Archive for March, 2019

“ORGANISM” AND PERPETUAL OPTIMISM HIGHLIGHT NEW CD RELEASES

March 20, 2019

“ORGANISM” AND PERPETUAL OPTIMISM HIGHLIGHT NEW CD RELEASES
By Dee Dee McNeil / jazz journalist

March 20, 2019

Music keeps this journalist optimistic. Whether it’s played in Los Angeles, Boston, Columbus, Ohio; Hawaii, New York, Brazil, Africa, Everywhere U.S.A., Asia or Europe, jazz permeates the world with hopefulness and freedom. Meet some of the newly recorded artists who continue to keep jazz and optimism alive and read my feature interview with guitarist Doug MacDonald.

DOUG MACDONALD QUARTET – “ORGANISMS” Independent Label

Doug MacDonald, guitar; Carey Frank, Hammond B3 Organ; Bob Sheppard, tenor saxophone; Ben Scholz, drums.

Doug MacDonald is one of Southern California’s premiere guitarists. This is his fourteenth album release and his third recorded organ project. I’ve witnessed Doug MacDonald with a multitude of musical ensembles, from big band to trios; from combos to his 13-piece ensemble called, The Jazz Coalition. I’ve seen him work with jazz vocalists and in fact, I’ve had the pleasure of working with him myself. He’s an attentive accompanist and a provocative bandmate, who improvises freely and can also set down a strong rhythm guitar groove. He’s diversified, playing be-bop, blues, ballads and straight-ahead jazz fluidly, but also creating arrangements for ensemble productions, as well as producing concerts in and around Los Angeles.

MacDonald was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At age five or six, he and his family moved to Las Vegas and then, before puberty, the family moved to Honolulu, Hawaii. Doug became infatuated with music as a youth, playing in the school band. Surprisingly, he started out playing trombone

“There I am in Hawaii. … It was kind of a culture shock. I didn’t expect it to be so modern. I thought it would be like the old Hawaii I saw in books, with a king and a queen,“ he chuckles. “I was in Hawaii at about nine years old, until I would say I was about thirteen. I started trombone in the school band and guitar at the same time. The guitar won out. But I will say, being a trombone player, it got me interested in writing. I didn’t stay at it long enough to get good at playing the trombone. The breathing was very important, as you know. Sinatra learned breathing from Tommy Dorsey on the trombone. I liked everybody. I liked Wes Montgomery. I certainly liked George Van Eps and Johnny Smith.” *

*NOTE: In case my readers are unfamiliar with Johnny Smith, he was born in June of 1922, a native of Birmingham, Alabama. Guild, Heritage and even Gibson guitar manufacturers all designed models as signature guitars for Johnny Smith. This great musician died at ninety on June 11, 2013. Johnny Smith is lauded as being one of the most versatile guitar players of the 1940s and 50s. He was an in-demand studio session player and arranged music for NBC. He also composed music. He knew all the standards and could hang out with the jazz cats at Birdland in New York and then go sight-read a score in the orchestra pit of the New York Philharmonic. Smith recorded on the Roost label and on Verve. His highly praised record was “Moonlight in Vermont” listed as one of DownBeat Magazine’s top jazz records in 1952.

When I listen to Doug MacDonald’s new CD, I hear a lot of Johnny Smith’s brilliant and subtle influence. MacDonald’s playing sometimes voices closed-position chords with a flurry of rapidly played melodic lines racing smoothly across the strings. At the same time, MacDonald strums an intense rhythmic undertone that both supports and enhances each song he plays. Starting out with “It’s You or No One,” MacDonald’s quartet sets the pace briskly. But it’s Doug MacDonald’s composer talents that really gets my attention. “Jazz For All Occasions” has a bit of a Latin flavor and a solid melody line for the quartet to embrace and improvise around. Carey Frank is astute on the Hammond B3 organ. There’s nothing I like better than the merger of guitar and organ. MacDonald and Frank do not disappoint. Each takes a stellar solo, fluttering mid-tempo around the chord changes with dominance and creativity. Bob Sheppard reinforces the melody on saxophone. “L&T” is another original composition by MacDonald that showcases his more straight-ahead side. Chatting with Doug over the phone today, he continued sharing his background with me, as I enjoyed his newly released CD.

“I kind of liked and listened to everybody. Miles Davis said years ago, you pour everything out, like into a funnel, and then you use it. You come up with your own combination. I started out as a blues guitarist. I liked B.B. King and T-Bone Walker. Then I ended up becoming more jazzy, because I thought, well – I’m not a singer. I thought it would make more sense to play what I call the classical music of America, which is jazz. In Hawaii, I started playing publicly and got to play with Gabe Baltazar, a fine jazz saxophonist and also trombonist, Trummy Young. I worked with Del Courtney at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Early on, I had an interest in ensembles from playing the trombone as a kid. I got into writing and arranging later. I think blues was a good place to start. That’s the roots of jazz.”

You hear the blues in MacDonald’s playing clearly on cut number seven, “Centerpiece,” where he and Carey Frank on organ, along with the smooth tenor saxophone of Bob Sheppard get loose and accelerate their talents in a dark blue direction. Ben Scholz is steady and pronounced on trap drums, holding the ensemble tightly on-course. Next comes the tune, “Too Late Now.” They play it as a ballad, but it too is thick with blues tones. Sheppard’s tenor sax sings a smoky, sexy song and Frank’s Hammond B3 organ brings back memories of nights at the Jimmy Smith supper club many years ago in ‘the Valley’ of Los Angeles. Enter Doug MacDonald, playing his heart out and taking an oh-so-blue solo.

“My parents always liked music,” Doug told me. “When we moved to Vegas, I remember they had the recordings of a lot of people (who were up on the billboards) like when you drove down ‘the strip’ You’d see Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and Dean Martin photos on the billboards. And I’d think, oh – we have their records at home. I think my mother played piano, but actually, I was the only musician in the family. They didn’t understand jazz music that well. They didn’t get what it was. They were into commercial music. In Vegas I got to play a little bit with (trombonist) Carl Fontana” (who played with Woody Herman and Lionel Hampton’s big band), “and I performed in lounges and showrooms with greats like Joe Williams and Tenor saxophonist, Jack Montrose.

“I always liked the idea of an ensemble. So, arranging and composing, I studied that later on. I studied with Spud Murphy’s student, David Blumberg. And I studied with spud Murphy himself. He was quite a bit older then, but he was quite helpful. I studied conducting with Jack Fierlen who was a wonderful conductor and arranger in Los Angeles. I didn’t really study that much until I moved from New York to Los Angeles. And ahh – when I got to L.A., I played with great talents like Snooky Young, Buddy Collete, a whole bunch of people; Jack Sheldon. In Southern California I found a variety of work with folks like Ray Charles, Rosemary Clooney, Buddy Rich, Sarah Vaughan, Stan Getz and the iconic Hank Jones on piano and bass icon, Ray Brown.”

“Organisms” is Doug MacDonald’s fourteenth album as a leader. He enjoys recording with his own combo and his 13-piece ensemble, but this project is also dear to his heart. It features a quartet made up of some of the top jazz musicians in the music business. The group closes out this album with an exciting arrangement of “On the Alamo.” It swings so hard, I had to play it three times.

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HERLIN RILEY – “PERPETUAL OPTIMISM” Mack Avenue Records

Herlin Riley, drums/vocals; Emmet Cohen, piano; Russell Hall, bass; Godwin Louis, alto saxophone; Bruce Harris, trumpet.

This CD title is certainly representative of Herlin Riley’s musical vibration. This production is joyful and represents absolute “Perpetual Optimism.” Riley, an awesome drummer, makes music that makes me happy. On the first ‘cut’ titled, “Rush Hour” these amazing musicians let their talents speed to the forefront. Bassist Russell Hall garners my immediate attention with his staggeringly creative bass lines that enrich this production, but still hold the rhythm section down. Bruce Harris on trumpet and Godwin Louis on alto saxophone spark the piece with rich horn harmonies and staccato horn lines that propel the music. Beneath the bright creativity of these players, Herlin Riley is stronger than titanium on the trap drums. His ensemble sweeps me up with their enthusiasm and energy.

Emmet Cohen is masterful on the piano and really soars on cut number three, “Borders Without Lines.” Mr. Riley lets his technique shine on this production, taking a mesmerizing solo on drums at a maddening pace. The tempo spurs genius playing from the entire ensemble and yes, they push the borders. Obviously, these are not people to be placed in a box. These musicians are brutally brilliant and technically proficient. They engage the listener tight as a magnet hugs my refrigerator door. This is America’s classical music at its best.

Herlin Riley has long-established ties to Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra via his connection to Wynton’s dad and Riley’s mentor, Ellis Marsalis. He was performing with Ellis Marsalis at the annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival when Wynton first heard him. In fact, Riley pays homage to his mentor on the final, funky arrangement of an Ellis Marsalis tune called “Twelve’s It.” He also celebrates the music of one of my favorite blues composers, Willie Dixon, with “Wang Dang Doodle,” where Riley adds his own interpretive vocalization. The arrangement is stunning and very jazzy, with an African twelve-eight-feel. Riley explained that when he asked a New Orleans vocal great, (Germaine Bazzle), about her energetic, on-stage persona and her vocal mastery she told him something that would forever stick with him.

“You have to allow yourself to become emotionally naked when you’re on the bandstand,” Bazzle told him.

Herlin Riley and his wonderful ensemble have taken that encouragement to heart. Obviously, this percussion master is not a singer, however he throws himself into his singular vocal opportunity full-throttle. Throughout this recording, Riley’s entire band lay their souls bare for our pure appreciation and enjoyment. Herlin Riley’s stellar playing on his Mapex drum set and Zildjian cymbals captivates and satisfies.

Herman explained it this way: “I just do what I do and I have the audacity to be uninhibited.”
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MANU LAFER – “GIMME 5” Megaforce Records

Manu Lafer, vocals/composition; Sandro Albert, guitar/arranger/producer; Toninho Horta, singer/guitarist; Lionel Cardew & Cliff Almond, drums; Mark Egan, bass; Helio Alves, piano; Bashiri Johnson & Mino Cinelu, percussion; Cindy Mizelle & Sachal Vasandani, background vocals. Special Guests: Michael O’Brien, Michael Rorby, Rodngo Ursaia & James Zoller.

Composer/vocalist Manu Lafer begins his “Gimme 5” recording with a song that is very melodic. You immediately feel like you know his song and begin humming along. This is often the sign of a well-written composition. The simplicity of Lafer’s melody reminds me of a children’s song as it skips from my CD player. Surprisingly, this Brazilian musician is also a pediatrician from Sao Paulo. In spite of his dual careers, Dr. Lafer has composed over three-hundred songs, with more than one-hundred already published and recorded. I found the arrangements to lean towards easy-listening rather than jazz. I believe Manu Lafer’s music could have been showcased with more up-tempo and energetic arrangements. Instead, this production is reminiscent of panpipe music. The arranger also seems stuck in a moderate tempo realm for each unique composition. A change of tempo would have easily heightened this musical experience. Manu Lafer has a silky, smooth voice that caresses our ears with the beauty of his Portuguese language. This album showcases a baker’s dozen of Manu Lafer’s well-written original compositions. His band is made up of some top-name players, but once again, I feel the arrangements keep them from showcasing their awesome talents and enabling them to stretch out with more improvisational freedom. As it is, these songs turn into a series of sweet lullabies.

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URBANITY BY URBANITY Alfi Records

Albare,guitars/composer;Phil Turcio,keyboards/programming/
composer;Bernard Fowler,vocals;Tim Ries,tenor saxophone.

Urbanity is a band co-led by Latin Grammy Award nominated producer and guitarist, Albare. The other leader of this band is also a Grammy Award nominee, Phil Turcio. Albare is best known for his pioneering of the ‘acid jazz’ scene in Australia during the late 1980s. He performs both in the United States and abroad. On this release, Albare embraces a smooth jazz production with the fluid help of Phil Turcio on keyboards and synthesized programming. This is Contemporary jazz at its best and showcases Albare’s outstanding guitar playing with a little help from friends like Bernard Fowler singing on the “I Say” original composition by Albare and from the Rolling Stones Touring Band, Tim Ries on tenor saxophone. All ten compositions, except for one (“Desperado”), are composed either by Phil Turcio or Albare. Both musicians are talented composers and players. This is a lovely album, beautifully produced, easy-listening and air-wave-ready, contemporary music.

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SIVAN ARBEL – “CHANGE OF LIGHT” Independent label

Sivan Arbel, voice/composition; Shai Portugaly, piano; Pera Krstajic, bass; Yogev Gabay, drums; Shai Wetzer, percussion; Ron Warburg, Trumpet; Jack Sheehan, alto saxophone; Ori Jacobson, tenor saxophone. STRING QUARTET: Meitar Farkash, violin 1.; Audrey Hayes, violin 2.; Yumi Oshima, viola; Terrence Thornhill, cello.

Sivan Arbel’s lovely, expressive voice captures my attention right away. However, she’s hard to understand. Her lyrics get lost in the production and while the melodies are appealing, I would like to have enjoyed her lyrics. Since she is featuring her songwriting on this album, understanding her original prose is paramount. Perhaps she should have printed her prose on the CD jacket. According to the bio from her publicist, “Change of Light” is made up of seven original stories. With the exception of the classic Israeli folk composition, “Water Song,” Arbel is the composer of all other songs. The first track, “Change” has a very contemporary feel and a melody full of unexpected intervals. The musical arrangements are more modern jazz and once the vocals drop out, the band soars; full of crescendos and waves of improvisational opportunities. They sound like a cross between jazz and world music, in an unusual way. Ms. Arbel mixes international influences from Morocco, Brazil, classical Indian music and her Israeli Middle Eastern roots. The arrangements on this first song are often busy and sometimes over-power the vocalist with horn lines that could have been mixed down or dropped out entirely when the voice was soloing. Afterall, Sivan Arbel is the artist being featured.

That being said, without clear enunciation, this listener misses the stories that Ms. Arbel insists expose what is lurking in her heart. Some compositions sound more like chamber music than jazz; for example, her “Solitude” song. These melodies she creates are challenging and the average person will not be singing or even humming along. Clearly, Sivan Arbel is a unique artist with a fresh, dramatic perspective, apart from the average jazz vocalist and traveling the less trodden musical path.

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PLANET RADIO – “STAY AWAKE” Independent Label

Carl Eisman, vocals/guitar/composer; Leah Randazzo, vocals; Jeff D’Antona, keyboards; Mark Zaleski, bass/alto & baritone saxophone; Jon Bean, saxophones; Patrick Simard, drums/percussion/janky shaker.

The first track on Planet Radio’s recording is a neo-soul surprise. The vocals by Leah Randazzo are beautiful and stylized in an Erykah Badu kind-of-way. This tune is an original composition by guitarist and vocalist, Carl Eisman, titled “Voodoo.” It’s a catchy song that sets the mood for the group’s entire album.

Most of their songs are written or co-written by Eisman. Planet Radio is a tight ensemble of musicians who pump the music up with funk and R&B, delicately coloring their arrangements with jazz overtones. You clearly hear the melding of musical styles on the title tune, “Stay Awake,” that blends vocal harmonies on the very pretty, repetitive ‘hook’ of this song. It gives the horns an opportunity to improvise and bring smooth jazz into the mix. The thing I like about this group is that they definitely have their own sound. As a very popular, working group, all are alumni and/or professors of the New England Conservatory and Berklee College of Music. Truly, their diverse musical perspectives blend uniquely, as their musicianship interprets Hip Hop flavored original music, funk and jazz. Back In the late seventies and early eighties, there was a jazz fusion group that Planet Radio reminds me of called, “SeaWind.“ They too featured interesting horn lines, funky drums, original songwriting and stellar vocals. There has certainly been a vacancy in the music industry for such an ensemble as Planet Radio.

Patrick Simard’s drums energize the group and gives the listener a strong beat, encouraging us to bob our heads to his infectious rhythm. Mark Zaleski’s bass is tenacious and crucial in setting the grooves. Zaleski has also arranged all the horn parts. Eisman and Randazzo have voices that smoothly blend in an ice cream and cake, natural way. Jeff D’Antonio plays keyboards with a strong sense of funk. You can hear it in his self-penned song, “Time For Us,” co-written with Leah Schulman. (NOTE: I have a feeling that may be the same person as Leah Randazzo.) There’s a smokin’ saxophone solo on this tune. I don’t know if it’s Jon Bean or Mark Zaleski, playing saxophone, but it’s hot as red coals. “Find A Way” reminds me of the soul-singer Al Green’s iconic arrangements. Leah Randazzo’s voice smooths the vocals on top of the track, becoming icing on their musical cake. There’s something for everyone in this sweet production, with thought-provoking, positive lyrics, danceable arrangements and excellent musicianship; it’s the ultimate smooth jazz party record.

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JASON PALMER – “RHYME AND REASON” Giant Step Arts

Jason Palmer, trumpet/composer; Mark Turner, tenor saxophone; Matt Brewer, bass; Kendrick Scott, drums.

Jason Palmer has taken advantage of the generosity and support of Giant Step Arts, founded by two renowned photographers, Jimmy and Dena Katz. Their non-profit organization is dedicated to helping jazz innovators become free of commercial pressure. They look for ground-breaking, modern jazz artists, then record these performers in one-of-a-kind concert performance. The artists keep ownership of their masters and the Katz’s provide CDs and digital downloads that artists can sell directly.It’s a great deal to introduce us to this trumpeter and his band. This release contains a double set of discs for the listener to enjoy. On a tune called, “The Hampton Inn (for Alan),” saxophonist Mark Turner soars on tenor saxophone and harmonizes tightly with Palmer’s trumpet. Jason Palmer wrote in his liner notes about Turner:
“I’ve had the great pleasure and honor of working with this tenor titan for about three years, having toured in his band, as well as having him on several of my previous projects. … Any ardent listener of this modern music can identify Mark’s signature tone as well as his fluid expression throughout the entire range of the tenor saxophone.”

Bassist, Matt Brewer, opens cut number two on the second disc, soloing during the introduction of “Mark’s Place” until Kendrick Scott adds drums. The music crescendos with the entrance of Jason Palmer’s trumpet and Turner on tenor. Matt Brewer and Jason Palmer are long-time friends and bandmates. They each started out together in Greg Osby’s Quintet back in the early 2000s.

“I remember hearing him play a Coltrane solo on his bass, note-for-note, and having my conscious opened up to the possibilities of the acoustic bass. Matt is one of the most in-demand bassists of our generation,” Jason Palmer shared.

About his drummer, Kendrick Scott, Palmer said: “Whether it’s on the basketball court or the bandstand, I’ve always had fun … with Kendrick. We’ve been playing for just about twenty years. This is the fourth recording I’ve been able to feature Kendrick’s gifts on and the first ‘live’ one.”

Jason Palmer has composed all eight songs on this double set. This is adventurous music with plenty of room to let each man in his talented quartet explore and expand their talents. This is Palmer’s ninth album as a leader and he is becoming recognized as one of the most inventive musicians of this generation. Palmer has garnered several awards including the 2014 French American Cultural Exchange Jazz Fellowship. In 2011, he was named a Fellow in Music Composition by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Palmer has toured over 30 countries and he also maintains a rewarding schedule as an educator, as well as acting Vice President of JazzBoston.org. This is an organization that connects, promotes and advocates for musicians, audiences and venues of greater Boston’s dynamic jazz community. They spread the music and the message of jazz, while celebrating Boston as one of the world’s great jazz cities. Currently Jason Palmer is an Assistant Professor of Ensembles and Brass at Berklee College of Music and a Visiting Professor at Harvard University. On this project, he offers modern jazz and new compositions presented ‘live’ before an enthusiastic audience and steeped in “Rhyme and Reason.”

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TONY MONACO – “THE DEFINITION OF INSANITY” Chicken Coup Records

Tony Monaco, Hammond B3 organ/piano/accordion/voice; Derek DiCenzo, guitar; Tony McClung, drums; Asako Monaco, piano.

Tony Monaco has arranged and produced this album, featuring his bluesy organ style on the Hammond B3, also on the accordion and occasionally, the piano. He swings hard. Not to mention, on the beautiful ballad, “Never Let Me Go,“ he adds his vocals to the mix. Monaco has engineered, mixed and mastered this project. With all hands on, he starts this CD with “Cars Trucks Buses.” Monaco clearly shows his propensity for the blues. Tony McClung takes a noteworthy drum solo on this arrangement. The melody is catchy and the groove infectious. This is followed by the very familiar and popular Lee Morgan jazz tune, “Ceora.” One of Tony Monaco’s inspirations was the late, great Jimmy Smith. Monaco has recorded one of Smith’s compositions, “Root Down.” His arrangement is funk-driven, with Tony McClung’s drums punching the rhythm like a boxing bag.

In his home town of Columbus, Ohio, Monaco has a regular Monday night club gig celebrated as Monaco Monday, where his fans pack the place. One song that he gets many requests to perform is the Grateful Dead song, “Truckin’.” You will find it included, as part of this album’s repertoire. It’s another arrangement packed with blues grooves and funk drums. Their production will have you wiggling in your chair or dancing across the floor. Digging deeply into his cultural roots, Tony Monaco chooses a traditional Neapolitan song and sings “Non Ti Scordare Di Me” in Italian.

All in all, this recording is a joyful exploration of the Hammond B3 organ by an artist who has spent the better part of his life soaking up the jazz tradition and sharing it with his loyal following.
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FROM VISIONARY TO INFINITY: JAZZ IS THE CATALYST

March 8, 2019

FROM VISIONARY TO INFINITY: JAZZ IS THE CATALYST
BY Dee Dee McNeil/Jazz Journalist

March 6, 2019

During March, I continue to celebrate Women’s History Month by including several reviews of women in jazz. I’m also including some very talented men who have new recordings on the market. Daniel Szabo gives us a taste of his visionary work by arranging new music for jazz trio and chamber ensemble. Karina Corradini tributes the late Zane Musa with her “Bridge to Infinity” album. Cathy Segal-Garcia joins Larry Koonse and Josh Nelson as they travel to “Dreamsville.” Kevin Hays and Chiara Izzi meld pop, smooth jazz and world music on their CD, “Across the Sea.” Quinsin Nachoff’s Flux group colors way outside the lines with “Path of Totality.” Cyrille Aimee celebrates the music of Sondheim and Settings for Three sits us down at the table of Drew Gress, Phil Haynes and David Liebman for some delicious be-bop and straight-ahead. This column reviews the artistic diversity of jazz and music in general, while introducing you to new artists and seasoned veterans.

DANIEL SZABO – “VISIONARY” Fuzzy Music

Daniel Szabo, piano/composer; Edwin Livingston, acoustic bass; Mike Valerio, bass; Peter Erskine, drums; Sara Andon, flute; Bob Sheppard, flute/tenor saxophone; Chris Bleth, oboe; John Yoakum, English Horn; Kim Richmond, clarinet/alto & soprano saxophone; Phil O’Connor, bass Clarinet; Chad Smith, bassoon; Charlie Bisharat, 1st violin; Joel Pargman, 2nd violin; Andrew Duckles, viola; Charlie Tyler, cello.

Daniel Szabo is a stellar pianist whose music reflects a desire to blend genres, styles and instrumentation in a unique and visionary way. Thus, the title of this album reflects and represent this composer’s newest music for jazz trio and chamber ensemble. He explains it in his liner notes.

