piano/arranger; Grant Geissman & Larry Koonse, guitar; Dean Taba, bass; Jake Reed, drums; Bob Sheppard, flute/bass/clarinet; (HORN SECTION): Brandon Fields, Bob McChesney, Ryan Pewees. Geoffrey Keezer, piano; Gillan Margot & Jason Morales, vocal harmonies.

Maggie Herron is a prolific composer, a competent pianist and talented vocalist. Her alto vocals recall the rich, round tones of Cleo Laine mixed with the sultry, expressive voice of Shirley Horn. The catchy lyrics of her songwriting (often written by her daughter, Dawn Herron) grab the attention right away. On both the title tune, “A Ton of Trouble” and the second song, “Perfect Specimen,” Bill Cunliffe’s tight horn arrangements add brightness and accentuate Herron’s unique lyrics. “Salty Wine” is a title full of poetry and so Is the song itself. Maggie Herron composes using a lot of minor chords and melodies that etch themselves into your consciousness like love letters carved into a tree trunk. On this song, we hear Herron on piano and the sensitive guitar work of Larry Koonse. When she sings, “Dance Me to the End of Love,” (a Leonard Cohen composition) the music is arranged more folksy than jazzy. At other times, the arrangements embrace ragtime, slap-stick and on the lovely ballad titled, “There is love” she adds a soft, harmonious background chorus that enhances her production and delivery. All in all, Maggie Herron, the artist, is poetry in flesh and blood.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
WAYNE POWERS – “IF LOVE WERE ALL” Kabochie Records

Wayne Powers, vocals; Ziad Ravie, tenor saxophone; Keith Davis, piano; Ron Brendle, double bass; Al Sergel, drums.

When I listen to Wayne Powers sing, I am reminded of some of our great male vocalists of yesteryear like Arthur Prysock, Johnny Hartman and Billy Eckstine. Wayne has that air of history wrapped into his style and presentation but sung with his own unique style and verve. His album is chuck full of fourteen jazz standards that make me feel as though I’m sitting in a cozy, intimate jazz club in ‘Anywhere, USA’. Wayne Powers knows how to put emotion and sincerity into his songs. It’s easy to overlook the occasional flat notes or his penchant for sliding up to the tonal pitch. That being said, one can tell that this vocalist has lived life and he has picked songs he can relate to; songs where he can dig his heels deeply into the sturdy roots of life. I enjoy each of his presentations, some with the often unheard of or unsung verses, like on his arrangement of “Body and Soul”.

Other songs recall the magical improvisational lyrics of a King Pleasure or Eddie Jefferson. For example, Powers’ arrangement of “All of Me” that begins as a ballad, that then breaks into a lyrical, improvisational scat at a double time tempo. He makes an old song fresh and innovative, borrowing from the style of King Pleasure. Wayne Power’s shows he is unafraid to tackle the brilliance of Strayhorn, on “Lush Life” or the passionate beauty in the famed Ann Ronell composition, “Willow Weep for Me.” His musicians are competent and supportive, with Keith Davis, on piano, lending sensitive accompaniment; Al Sergel locking the time strongly in place on drums, Ron Brendle beautifully complementing the rhythm section on his upright bass and Ziad Rabie strong and creative on tenor saxophone. If you love the standard jazz love songs, here is a rich, emotional, baritone vocalist who amply interprets them for your listening pleasure..

* * * * * * * * * * * * *
ERNIE KRIVDA AND SWING CITY – “A BRIGHT AND SHINING MOMENT” Capri Records Ltd.

Ernie Krivda, tenor saxophone/arranger/composer; Joe Hunter, piano; Marion Hayden & Brian Thomas, bass; Lee Bush, guitar; John Bacon & Rick Porrello, drums; Steve Enos, trumpet; Chris Anderson & Gary Carney, trombone.

This is a party album, created by a small band with a very big sound. Tenor saxophonist, Ernie Krivda has written all the arrangements for his ‘Swing City Band’ and ‘swing’ they do! “Lime House Blues” opens his CD with John Bacon peddling the music, introducing a mid-tempo swing on his drums and propelling the band ahead, like a wind-driven cyclist. “Roses” is a sultry Krivda composition. His bluesy ballad is sexy and seems plucked from another era. Krivda’s tenor saxophone style winds back the clock to the 1930’s and 40’s, when Billie Holiday and Prez were popular jazz icons. Next, Marshall Baxter Beckley sings a memorable rendition of “Summertime” that is heated up by the hot tempo and the exciting arrangement that features a strong bass line by female, Detroit, bassist, Marion Hayden. Both Ms. Beckley and trombonist Gary Carney are listed on the CD jacket “In Memoriam”.