“If I were a true ‘visionary,’ I could possibly see a future in which boundaries are less important than connections; where integration wins over isolation and community prevails over individualism. Then, I believe, our life experience would become cosmic.”

I do find Daniel Szabo’s music to be visionary. His blend of chamber music, as a very classical backdrop for his jazz trio, seems inspired. Szabo’s piano solos are freely motivational and dazzling. As the strings staccato in the background of his composition, “Cosmic,” his piano improvisations dance, light and bright as fireflies on a June night. Bob Sheppard makes a jazzy appearance on tenor saxophone and Peter Erskine’s stunning drum solo takes the spotlight. Those drums are an exciting introduction for the string section that flows back on the scene like a wave of ocean water; sweet and salty. The tempos change, rise and fall like the tide. This is an album of musical mastery, featuring the orchestration and compositions of Daniel Szabo. All the original music is Szabo’s except the historic “Infant Eyes” composition by Wayne Shorter. Combining Szabo’s love of jazz, folk, classical and film score music, this composer weaves together a production of beauty.

Daniel Szabo is an Associate Professor at UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music and earned his doctorate degree from the University of Southern California (USC). Daniel Szabo has appeared as leader on eight recorded and released albums. This may be one of his crowning successes, as he challenges stylistic boundaries, endeavoring to be an inspirational catalyst that merges technique and talent to bring music, (like people), together harmoniously and without boundaries.
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KARINA CORRADINI – “BRIDGE TO INFINITY” A tribute to Zane Musa Independent Label

Karina Corradini, vocals/producer; Mahesh Balasooriya, piano; Christian McBride, producer/bassist; Rene Camacho, bass; Marty “Smitty” Smith, drums; Munyungo Jackson, percussion; Zane Musa, saxophone; Nolan Shaheed, trumpet.

Right from the first cut on this album, “You Turned the Tables On Me,” Karina Corradini, shows that she can ‘swing’ with the best of them. This vocalist has surrounded herself with a host of marvelous musicians including Christian McBride on bass (who co-produced this album), Mahesh Balasooriya on piano, Nolan Shaheed on trumpet and Munyungo Jackson on percussion. She is tributing her beloved friend, reedman Zane Musa, who left Earth much too early. Zane Musa put his saxophone blessings on this recording before his passing. Ms. Corradini sings a number of great old standards, with rich arrangements and great sincerity. Her lyrics are tinged with just the hint of an accent and I wondered where she’s from. When she sings, “What A Difference A Day Makes” in Portuguese, I hear her Brazilian roots shine through and flower. But I discover (from her publicist) that she is not Brazilian at all, but instead is a mixture of Argentinian and Italian, born in San Isidro, Argentina. Still, she delivers a lovely rendition in both English and Portuguese. I enjoyed the slow, swaying Samba rendition of “I Could Have Told You,” with Munyungo Jackson’s warm, percussive additions highlighting the rhythm and an outstanding solo by Mahesh Balasooriya on the eighty-eight keys.

On “Doralice” by great composer, Dorival Caymmi, Karina Corradini is back to Portuguese and the up-temp, happy excitement of Brazilian music is infectious on “Cai Dentro.” Marvin “Smitty” Smith is the catalyst that pushes the music ahead on trap drums and locks a tight groove with Christian McBride on the bass. Ms. Corradini used the arrangements of Eric Bulling, who penned them for Ella Fitzgerald’s album, “Ella Braca Jobim.” When Karina Corradini settles down to deliver the beautiful ballad, “If You Went Away,” her delivery makes me want to fall in love again. This is an elegant, sincere vocalist who knows how to sell lyrics and deliver them with the tone and emotional fortitude that keeps an audience engaged and captivated.
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CYRILLE AIMEE – “MOVE ON: A SONDHEIM ADVENTURE” Mack Ave Records

Cyrille Aimee, vocals; Assaf Gleizner, piano/Fender Rhodes; Thomas Enhco, piano; Jeremy Bruyere, upright & fretless bass; Yoann Serra, drums; Abraham MansFaroll, percussion; Adrien Moignard, acoustic guitar; Sebastien Giniaux, acoustic guitar/cello; Ralph Lavital, electric guitar; Diego Figueredo, nylon guitar; Warren Walker, tenor saxophone & effects; Maxime Berton, soprano saxophone; Patrick Bartley, alto saxophone; Bill Todd, tenor saxophone; Wayne Tucker, trumpet; VIOLINS: Mathias Levy, Gregor Huebor & Fung Chern Hwes, 1st Violin; Julie Goodale, viola; Rubin Kodheli, cello.

The rich compositions of Stephen Sondheim create a challenging repertoire for Cyrille Aimee to sing. She brings her own, unique style and arrangements to the Sondheim songs. Her ability to scat and to reinterpret these Broadway and very theatrical compositions is interesting. She refreshes the music with her little-girl voice and grown-up character, using her own womanly experiences to interpret lyrics she felt encapsulated parts of her own life story.

The talented Mr. Sondheim has received an Academy Award, eight Tony Awards and a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Theater from the Tony’s. He’s won eight Grammy Awards, a Pulitzer Prize and in 2015 he received the coveted Presidential Medal of Freedom. Sondheim was mentored by Oscar Hammerstein II, who was like a father to him. At an early age, young Sondheim found that he loved theater and music. Naturally, the next step was writing a musical. His schoolmates encouraged his talent and performed his musical. Thus, began Sondheim’s illustrious career.

I know him best for “Send In the Clowns,” but Cyrille Aimee has chosen a basket full of his songs, some I’m unfamiliar with like, “Take Me to the World” from his Evening Primrose movie. “Love I Hear” is from his theatrical success, “A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum.” Mathias Levy on violin adds a lovely dimension to the arrangement and Aimee’s soprano voice lightly caresses the beautiful melody. “Loving You” was recorded by Barbra Streisand in 2016 and she put her stamp on that tune. The thing about this recording is that I find the drama is sometimes missing. I’ve reviewed Ms. Aimee in the past and she’s more a jazz singer than a Broadway vocalist. Truly, her idea of celebrating these historic compositions is both unique and challenging. However, I found myself not always believing her when she interprets Sondheim’s lyrics and melodies. There is an effort to capture the theatrical songs in a net of jazzy arrangements, but even when she bursts into scat-singing, it’s difficult to transform songs written for stage plays into jazz treasures. Notably, pianist, Thomas Enhco, is up for the challenge during his solo on “Loving You.” When I hear Bernadette Peters sing “Being Alive,” I am a believer. Although I commend the Latin, up-tempo arrangement of this song that Aimee’s group presents, somehow she misses the mark in selling these lyrics. Her scat on the fade of the song is joyful and happy, but these lyrics are not happy nor jubilant. They are soul-searching lyrics begging somebody to make her feel alive. “Somebody crown me with love, somebody force me to care,” is a plea. “Somebody need me too much. Somebody know me too well…. Somebody put me through hell.” These are lyrics that tear at the heart. This arrangement does not relate to the song’s lyrical content.

What this project did for me was to introduce me to more of the work of Sondheim in a new and unusual way. I commend Cyrille Aimee for choosing this project and endeavoring to change theatrical songs to jazzy arrangements. I thought she was successful on “Not While I’m Around,” and on “They Ask Me Why I Believe In You” with just voice and bass. Also, the gospel, R&B flavored, “No One Is Alone” is well sung with shades of Billie Holiday tones to Cyrille Aimee’s vocals. This song features a wonderful guitar solo by Ralph Lavital. He brings the blues into this project. This arrangement suits both the song and the vocalist. The ballad, “I Remember,” is emotionally delivered as is the title tune, “Move On.” Finally, her up-tempo performance on “With So Little To Be Sure of” is a great way to close this album, with just vocals and the nylon guitar of Dego Figuriedo. Dynamic!
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SETTINGS FOR THREE – “NO FAST FOOD” CornerStore Jazz

David Liebman, woodwinds; Phil Haynes, drums; Drew Gress, bass.

Funny how music can paint pictures in your mind when you listen. There is something in the first cut on this album, reflected in the flute music, that reminds me of open plains and wide, blue spaces of sky. Drew Gress’s bass line solidifies the windy whistle of David Liebman’s flute. Gress grounds the piece until Phil Haynes joins the party on drums. Liebman picks up his saxophone and we all take flight. This ensemble is like a wave of sound energy rushing across space. They are in sync and unified, like a flock of startled starlings. Their ensemble work is modern jazz and dedicated to the memory of Paul Smoker, a jazz trumpeter and composer, who frequently worked with drummer Phil Haynes. Consequently, the first song played is appropriately titled, “El-Smoke.” Although this composition lasts over ten minutes in length, it’s never boring or redundant. The tune titled, “Joy” sounds a little pensive and anything but joyful. The third cut, “Blue Dop” is puffed up with blues and feels straight ahead. Haynes takes an inspiring solo on drums.

All three of these musicians are the best of the best. You will enjoy their master technique and undeniable adventurism during each arrangement and production. Their music is steaming hot, drifting up from a well-seasoned pot of musical stew. They’ll make you want to come back for more. This is “No Fast Food,” but both savory and succulent to your artistic palate.
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CATHY SEGAL GARCIA – LARRY KOONSE – JOSH NELSON – “DREAMSVILLE” Dash Hoffman Records

Cathy Segal Garcia, vocals; Larry Koonse, guitar; Josh Nelson, piano.

Cathy Segal Garcia’s CD opens with “Dreamsville.” The arrangement, like the singer’s voice, is dreamy and warm. Cathy’s vocal style draw you in, as does the emotional piano playing of Josh Nelson and the attentive accompaniment and rhythm of Larry Koonse on guitar.

Cathy’s original composition, “The Three of Us” is beautifully offered, like a Sunday morning prayer. In fact, the first three songs of this production unfold, using dreams as the centrifugal force that spins the compositions together with a common purpose. Picking two of the best jazz session players and artists in Southern California to match her emotional delivery is smart. The clarity of their production gives some of her choices a world music-feel, like the Jobim tune, “Zingaro,” where Cathy melts into the guitar and synthesizer accompaniment, using her voice like an instrument. Lyric-less. Melodic. Free. Spontaneous. It exemplifies her need to experiment and push the boundaries of her music art. Dave Frishberg’s composition, “You Are There” is stunning and hypnotic, with Garcia gently sharing the lyrics with us, like a sweet, honest story. Cathy Segal-Garcia has her own vocal style and tone, easily recognizable and perhaps most closely compared to Joni Mitchell. She is forever challenging herself and her music. The simplicity of this production leaves the trio vulnerable, in a good way. They are each Southern California veterans of our music community and world-travelers who have spread their talents across continents. When I listen, I hear poetry. These songs pour sweetly across my early Saturday, like warm honey on my morning toast. Mostly made up of ballads, Cathy Segal-Garcia proffers us two original compositions on this album; “The Three of Us” and “Rewind the Years.” Each is sentimental and left open, like a diary page we are meant to read.
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QUINSIN NACHOFF’S FLUX – “PATH OF TOTALITY” Whirlwind Recordings

Quinsin Nachoff, tenor & soprano saxophone; Matt Mitchell, piano/prophet 6/modular synthesizer/novachord/harpsichord/Estey pump harmonium; Kenny Wollesen, drums/Wollosonic percussion; Nate Wood, drums. David Binney, Alto & C melody saxophone. SPECIAL GUESTS:Jason Barnsley, 1924 Kimball Theatre Organ; Mark Duggan, marimba/vibraphone/glockenspiel/crotales/Tibetan singing bowls; Carl Maraghi, baritone saxophone/bass clarinet; Dan Urness & Matt Holman, trumpets; Ryan Keberle, trombone; Alan Ferber, trombone/bass trombone; Orlando Hernandez, tap dance; David Travers-Smith, Buchia 200E Analog Modular System/EMS synthi 100 Analog/Digital Hybrid Synthesizer/Arp Chroma (Rhodes) Analog Synthesizer/ Clavioline/Oberheim SEM Modular Moog.

Modern jazz Composer/saxophonist and unconventional spirit, Quinsin Nachoff, traces the shadow of the sun on this, his second release of the genre-eclipsing band, Flux. Nachoff, who admits to drawing inspiration from the wonders of the universe, was inspired to compose this album in 2017 after witnessing the August eclipse of the sun. In fact, it was 2017 when I last reviewed a Nachoff project. It was his Ehereal Trio, that envisioned a musical asterism, against the midnight hour of my bedroom. It was a constellation of inspired sound.

His current musical adventure continues the exploration of space, this time with no bass instrument, but mostly using piano to twinkle like distant planets and horns to enhance the open feeling of space and outer-limits. This is a journey into the depths of Avant Garde jazz and the mind of the composer. Quinsin Nachoff’s music is unpredictably beautiful, like on track #3, “Toy Piano Meditation” that gives Matt Mitchell a sufficient time to paint pictures, using his 88 keys and synthesizer magic against a canvas of free horns, dancing like wild apparitions. Kenny Wollesen’s trap drums and Mark Duggan’s marimba, vibraphone, Tibetan singing bowls and other percussive gifts become the wind beneath the ensemble’s wings. On his composition, “Bounce,” the drum and percussion excitements of Nate Wood is the result of a mathematical break-down of how a bouncing ball moves. Here is a double record set of unusually creative arrangements, improvisations and compositions by Quinsin Nachoff and his Flux ensemble. Like the heaven’s themselves, this project is an adventure, rich with unexpected and timeless beauty.

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CHIARA IZZI & KEVIN HAYS –“ACROSS THE SEA” Jando Music/Via Veneto Jazz

Chiara Izzi, vocals/composer; Kevin Hays, piano/voice/Rhodes/composer; Rob Jost, acoustic and electric bass/French horn; Greg Joseph, drums; Rogerio Boccato, percussion; Chris Potter, tenor & soprano saxophone; Grégoire Maret, harmonica; Nir Felder, electric & acoustic guitar; Omer Avital, oud.

I listen to so many CDs, so much music daily, that it takes something or someone very special to flag my attention. Chiara Izzi has a voice full of innocence and passion that immediately garnered my consideration. Opening with her self-penned “Circles of the Mind,” (that perhaps gives us a glimpse of what runs through her head at times), I am captivated. It does not rhyme, but instead is thoughtful prose. The melody is beautiful and memorable. At the end, as the musicians improvise and fly free, Chiara Izzi joins them with scat-singing, more a pleasant wail than a scat. The lyrics of each song interpreted on this album are printed inside the CD jacket. Izzi has contributed four compositions, exhibiting her songwriting skills. Other songs include the work of Loewe and Lerner, Pat Metheny, James Taylor, Miles Davis and Henry Mancini. This wide range of composers showcases an equal range of vocal prowess by both Izzi and pianist, Kevin Hays. He has also contributed his own songwriting talents, co-writing “James,” a Pat Metheny composition, and co-composing with Izzi on “Viaggo Elegiaco.”

Hays is sensitive on his piano instrument while accompanying the vocalist. He is also the other half of this vocal team. They duet on “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face,” blending their two voices with just his piano accompaniment. Very smooth and reminiscent of a hotel lounge act. Grégoire Maret’s harmonica opens the James Taylor tune and we move from jazz to pop in the blink of an eye. Here, Kevin Hays lends his voice to background harmony.

This is mostly a Smooth jazz/pop music album. On the popular “Secret O’ Life” tune, Chris Potter brings the jazz on his saxophone solo. But for the most part, the vocal duet by Izzi and Hays is pop music. The title tune allows us to once again enjoy just Chiara Izzi, as she interprets another one of her original composition, featuring Mr. Maret on harmonica and a jazzy piano solo by Hays. The duet brings a Mediterranean quality to their music, and on “Viaggo Elegiaco” Izzi reverts back to her Italian heritage, displaying her multi-linguist abilities. “Verso Il Mare” is fun, arranged very Latin and once again features Chiara Izzi singing in Italian. Bravo to Izzi for selecting the difficult interpretation of the Miles Davis/Yanina Lombardi composition, “Tierna Nardis.” Nir Felder’s guitar support is smokin’ hot on this arrangement. This adds world music to the mix and invites us to open our minds and hearts to how music crosses all boundaries and how it joins us, like love, across the continents and worldly divides.

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CELEBRATING WOMEN IN MOTION

March 1, 2019

CELEBRATING WOMEN IN MOTION
By Dee Dee McNeil / Jazz Journalist

March 1, 2019

In 1987 the U.S. Congress designated March as Women’s History Month. So, this month, along with other music, I’ll be celebrating females in jazz and beyond. Some are historic music makers and others making history as we listen.

ALICIA OLATUJA – “INTUITION: SONGS FROM THE MINDS OF WOMEN” Resilience Music Alliance

Alicia Olatuja, vocals/arranger; David Rosenthal, arranger/guitar; Billy Childs, arranger/piano; Sullivan Fortner, piano/B3 Hammond Organ; Jon Cowherd, piano; Ben Williams, bass; Ulysses Owens Jr., drums; Dayna Stephens & Tommy Pancy, tenor saxophone; Markus Howell, alto saxophone; Jeremy Pelt & Etienne Charles, trumpet; Etienne Charles, horn arrangements; Rasul A-Salam, Vuyo Sotashe & Alicia Olatuja, background vocals. Other arrangers on this project: Christian Sands, Josh Nelson, Jon Cowherd, Sullivan Fortner, Michael Olatuja Justine Bradley & Kamau Kenyatta.

This recording of vocalist, Alicia Olatuja, features the compositions of noteworthy female songwriters and is enhanced by a variety of creative arrangements. This artist has a rich tone and a tenacious vocal. With her powerful voice, what better songs to choose than those written by composers like Brenda Russell, Sadé, Angela Bofill and Tracy Chapman, to name only a few.

This production is a comfortable blend of smooth jazz, R&B and pop music. You may recall this talented vocalist from her appearance at President Obama’s second inauguration ceremony in 2013. She was the featured soloist during the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir’s rendition of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Alicia Olatuja has a career that has snowballed since that historic appearance at the White House. For a while, she performed with various jazz ensembles at The Julliard School. At times, she’s shared the stage with great musicians like Chaka Khan, BeBe Winans, Christian MCBride, Billy Childs and Dr. Lonnie Smith. Ms. Olatuja has appeared on numerous music festivals with her own band.

This album, her second solo artist release, continues to introduce the world to Alicia’s outstanding vocal abilities and to her arranging talents. She seems to be pursuing a soul-pop, or neo-soul-jazz direction. This, her second album as a leader, is leaning heavily towards a rhythm and blues direction. You hear the ‘blues’ in her spirited arrangement of Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason,” with the funk drums of Ulysses Owens, Jr. propelling the production. On “People Make the World Go ‘Round,” (a solid hit for the Stylistics back-in-the-day and composed by Linda Creed and Tom Bell), Alicia Olatuja dances her voice on the outer limits of Avant-Garde jazz, with Jeremy Pelt exquisite on trumpet.

Obviously, Alicia Olatuja cannot be boxed-in. Ms. Olatuja shows the diversity and emotional connection she brings to every style and recorded musical composition she sings. A clear example of this is her interpretation of Joni Mitchell’s “Cherokee Louise” composition. On “Just Wait” she offers us a taste of her own songwriting skills. Her interpretation of Angela Bofill’s “Under the Moon and Over the sky” adds her African roots with background vocal chants that inspire. Perhaps Alicia Olatuja describes this project best with her own powerful words.

“When we hear the word ‘intuition’ we think of a woman’s intuition, that inner, gut-instinct thing that goes beyond mere information. There is something powerful and beautiful and something to be celebrated in that. The sub-title ‘From the Minds of Women’ reminds people that we’re not just intuitive, emotional beings. We are intellectual as well. We do know how to connect the emotional and the rational. And when we do that, especially through our work, beautiful and unimaginably creative things are made.”

Below is a video concert by Alicia Olatuja that promoted her first album, “Timeless,” ‘live at BRIC House.

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ELLEN ROWE OCTET – “MOMENTUM PORTRAITS OF WOMEN IN MOTION”
Smokin’ Sleddog Records

Ellen Rowe, piano; Marion Hayden & Marlene Rosenberg, bass; Allison Miller, drums; Tia Fuller, alto saxophone; Virginia Mayhew, tenor saxophone; Lisa Parrott, baritone saxophone; Janelle Reichman, clarinet; Ingrid Jensen, trumpet; Melissa Gardiner, trombone.

Pianist, Ellen Rowe decided to create an album of original music that celebrates some of her female she-roes. Each of the ladies who inspired these tunes has made an indelible impact on Rowe and her music. Beginning with her “Ain’t I A Woman,” composition, with that sentiment extracted from a speech by Sojourner Truth in 1851. This is a slow bluesy number that Rowe calls a hymn to unsung heroines of the civil rights movement including Mary Bethune Cook, Daisy Bates and Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray.

“Their fierce advocacy for the rights of the oppressed deserves much wider recognition. I was embarrassed to realize how little I knew of them and am a better person for having done research on them in the composition of this piece,” Ellen Rowe shared in her liner notes.

The second track is titled, “R.F.P. (Relentless Forward Progress).”This composition was written to tribute two female distant runners; Joan Benoit Samuelson (winner of the first Olympic Women’s Marathon, 1980) and Canfield Laws, still running at fifty-years-young and Gunhild Swanson, who at age 70 finished a 100-mile Trail Race under the 30-hour cutoff mark.

This journalist should have known Ellen Rowe was a runner. When I met her, three or four years back at the Detroit Jazz Festival, I noticed she was slight of build and very healthy in appearance. In fact, she looks like a runner.

Ellen explained, “Running is a huge part of my life and these women are my inspiration.”

I expected the tempo to be up and vigorous, but instead this is a celebration of horn harmonies atop a moderate rhythm with Allison Miller strong on drums and pushing the energy forward like a serious, strong breeze. Then surprise! I like it when they double-time the rhythm and give Ms. Miller a chance to earnestly showcase her trap drum chops. I can picture those runners taking off and picking up their strides to this bright and inspiring arrangement. “The Soul Keepers” captivated me with a boogie-woogie feel and an undercurrent of shuffle drums. This tune gives Ellen Rowe an opportunity to stretch her nimble fingers across the grand piano keys with brilliance. This one is dedicated to the late, great, Detroit pianist and phenomenal composer, Geri Allen. When the saxophone enters, this composition becomes an unapologetic blues. This is one of my favorite compositions on Ellen’s album of fine music. Her tune “Anthem” is dedicated to the power and sophistication of musicians and songwriters, Joni Mitchell and Carole King who influenced Ellen Rowe early in her career. She features clarinetist, Janelle Reichman on this cut. “The First Lady (No, Not You Melania)” composition made me laugh out loud at her title. This song is dedicated to the grace and class Michelle Obama brought to the White House. The awesome Marion Hayden is featured on this number, playing her acoustic bass and holding the rhythm section tightly in place. Rowe’s composition becomes another one of my favorites. Tia Fuller is outstanding on alto saxophone and Ingrid Jensen is always stellar on trumpet. All the various women that Ellen Rowe tributes are listed on her CD jacket with an in-depth explanation of why she chose them and what they mean to her. Additionally, the music on this recording is amply interpreted by an all-female ensemble. Each one of these women brings the best out of their instruments and make Ellen Rowe’s compositions come brilliantly alive.
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CATHERINE RUSSELL – “ALONE TOGETHER” Dot Time Records

Catherine Russell, vocals; Matt Munisteri, guitar/musical director; Mark Shane, pianist; Tal Ronen,bass; Mark McLean,drums/percussion; Jon-Erik Kellso,trumpet; John Allred,trombone; Evan Arntzen,tenor saxophone; Dana Lyn,violin; Eddy Malave,viola; Marika Hughes,cello.

Catherine Russell has a commanding vocal style that snatches my attention immediately. She’s smooth as velvet, yet she impenitently swings hard. Starting with “Alone Together,” her quartet sounds tight and cohesive.

Together, they have toured four continents and appeared in numerous festivals and concerts along with their stunning lead vocalist, Catherine Russell. She is delightful to hear, embodying jazz with her honest, emotional performances. Ms. Russell brings back an era of jazz from long ago with her arrangements and repertoire choices. But jazz was not always her musical direction. After graduating from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Catherine Russell worked with pop stars like David Bowie, Steely Dan, Cyndi Lauper, Paul Simon and Jackson Browne, to name just a few. She has performed as a background singer, an instrumentalist and a lead singer, before finally finding her niche as a jazz singer. After appearing on over 200 albums, lucky for us she decided to produce one of her own. This “Alone Together” masterpiece is her seventh studio album released as a leader. Interpreting the Great American Songbook is not new, but these songs allow an artist to place their unique mark on the music. This vocalist does just that!

Catherine Russell’s roots were always soaked in jazz. Her father, Luis Russell, was a legendary pianist, composer and bandleader. he acted as Louis Armstrong’s long-time musical director. Her mother, Carine Ray, was a vocalist, guitarist and bassist who pioneered for women in jazz. performing as part of the iconic International Sweethearts of Rhythm group. Ms. Russell continues her family legacy with this outstanding piece of musical art. Favorite songs include the title tune, the bluesy “I Wonder,” and “Shake Down the Stars,” brings back an era of 1930s jazz. A unique blues song that I had never heard was, “He May Be Your Dog but He’s Wearing My Collar.” Other gems are, “You’re Not the Only Oyster in the Stew” and her up-tempo arrangement of Nat King Cole’s song, “Errand Girl for Rhythm.”
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LYN STANLEY – “LONDON CALLING” – A Toast to Julie London Independent Label

Lyn Stanley, vocals; John Chiodini, guitar; Mike Garson & Christian Jacob, piano; Chuck Berghofer & Michael Valerio, bass; Paul Kreibich, drums; Aaron Serfaty, drums/percussion; Luis Conte & Brad Dutz, percussion.

Lyn Stanley has sold over 40,000 recordings worldwide. That’s a big deal for an independent artist. All of her albums celebrate the Great American Songbook. In this, her 6th album release, she celebrates the songs that Julie London sang. Julie London was a husky toned, jazz and cabaret singer, popular in the 1950s through the 1970s. It was London’s voice heard on the popular TV detective show, “Peter Gunn.” That was one of the first television shows to feature jazz music as a theme song and as part of the weekly show. Included in Lyn Stanley’s repertoire are familiar compositions like “Goody Goody”, “Bye Bye Blackbird,” I’ve Got A Crush on You” the over-sung “Summertime” and Julie London’s huge hit, “Cry Me A River.” Stanley also tackles the Motown standard, “Heard It Through the Grapevine” by Norman Whitfield and my old friend, Barrett Strong. The arrangement is quite nice with shades of an Ahmad-Jamal-groove and an appealing percussive and drum addition by Aaron Serfaty. Surprisingly, the band turns an R&B hit record into a jazz ballad. It was an interesting production. Although this was not a song that London sang, it was still a very creative addition to Lyn Stanley’s album. This vocalist has a clear, relaxed delivery that lends itself to easy listening music. Appropriately, this romantic music was released Valentine’s Day weekend.

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CAROL SUDHALTER QUARTET – “LIVE AT SAINT PETER’S CHURCH” Alfa Projects

Carol Sudhalter,baritone saxophone/flute/vocals; Patrick Poladian,piano; Kevin Hailey,upright bass; Mike Campenni,drums.

The quartet comes out swinging on Tadd Dameron’s famed “On A Misty Night” composition. Carol Sudhalter grabs the attention right away on her baritone saxophone. The baritone sax has such a distinctive sound, and you rarely see a woman tackle this horn. On Benny Golson’s “Park Avenue Petite” tune, Sudhalter shows the tender side of her saxophone while interpreting this lovely ballad. The Bill Evans composition, “Time Remembered” becomes a platform for Carol Sudhalter to pull out her flute. She and bassist, Kevin Hailey, sing the melody in unison at the top and set the mood. As the song develops, Campenni’s drums Latin shuffle beneath. There are moments in this song when the bass intonation falters, but for the most part, this trio makes a solid foundation for Carol Sudhalter and her reed instruments to stand upon. Later, Hailey is featured on “Gee Baby Ain’t I Good to You” and is quite outstanding. On Hank Mobley’s bluesy “Funk in Deep Freeze” Carol is back on the baritone and swinging away. Pianist Patrick Poladian performs a noteworthy solo and Mike Campenni sports his stuff on trap drums.

Recording ‘live’ in a church, where there is ample echo and perhaps high ceilings, can be challenging. The mix could have been better on this recording, but you can hear the appreciative applause from the audience. The misstep comes when Carol adds vocals to her showt on one of her original songs titled, “Colin Blues.” Carol is not a vocalist, so this is no credit to her well-written composition and her impressive flute solo. Not to mention, the vocals are not properly mixed into the recording and earlier, some audience member starts loudly coughing during the music. Oh, the tragedies and challenges of recording ‘live’!

Carol Sudhalter has been the leader on ten other albums. All in all, this eleventh recording is a fine vehicle for Carol Sudhalter and her quartet to promote themselves and a worthy product to sell at their gigs.
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PATRICE JEGOU – “IF IT AIN’T LOVE” Prairie Star Records

Patrice Jegou,vocals; The Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchestra; Orchestra arranged and conducted by Jorge Calandrelli; Orchestra arranged and conducted by Nan Schwartz; Mike Long,piano/Rhodes; David Lang,Wurlitzer; David Paich,piano/Hammond B-3; Yaron Gershovsky,piano; Dean Parks,guitar; Ramon Stagnaro & Larry Koonse,acoustic guitar; Michael Thompson,elec. Guitar; Kevin Axt, Abraham Laboriel,Sr., Boris Kozlov,bass; Ray Brinker, Steve Ferrone, Cliff Almond & John “J.R.” Robinson,drums; Luis Conte & Lenny Castro,percussion; Tom Scott,tenor saxophone; Mark Kibble, vocals/producer/ percussion; Alvin Chea,vocals; Choir: Bill Cantos,Kurt Lykes,Jamie McCrary,Jason Morales,Melodye Perry,Alfie Silas,Tiffany Smith,Bill Maxwell(choir arranger). Special Guests: Tata Vega; Take 6 & Greg Phillinganes, keyboards. Steve Patrick & Mike Barry,trumpets; Doug Moffet,tenor & baritone saxophone; Sam Levine,alto saxophone; Roy Agee, trombone.

The opening tune on this CD takes me back to the Lambert Hendrix and Ross days. In fact, this entire production recalls the music and style of the 1940’s and 50s, right down to the repertoire and the photos on Ms. Jegou’s CD cover. The old-fashioned microphone and the Betty Grable type dress of choice recalls, ‘Father Knows Best’ Days and John Wayne movies. The layered voices on a production of “Lover Come Back To Me” is an a’cappella adaptation that features the live bass voice of Alvin Chea. Chea and Mark Kibble (Kibble produced this stunning arrangement) are both members of the GRAMMY Award winning Take 6 a’cappella group. It’s an outstanding arrangement and Patrice Jegou keeps up with the high energy harmonics that Take 6 brings. She sounds spectacular as the lead singer. Noticeably, Patrice Jegou has employed some of the top names in music for this project, including The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, composer/producer David Paich (son of great arranger Marty Paich), amazing vocalist, Tata Vega and L.A. studio pianist, Mike Lang. Her repertoire is refreshingly creative and nostalgic, all in the same breath.

Surprisingly, Patrice Jegou’s first love was figure skating and not music. She began skating at age seven and turned pro at eighteen years old. She worked as an ice-skating coach in New Zealand and toured with a circus show in Mexico. That’s when a fellow skater heard her singing to herself and suggested she had a great voice and should pursue vocal lessons. Her resulting studies culminated in attaining a Doctor of Musical Arts Degree in Classical vocal performance from Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. At first, she pursued classical music and opera until her husband, vocalist, physician and musician, Yinka Oyelese, suggested she expand her vocal horizons.

“When I sing Debussy or Mozart or Beethoven, I have to sing it exactly as it was written. Singing jazz is far more spontaneous. You’re free to reinterpret the music. It’s very liberating and creative.”

On “Baubles, Bangles and Beads” she shows off her operatic control, without sounding like an opera singer. She beautifully interprets this lovely song, once made famous by Peggy Lee in 1954 and taken from the Kismet musical score of 1953. Jegou’s version is lovely. The Pointer Sister’s popular hit record, “Yes, We Can Can” is given a fresh face with the drum and bass line putting the funk in the arrangement and the delightful guest appearance of Tata Vega, who duets with Jegou during this production. It’s a spirited arrangement that makes you want to tap and clap. There is an aura of spirituality about this project. Many of the songs are lyrically encouraging and some, like “I’m So Glad I’m Standing Here Today” with background voices that caricature a gospel choir, are jubilant. “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams,” that features Take 6 voices with jazzy harmonies, uplifts.

The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra joins the party on “If It Ain’t Love.” Another diamond is her sparkling rendition of “Estate” featuring the emotional accompaniment of Larry Koonse on acoustic guitar. Ms. Jegou sings this one in Italian, showing us her linguist skills. Being a former opera singer, of course she would sing in various languages and she nails this dedication to summer. On her tribute to Stan Getz, “Remembrances,” her performance is enhanced by the additional vocals of Javier Almaráz. This entire project is a pleasurable party, well produced in a most professional way, with bursts of brightly colored songs, like balloons, floating from my CD player.
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JORDAN PETTAY – “FIRST FRUIT” Outside In Music

Jordan Pettay,alto/soprano saxophones/producer; Christian Sands,piano/Fender Rhodes/Hammond B3 organ/producer; Luke Sellick,bass; Jimmy Macbride,drums; Mat Jodrell,trumpet; Joe McDonough,trombone.

As a debut album for Jordan Pettay, this is a captivating piece of art. Her opening number, based on the Wayne Shorter “Speak No Evil” composition, shows her reed power and her bandmates take full advantage of her “Whatever Happens” composition to show that whatever happens can be stellar. Mat Jodrell is awesome on his trumpet solo and Joe McDonough’s trombone solo bounces atop the straight-ahead groove. Christian Sands (who also co-produced this album) is one of the astounding new piano geniuses on the jazz scene. His solo adds excellence and empowers everyone’s creativity. On track two, she blesses her premier album with the gospel song, “I Am Thine O Lord” played intensely on her soprano saxophone. Pettay is obviously still attempting to find her saxophone voice and style. I found it particularly noticeable on this arrangement. However, when the title tune comes, (another Pettay original), Ms. Pettay sounds confident and solid on her horn. This is a well-written composition, where bassist Luke Sellick, along with the pulsating drums of Jimmy Macbride, push Pettay to her highest strengths. Christian Sands is wonderful, whether accompanying her or taking center-stage-piano or keyboard solos. This trio is tight and buoyant. Jordan Pettay dances brightly on top of this cushioned ensemble of excellence. “You Make Me Feel Brand New” offers a wonderful, smooth jazz arrangement. It pleasantly refreshes this melodic R&B hit record. Macbride’s drums produce a rich mallet sound in the background that is quite stunning. Jordan Pettay is smooth and bluesy on her alto saxophone. This song brings happiness into my home and makes me want to dance. It should get a lot of airplay. The horn arrangements and harmonies are rich and royal. They sweetly crown the song.

“For Wayne” I assume is a tribute to the iconic Wayne Shorter. I glance at the liner notes and I’m right. This song once again showcases Pettay’s affinity for the blues and her composition creates an ample stage to spotlight her talented co-producer, (Sands) and the entire trio. This is another one of my favorite songs on her album, with an unusual, but lovely melody progression.

Jordan Pettay explains, “Wayne Shorter is one of my all-time biggest musical influences. I wrote this composition based on the chord changes of 502 Blues (Jimmy Rowland) which Wayne recorded on his album Adam’s Apple.”

“Straight Street”, the John Coltrane tune, is another vehicle to introduce us to Ms. Pettay and her horn. She explained the story behind this title in her liner notes.

“Some time ago, I was reading the biblical account of Saul’s conversion where he encountered Christ on the road to Damascus. The impact of this encounter left Saul temporarily blinded and only when a disciple prayed for him at a house on Straight Street was his sight restored and he was filled with the Holy Spirit. Saul later became Saint Paul, the Apostle, one of the most important figures of the early church.”

The final songs introduce the listener to three spiritual, Christian-based, and beautifully produced jazz arrangements of “Exalt Thee”, “Surrender All” and “Are You Washed in the Blood?” This is a subtle spiritual journey for both Jordan Pettay, her musicians and her audience. I think this project is a musical blessing and prayer to the universe.

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RAN BLAKE & CLAIRE RITTER – “ECLIPSE ORANGE” Zoning Recordings

Ran Blake,piano/arranger/composer; Claire Ritter,piano/arranger; Kent O’Doherty, saxophone.

This is a unique exploration of two pianists, who have combined talents to explore twenty songs on this one-of-a-kind album. It was recorded ‘live’ at Queen’s University in Claire Ritter’s native North Carolina. The concert was meant to celebrate what would have been the 100th birthday of Thelonious Monk. Consequently, many of the songs herein are Monk’s compositions. However, the majority of songs are composed by Claire Ritter, who has reached out to one of her mentors, the astoundingly talented, Ran Blake, to embark on this duet project.The title tune, “Eclipse Orange,” is absolutely beautiful and features both pianists, as does “Blue Monk.” Ritter’s composition, “Backbone” is also played simultaneously by both pianists with heavy shades of Thelonious Monk influence and a nod to another pianist and inspiration who Ritter greatly admires, Mary Lou Williams. Ran Blake has composed “Short Life of Barbara Monk” (a remembrance of the daughter of Thelonious) and together, this duo offers a beautiful and emotionally charged ballad. Ritter and Black met in 1981, at the New England Conservatory. Blake has been an instructor there for over fifty years. Ritter says their collaboration as peers began in 1988, when Blake performed as a guest on her debut album, “In Between.”

“Ran is a great motivator and stimulator of the imagination. His genius lies in his harmonic structures, in recomposing any kind of piece in any kind of idiom. He stimulated the composer in me, bringing out a lot of color, unpredictability and ways of thinking about melodic phrasing in more interesting ways, by encouraging me to listen to a very wide range of different types of music,” Ritter proclaimed in her liner notes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MURLwWfymjQ&list=OLAK5uy_mV9_6El9KDtvNbb HGbA6tbteoV4R82ZT0

Occasionally, you will hear the saxophone of Australian-born, Kent O’Doherty, but for the majority of this artistic endeavor, Blake and Ritter perform as a duo or with each pianist sometimes playing solo. Often the arrangements are by Ran Blake. This is a true artistic endeavor that rewards our ears with gold medal music.

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March 4th and March 10th, PBS television will feature an amazing new vocalist on the scene. Remember this name: Sheléa. Taped in Los Angeles, she will sings a variety of music including a Whitney Houston medley, a tribute to Aretha and a song made famous by Barbra Streisand.

https://www.pbssocal.org/programs/quincy-jones-presents-shelea/?pagename=d&AddInterest=1322&utm_source=Shelea&utm_medium=email&utm_
campaign=dedicated&utm_content=Shelea