“On the Road” is another one of Ernie Krivda’s original compositions. It’s a slow swing that allows Joe Hunter to tinkle the piano keys in a very low-down, bluesy-kind-of-way, utilizing the 88-keys upper register. Even as the horns soar and harmonize, Hunter manages to attract the listener’s attention with his tasty piano chops. Whoever mixed this CD did a superb job. Ernie Krivda writes music that sticks like glue to your melodic memory. His melodies beg to be sung and his arrangements engage both the musicians and the listener. For example, on “Easter Blue,” I am once again captivated by the rich, warm melody that Krivda establishes on his tenor saxophone. Steve Enos mirrors Krivda’s passion on trumpet during a sweetly played solo.

In Cleveland, Ohio, Ernie Krivda is a local hero and national treasure. Krivda explains, in his liner notes , that the original mission of his septet was meant to reflect a broad arena of jazz styles, exploring various eras of jazz music. His band’s name, “Swing City”, immediately identifies their rhythmic groove. This recording of their music captures the prime period shortly before they disbanded in 2002. They took pride in blending bebop with the swing era, interpreting the genius of both Ellington and Strayhorn, (i.e. Mood Indigo, Caravan and The Mooche); embracing standards like “The Man I Love” and “Summertime” in a most Swinging way, while also leaving their mark on Ernie Krivda’s original compositions, including the happy, joyful, title tune, “A Bright and Shining Moment.”

Ernie Krivda is a 2009 recipient of the Cleveland Arts Prize award for lifetime achievement in music and he’s been a driving, Mid-Western force in jazz since the 1960’s. He’s won the Jazz Legends Award from the Tri-C Jazz Festival and a Community Partnership of Arts and Culture Fellowship. You will find him bandleading his own quartet in and around Cleveland, Ohio, as well as directing the Fat Tuesday Big Band.
* * * * * * * * * * * *

GEOF BRADFIELD – “YES, AND … MUSIC FOR NINE IMPROVISERS”
Delmark Label

Geof Bradfield, tenor & soprano saxophones/bass clarinet/composer/producer; Anna Webber, flute/bass flute, tenor saxophone; Greg Ward, alto saxophone; Russ Johnson & Marquis Hill, trumpet/flugelhorn; Joel Adams, trombone; Scott Hesse, electric guitar/classical guitar; Clark Sommers, acoustic bass; Dana Hall, drums/percussion.

For this final review, I chose Geof Bradfield’s seventh album, as a leader, because his music obviously blossoms straight from the heart, like the title of this reviewer’s column. Using the supreme talents of several noteworthy midwestern musicians to explore and deliver eight of Bradfield’s original compositions, you will find this music inspirational and artistic. Each song and every instrument competently splashes color against a canvas of space, painting the music brightly and freely for our ears to digest. Jazz, being the music of freedom, is well represented on this album. Bradfield explains the title of his recording in the liner notes.

“Yes, and … takes its name from an improvisational theater game often implemented by the iconic Compass Players. … It requires you to believe that what you improvise is building on whatever everyone else is doing – even if the response is ‘Yes, and’ … it says here’s my contrasting response to that. I want to see people making some decisions. That’s what jazz is; that’s how my favorite players approach music.”
I should explain, that in 1955, a few blocks from the University of Chicago’s campus, two theater aficionados (David Shepherd & Paul Sills) launched a storefront theater ensemble they named The Compass Players. They were radical for that time and remain influential to this day.

Bradfield’s music ensemble on this production is radical also, sometimes reminding me of the Chicago Art Ensemble and at other times the recording is lush and full, sounding more like a big band than a small, nine-piece ensemble. This is particularly obvious on “Impossible Charms”, the fourth cut on this work of art. Anna Webber shines on flute during her solo on cut #6 titled, Anamneses. It’s fourteen minutes long, but I was never bored. There is plenty of improvisational spirit shown by these players and Geof Bradfield is an exceptional composer/arranger and reed man. No wonder that this project was commissioned by Chamber Music America’s New Jazz Works through the generous support of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. You can enjoy this ensemble up close and personal at the upcoming Chicago Jazz Festival on August 30, 2018 or simply pop this stellar recording into your CD player and musically embrace them at your leisure.
* * * * * * * * * * * *

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: