Archive for May, 2019

INSPIRE ME BIG BANDS, ORCHESTRAS & MORE

May 25, 2019

INSPIRE ME BIG BANDS, ORCHESTRAS & MORE
By Dee Dee McNeil/Jazz Journalist
May 25, 2019

RALPH PETERSON & THE MESSENGER LEGACY – “LEGACY ALIVE – VOL. 6 AT THE SIDEDOOR” Onyx Productions

Ralph Peterson,drums/leader;Bill Pierce,tenor saxophone;Bobby Watson,alto saxophone; Brian Lynch,trumpet; Essiet Essiet,bass; Geoffrey Keezer,piano.

This is my straight-ahead dream band. If you love bebop, like I do, this production will totally entertain and inspire you. It’s a two-set CD highlighting the brilliance of Ralph Peterson’s drum talents. That being said, this is not to diminish his ensemble, who are obviously the cream of the crop. Disc One opens with a Curtis Fuller composition, “A La Mode” whose arrangement energizes and excites. The group pulsates through the first three songs before settling down to perform the lovely balled, “My One and Only Love”, featuring Bill Pierce on tenor saxophone and enhanced by the polished piano playing of Geoffrey Keezer. Although this is not a big band, the harmonics and arrangements are lush and have the power and precision of a larger ensemble. On Disc two, Essiet Essiet offers an outstanding solo on “That Ole Feeling.” All in all, there’s not one bad, nor one average or boring tune on this album.

Peterson is determined to keep the legacy of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers alive and well by endeavoring to duplicate Blakey’s hard-swinging arrangements and bebop sensibilities. in the music of his “Legacy Alive” production, Ralph Peterson accomplishes this feat. All of this production is a reminder of the incredible discography of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messenger’s group. I believe that this October would have been Blakey’s 100th birthday. If you are a Jazz Messenger fan, you will recognize each and every song that Peterson and his group interpret. You’ll enjoy Golson’s “Along Came Betty, Wayne Shorter’s, “Children of the Night” the nursery rhyme, “Three Blind Mice” that Curtis Fuller arranged back in 1962, and Freddie Hubbard’s, “The Core” that was a dedication to the congress of Racial Equality, a 1960’s popular civil rights and action group.

This is exquisitely performed and arranged music. It brought back many warm memories for me and was so well-done, I played both CDs four times, then took a break and came back for more.
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JENTSCH GROUP NO NET – “TOPICS IN AMERICAN HISTORY” Independent Label

Chris Jentsch, electric guitar/composer; Michel Gentile, flutes; Michael McGinnis, clarinets; Jason Rigby, saxophones; David Smith, trumpet/flugelhorn; Brian Drye, trombone; Jacob Sacks, piano; Jim Whitney, acoustic bass; Eric Halvorson, drums/percussion. JC Sanford, conductor.

Guitarist, Chris Jentsch, earned his B.A. in history at Gettysburg College. This album was released late last year. It was recorded during a ‘live’ concert and features guitarist/composer, Jentsch, interpreting seven historic events using his original compositions. For example, the first song is titled, “1491.” The music is meant to explain the influx of Europeans into the Caribbean islands. Did I hear that in the tune? Not really. However, the composition is exploratory and imaginative, like this entire project. The second song, “Manifest Destiny” is composed to exhibit the 1800s and the belief that expansion of the country across North America was unstoppable. The fourth tune is titled “Tempest Tost” a line from the scribe written on the Statue of Liberty and “Suburban Diaspora” was a title I hadn’t heard before. I thought the Diaspora usually referred to the dispersion of people from their homeland. Jentsch has taken this concept a step further. His piece is referring to suburban middle-class families relocating to cities. The final tune, “Meeting at Surratt’s” is a dirge-like composition and when I read the Jentsch explanation, it made perfect sense. Hanged in 1865, Mary Surratt was found guilty of conspiring to assassinate President Lincoln. She let those who plotted to kill him meet at her home, a few blocks from the Ford Theater. The federal government executed her for complicity.

His ensemble sounds much larger than it is, sparkling with lush arrangements and dramatic interludes, where various musicians step forward to solo. I chose to place this review with my big band reviews because of the richness of the arrangements and the full sound of these creative, orchestral compositions. Chris Jentsch has released five albums and earned his Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Miami. This current project was commissioned by Chamber Music America/Doris Duke New Jazz Works and was recorded at ShapeShifter Lab in Jentsch’s hometown of Brooklyn. These Chris Jentsch suites are beautiful and mind expansive.
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STEVE HAINES AND THE THIRD FLOOR ORCHESTRA Justin Time Records

Steve Haines, double bass/producer/orchestration; Becca Stevens, vocals; Chad Eby,soprano saxophone; Joey Calderazzo,piano; Greg Hyslop,guitar; Kobie Watkins, drums; Kevin Geraldi,conductor, plus thirty-six various orchestra players.

This is chamber music with human voice. Steve Haines and his Third Floor Orchestra present an eleven-song concert of classically influenced jazz, incorporated with Celtic traditions, original compositions and pop music. It’s an odd combination, but it works. The second track is an original composition by vocalist Becca Stevens, William Stevens and W. Song titled, “No More.” You hardly hear the jazz until Chad Eby’s soprano saxophone enters. The arrangement places percussion licks beneath the horn solo to call attention to Eby’s jazzy sound. Becca Stevens has a voice as sweet as honey. It floats atop the orchestra the way cream rises to the top of milk. Becca introduces the melody and carries the entire piece with her soprano tone, clear and inviting, like a human flute. This is an unusual recording in my collection of music. It does not fit the singular mold of jazz. Even so, it’s quite beautiful; pleasant to the ear and soothing to the spirit. Bassist and group leader, Steve Haines has also composed a few of the songs. This is easy listening music, enhanced by Steve Haines’ orchestral arrangements.

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DARRELL KATZ AND THE JCA ORCHESTRA – “RATS LIVE ON NO EVIL STAR” JCA Recordings

Darrell Katz,guitar/composer/conductor/producer;
The JCA Orchestra consists of 29 talented musicians.

The opening orchestral composition is the title tune and was produced from something Darrell Katz wrote thirty-one years ago. Originally, it was composed for a violin and marimba duo. Consequently, there’s a lot of violin solo work with additional string parts. But you will also hear inspired saxophone solos. The title is off-putting, in that I have no great love for rats. Still, the music itself is compelling, original and imaginative. Katz proudly helped found and is the current Director of the Jazz Composers Alliance (JCA). This orchestra of talented musicians has become a vehicle to feature forward-thinking composers and a home for some of Boston’s best musicians and improvisers. They provide a platform of international community building through music. According to the Boston Phoenix newspaper, “Darrell Katz is one of Boston’s most ambitious and provocative jazz composers.” He incorporates poetry into his orchestra arrangements with words that provoke thought and echo political overtones.

“I am always trying to make the melody and words be unified,” Katz explains. “I am very much trying to put the poetry across, always looking for what seems like a good fit. I really want the listener to pay attention to the words, and I want the music to help them. But it’s hard to describe, a lot of it is intuitive. A lot of meaning and feeling is rather abstract, but it’s what I’m looking to match.”

One of the suites of music called, “How to Clean a Sewer” incorporates three parts. The first is titled, “Three or Four Kinds of Blues,” which does not sound like a blues at all. The second part of the Suite is titled, “Windfall Lemons” (air, earth, water, fire) with ear-catching trombone solos by Bob Pilkington and Dave Harris. There’s a tuba player who also catches my attention. His name is Bill Lowe. The over-all Suite of music is inventive and seems to encourage the various musicians to speak with their individual sounds and voicings. They merge and blend like a crowd of boisterous, talkative families; a taste of avant-garde. Katz uses a pause technique in his compositions and arranging to bring drama and attention to his pieces. The vibraphone occasionally takes stage center, as does the haunting soprano vocals of Rebecca Shrimpton. Now deceased poet, Paula Tatarunis, inspired the “How to Clean A Sewer” song and “To An Angel” features Shrimpton on vocals.

As a change of pace, “The Red Dog Blues” written by Darrell Katz asserts:

“I don’t stop on red. I smoke in bed. I talk back to the boss. I don’t even floss. If there’s a bad choice that’s what I’ll choose. I’m in the doghouse with the red dog blues.”

“…With a big mouth full of lies, and a soul filled with junk, he likes to brag about his tower. And his haircut is bad news. He’s in a solid gold toilet with the red dog blues,” takes a lyrical turn to 2019 political opinion.

Darrell Katz is a guitarist, composer, conductor and producer of this project. He is also a current professor at Berklee College of Music.
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RICHIE BEIRACH – GREGOR HUEBNER DUO with THE WDR BIG BAND – “CROSSING BORDERS” Zoho Music

Richie Beirach, piano; Gregor Huebner, violin; Rich Derosa, conductor/arranger; The WDR Big Band: Johan Horlen, alto saxophone/alto flute/lead; Karolina Strassmayer, alto saxophone/alto flute; Olivier Peters & Paul Heller , tenor sax/clarinet; Jens Neufang, baritone sax/bass clarinet; Andy Haderer & Wim Both, trumpet/flugelhorn (lead);, Rob Bruynen, Ruud Breuls, & John Marshall, trumpet/flugelhorn; Ludwig Nuss (lead), Andy Hunter & Shannon Barnett, trombone/euphonium; Mattis Cederberg, bass trombone/tuba; Joachim Schoenecker, guitar; John Goldsby, bass; Hans Dekker, drums.

Richie Beirach has composed the first two songs, presented as a medley and titled “Rectilinear/Paradox”. It opens with the full big band and then breaks down to a straight-ahead groove featuring Beirach’s piano solo playing brightly with John Goldsby’s bass walking briskly beneath Beirach’s electric piano improvisation. In fact, throughout, Goldsby’s bass is prominent and outstanding. On the second cut, a Violin Concerto No. 3 composed by featured violinist/composer, Gregor Huebner, the beauty of the arrangement and the performances by the musicians pull at the heartstrings. This composition’s first movement is melancholy, but when the horns blare, the bass walks and the violin solos, we move into a big band call to attention. The time doubles and Huebner chases the bass line, making his violin race tornado-like and tenacious.

This “Crossing Borders” project is a conversation between cultures, countries and political agendas using music as the catalyst. It’s a call for unity. An extended musical hand, reaching across differences and holding a big band olive branch. This music has a welcoming spirit and intentionally blends borders between a classical jazz orchestra and big band illumination. Huebner and Beirach have collaborated with each other for some twenty-three years. Their concerto achievements, arrangements and various compositions interlock talents with ease, like entwined fingers or palms pressed together in prayer.

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THE FELIPE SALLES INTERCONNECTIONS ENSEMBLE – “THE LULLABY PROJECT” Tapestry Records

Felipe Salles,soprano saxophone/composer/conductor/arranger/ producer; RHYTHM SECTION:Nando Michelin,piano/melodica;Kevin Grudecki,guitar; Ryan Fedak,vibraphone; Keala Kaumeheiwa,double bass;Bertram Lehmann,drums.

SAXOPHONES/WOODWINDS:Richard Garcia & Jonathan Ball, alto & soprano saxophones/flute; Mike Caudill, tenor & soprano saxophone/clarinet; Jacob Shulman, tenor saxophone/clarinet; Tyler Burchfield, baritone saxophone/bass clarinet. TRUMPETS/FLUGELHONRS:Jeff Holmes & Yuta Yamaguchi, (lead); Eric Smith & Doug Olsen, soloists. TROMBONES:Joel Yennior, (lead); Clayton DeWalt, Dan Hendrix, & Randy Pingrey. Angel Subero, bass trombone.

This is a beautiful execution of five movements for jazz orchestra, composed and arranged by Felipe Salles. He has based this entire project on various Brazilian lullabies, extracting musical segments from these popular lullabies and composing original music of his own. He has also added three compositions that are Tango inspired and arranged for a large jazz ensemble. Every arrangement engages the listener and is motivating the orchestra players, who bring brilliance and shine to a sparkling project. A native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, Dr. Felipe Salles brings an element of his culture, warmly wrapped with American jazz, and blanketed with European classical influence. Throughout these richly written and interpreted compositions, improvisation is woven into the multi-cultural fabric of the Salles compositions and Felipe gives time and spotlight to various orchestra members during provocative solos.

As an Associate Professor of Jazz and African-American Music Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Salles somehow has found time and attention to release seven critically acclaimed recordings as a leader. All his recordings have been highly praised, winning favor by top jazz magazines and peers alike. In 2018, Felipe Salles became a Guggenheim Foundation Composition Fellow. This is only one of many grant winning projects he has created. As an active musician in the United States since 1995, he has performed with and recorded with a long list of prominent jazz artists. Some of those include Randy Brecker, David Liebman, Lionel Loueke, Duduka Da Fonseca, Luciana Souza and Bob Moses. Dr. Salles is a D’Addario Woodwinds Select Reeds Artist and clinician, as well as an Andreas Eastman saxophone artist and clinician. Currently, he leads the Felipe Salles Group and the Felipe Salles Interconnections Ensemble. He is also a member of the new World Jazz Composers Octet. He has somehow found more open time on his burgeoning schedule, to also participates in the Kyle Saulnier’s Awakening Orchestra and Alex Alvear’s Mango Blue and Gonzalo Grau’s (Grammy Nominated) La Clave Secreta. Felipe Salles’ current Lullaby Project offers 73 minutes and 29 seconds of incredible musicality.
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WAYNE WALLACE LATIN JAZZ QUINTET – “THE RHYTHM OF INVENTION” Patois Records.net

Wayne Wallace,trombone/composer;Murray Low,piano; David Belove,bass;Colin Douglas,drums/percussion;Michael Spiro, congas/percussion.
GUEST MUSICIANS: Mary Fettig,flute/soprano & alto saxophone/bass clarinet; Masaru Koga, tenor saxophone; Melecio Magdaluyo,baritone saxophone; Erik Jekabson & John Worley , trumpet; Brennan Johns,bass trombone; Miro Sobrer,Sean Weber & Matthew Waterman, trombone; Dayren Santamaria, Eugene Chuklov, Niki Fukada, Maria Romero, & Daniel Stein, violins; Edith Szendrey & Rose Wollman, viola; Kelly Knox & Monice Scott, cello; Akida Thomas,spoken word; Dr. David Baker,pre-recorded interview on cut #5.

The Wayne Wallace Latin jazz Quintet has the full and appealing sound of a larger ensemble. If you are looking for a well-balanced, Latin production, danceable tunes and invigorating percussive energy, you will find all of that here. Opening with “Vamanos Pa’l Monte, (written by Eddie Palmieri) the group Salsa-dances its way into your heart. Paul Desmond’s popular “Take Five” composition, widely appreciated for its unique quintuple meter, 5/4-time signature, and unforgettable melody, is tackled as their second cut. Wayne Wallace’s quintet institutes a 5/8 clavé pattern-arrangement, steeping their production in Afro-Cuban richness. It’s well done, preserving the memorable melody and expanding the rhythm towards a 6/8 African-feel and featuring multi-talented Mary Fettig on saxophone. The quintet incorporates solid horn harmonies in the background and a Coro, or Afro-Cuban chant at the fade. It’s a unique arrangement for this top-selling jazz tune.

Akida Thomas adds spoken word to the fifth track and title tune, “The Rhythm of Invention,” also featuring the music of Wayne Wallace. His trombone soars and the lyrics by Akida add commercial and youthful expression. The percussive excellence of Colin Douglas and Michael Spiro support Akida’s spoken word. The strings and horns sail in the background, like waves licking the belly of a freedom ship. Unexpectedly, the voice of Dr. David Baker is super-imposed over this fluid music, with his comments recorded in 1970 at the radio station WFIU of Indiana University. This is exciting and exploratory big band arranging. Wayne Wallace has composed four of the ten songs recorded. His outstanding arrangements elevate this project. I was captivated by the bass work of David Belove on track seven, “El Arroyo,” another Wallace original tune. Belove makes that tune come alive, placing his happy and creative bass lines confidently beneath the music, and adding an exciting bottom for the chords to embellish.

Wayne Wallace, once based in the Bay Area of California, is well-known for his encyclopedic knowledge of Afro-Cuban rhythms. He was music director of the John Santos Machete Ensemble for twenty years. His creation of the Patois Record label, not only is the source of this production, but expands to encompass artists like vocalists Kat Parra and Alexa Weber Morales, as well as highly regarded anthologies of Bay-Area salsa and the Latin jazz scene. As an educator, he taught at San Jose State University and at Stanford University. Currently, he is professor of jazz trombone and practice in jazz studies at the Jacobs School of Music within Indiana University.

Here is a delightful and infectious production that is solidified by the Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet and embellished by a host of Guest Musicians, who enhance the arrangements with big band boldness and spoken word.
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WONDER-WOMEN OF JAZZ

May 16, 2019

By Dee Dee McNeil/Jazz Journalist
May 16, 2019

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BETTY CARTER! In keeping with the Month of May, a month that celebrates mothers with a national holiday, I have concentrated on reviewing recently recorded females in jazz. They are varied and doing a little bit of everything from playing trombone to lighting up the piano keys; from singing to composing, arranging and producing. I also celebrate the great vocalist and improviser, Betty Carter, born May 16th, whose music must never be forgotten. I wonder why some of these female jazz artists aren’t performing more of Ms. Carter’s original works. Her compositions will always stand the test of time. Here is an interview I did with Betty Carter for the Soul & Jazz Record Magazine, which was published back in 1976. And Yes, I’ve been writing about jazz for that many years.

BETTY “BE-BOP” CARTER: EXTRAORDINARY JAZZ INSPIRATION FOR THE WORLD!
Reprinted (in part) from The Soul & Jazz Record Magazine, 3rd quarter issue – 1976; written and personally interviewed by jazz journalist, Dee Dee McNeil.

I entered Miss Carter’s hotel room attempting a cool composure with whispered awe breathing goose bumps down my neck. She sat there, naked feet propped belligerently on the glass table top, her pale, flowing lounge out-fit clinging to her curves and no make-up. Just a natural, iridescent beauty that peeped through the chocolate freckles peppering her face.

That day, when I originally interviewed her, Betty Carter had been offering the world her unique style for over 30-years. Her music was given freely, with few inhibitions to hamper her unique delivery. She was a true living legend, who weathered the musical storm and witnessed the changes from Be-bop days to R&B/Pop commercialism. However, back then, Betty Carter did not believe her endurance was a big thing. She told me:

“I don’t see me like you see me. I’ve been doing this so long that it’s natural for me. I thought it was OK to learn new music; learn how to write and to arrange your stuff. It took a long time to realize that a lot of singers have other people doing their arrangements. But I wanted to do my own. So, that meant I had to learn about the music. So, I did that when I was with Lionel Hampton. … I couldn’t do anything else if I wanted to. I couldn’t sing like Aretha Franklin … it’s just not my ‘bag’. I was doing nothing but me. I think everybody’s strong and survives in being themselves. I think that’s what you were supposed to do in the first place. I think that’s what ‘the man’ put you here for; to be yourself. He made every one of us different. You’re an individual. Just be you!”

Betty Carter has appeared with practically every great name in jazz and headlined at the Apollo twice a year from 1949 to 1965. She employed a plethora of youthful musicians in her band, helping to skyrocket their fledgling careers. She talked to me about some of the successful shows she performed over the years that defied category. So, what if she’s celebrated as one of the greatest jazz vocalists in the world? She did it all and she did it her way.

“Miles, Monk, Moody, Moms Mabley and me. That was one show. Another show I did was John Lee Hooker, T-Bone Walker, Muddy Water, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee and Bo Diddley… alright?!” She looked at me with piercing eyes, weighing my reaction.

“I did one with the Isley Brothers. The Flamingoes … Now!” She settled back in her chair eyeing me carefully and perhaps wondering if I could relate to her struggle, her diversity and her seething talent.

“This put me on through the years. So, nobody could tell me that my thing wasn’t going.”

She was talking about her long fight for acceptance in the business. Whether we like it or not, the music business and jazz is still tightly controlled by men. They don’t make it easy for women to break the jazzy glass ceiling, especially vocalists. It takes a lot of strength of character and big breaks to climb the gold-record-stairs.

“It’s really pathetic at this point, how much we don’t know about our own craft,” Betty shook her head sadly side-to-side.

“We did it to ourselves. … I finally got with a major record company. They wanted to give me some money for my integrity. You know, I would record for a record company for no money if I could just keep my integrity and do what I wanna do. That’s difficult. People don’t want you to do you. They want to tell you who to be. They want their egos stimulated. They need to say, I made that … I groomed that … I … I … I, all over the place.”

Betty Carter, unique, stylized, volatile, outspoken, opinionated, but sincere. She recorded on her own label for years so that she could have artistic freedom. Her strength of character, her tone and composition skills, her arranging tenacity and her take-no-bull-shit attitude, endears her to me. She is one of those great talents we can treasure and remember for generations to come. Enjoy her “Live” Hamburg Jazz Festival of 1993 below with the amazing Geri Allen on piano, Dave Holland on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums.

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YOKO MIWA TRIO – “KEEP TALKIN’” Ocean blue Tear Music

Yoko Miwa, piano/composer; Will Slater, acoustic bass; Scott Goulding, drums; Brad Barrett, acoustic bass on track 11.

The first thing I notice about pianist, Yoko Miwa, is her ability to bear-hug the blues. Her piano style is rich and radiant with blues tones, obvious and pronounced on her opening original composition, “Keep Talkin’.” She follows up with the popular Monk tune, “In Walked Bud.” It too is saturated with blues tones. Her mood changes slightly on “Secret Rendezvous,” another well-written composition by Ms. Miwa. She brings Latin flavors to this arrangement, encouraging Will Slater to dance, bob and weave on his bass. Yoko Miwa shows that her left hand is as powerful as her right hand on this tune. She rhythmically splashes her arrangement with groove, using the thrust of her bass notes to challenge her right-handed groove chords. It’s a powerful display of her piano dexterity. Scott Goulding is prominent and precise on drums. He continuously propels the music forward, inspiring this trio to swing hard and steady. On “Sunset Lane” they take a breather, slowing the tempo down briefly to let the listener enjoy the lovely melody Yoko Miwa has created. Will Slater makes a prominent statement on acoustic bass and then, Yoko Miwa’s hands make the piano keys tremble and flutter like humming bird wings.

This prolific artist was born in Kobe, Japan, a city famous for its beef and its beautiful and busy seaport. This journalist spent time there in 1995, leaving just two weeks before the huge earthquake that shook the city to its core. Yoko Miwa was greatly inspired and mentored by Minoru Ozone, a Japanese pianist, educator and club owner who instilled in her the importance of playing piano by ear. She learned to absorb the jazz language and mastered listening and transcribing the music. Paying her dues as a waitress at his popular jazz club, she also worked as a music teacher and accompanist. She enrolled at the Koyo Conservatory of Music. That’s a Berklee affiliate school, where she auditioned for a scholarship prize at the main Boston based Berklee College. That first prize win opened the door for her arrival in America, where she fell in love with the city and people of Boston.

“I was the last one to leave a practice room every night at 2 a.m.,” she reminisced. “I was just so excited to meet great musicians, my teachers and fellow students from all over the world.”

Her talent to accompany vocalists led her to work in master classes with the late Kevin Mahogany and also to work on stage with him as part of his group. She has also performed with luminaries like Esperanza Spalding, Terri Lyne Carrington, Arturo Sandoval, Sheila Jordan, Slide Hampton, Jon Faddis, Johnathan Blake and many, many more. Ms. Miwa participated in the Lincoln Center performance program “Marian McPartland & Friends.” She continues to challenge herself and to inspire others as a Berklee professor in the classroom and a formidable, innovative pianist on stage. This album shines with her strength of talent, her technical prowess and brilliant creativity and composer skills. Yoko Miwa is a musical force. She tackles the music of Charles Mingus, The Beatles, Joni Michell and Thelonious Monk with determination, rhythmical brilliance, power and tenderness. Here is an album you will want to play time and time again.

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ELIZABETH TOMBOULIAN – “LOVE’S IN NEED OF LOVE TODAY” http://www.quantumstarsong.com

Elizabeth Tomboulian, vocals/piano/guitar; Lee Tomboulian, piano/Nord/vocals; Cliff Schmitt, bass; Alvester Garnet, drums; SPECIAL GUESTS: Ingrid Jensen, trumpet/flugelhorn; Roseanna Vitro, vocals.

As both a pianist and vocalist, Elizabeth Tomboulian has been performing all over the country; from her native Arkansas to Houston, New Jersey to Louisiana, Wisconsin to New York, in Tennessee and on the West Coast. Her second song on this premier Cd is probably the one she should have opened this recording with. Why? because of the way her sincere voice and the minimal production touches the heart of this listener. The first song felt contrived and commercial, but “Time After Time” by composer, Cindy Lauper, makes an impression. I also appreciate the arrangement, replacing some of the expected piano chords with unique voicings. Her husband, Lee Tomboulian, is also a pianist and does much of the accompaniment on this album. There is a special blend of vocals and energy when the married couple sings together. This is obvious on cut #3, a medley of “Nutty” and “If I Love Again,” where Elizabeth trades fours, scatting in between the bass solo by Cliff Schmitt and the drum solo by Alvester Garnet. During the opening intro and on the fade, she and Lee Tomboulian sweetly harmonize on the “Nutty” melody. It’s a great arrangement. This could have been an outstanding album opening tune. “For Tomorrow” clearly shows Elizabeth Tomboulian’s clean tones and easy ability to perform a true jazz tune. Her voice is rich as cream and believable. Ingrid Jensen’s wonderful trumpet solo flies over the moon on this song. When Lee Tomboulian adds his harmonic voice to the mix, after the solos, they lift the arrangement with their smooth harmonies and perfect blend. On the “Ballad of the Snow Leopard and the Tanqueray Cowboy,” Elizabeth Tomboulian accompanies herself on piano and reverts back to her blues and folk roots, performing as a single artist. She and her piano present a convincing duo. Elizabeth shows off her blues chops on “Good Old Wagon,” playing piano and singing the popular American folk song by Dave Van Ronk. She adds a little scat singing to keep things jazzy. On her live performance of this song, she sometimes plays guitar.

Elizabeth Tomboulian is a lover of Latin music and I wish I could have gotten a taste of songs from her history of recording and performing with her Latin group called, Circo. I think the blend of her voice with her husbands would have been spectacular on Latin songs. In fact, the Stevie Wonder title tune could have become a great Latin arrangement.

The highlight of this album were songs that featured the married couple performed together vocally. As explained by Elizabeth, she hopes this album of music reflects the “Loves in Need of Love Today” theme from the Tomboulian’s repertoire into our listening hearts.

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LAUREN DESBERG – “OUT FOR DELIVERY” Independent Label

Lauren Desberg, vocals/composer; Kris Bowers, piano; Ben Shepherd, electric bass; Jonathan Barber, drums; Braxton Cook, saxophone; Andrew Renfroe, guitar; Russell Hall, acoustic bass; Will Wells, executive producer/composer.

Lauren Desberg is a consummate songwriter, with stories that evolve like a painting, colorful and sometimes abstract. On her opening tune, “The Way you Feel Inside” she explores the thoughts of a woman who is searching for her inner self. Andrew Renfroe’s electric guitar sings a stellar solo and fades the tune with an echo-filled studio enhancement. Desberg displays a little-girl voice full of innocence and sincerity when she sings “Yes Unless” and warns some unsuspecting guy, not to take her too seriously. This album of music showcases the artist’s composer cleverness. It’s more pop than jazz, but the compositions hold your attention. The productions are supported by her band, incorporating a lot of echo effects and the beautiful baritone voice of some mystery man who is not mentioned on the album credits. Songs like “Come With me” and “Something Wrong with Me” are melodically memorable with strong lyrics and very strong productions.

Sometimes the effects used in the production take away from the purity of Desberg’s stylized voice. She’s like a pop Erykah Badu in tone and uniqueness. The synthesized parts often play over-the-top, but certainly add an unusual perspective to this album, as do the seconds-long vocal intervals like “Hold On” that pop upon the scene and too-soon leave us longing to hear more of the song. Perhaps the “Falling Dominoes” lyrics describe an overall view of this project’s positive message.

“… No fear – no doubt, ‘til everything I found I figured out comes crashing down without a sound. Struggling to see the light. The end of the tunnel nowhere in sight. The voice is right, we can make it easy if we try, to see we’re right where we belong. The world will keep on spinning and I will keep on singing … believing is just a state of mind. You’ll find a way to smile, tomorrow.”

Lauren Desberg throws in a familiar standard, “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter.” The track is fresh and while Russell Hall walks his double bass, Jonathan Barber slaps a shuffle in place and Kris Bowers plays an unexpected and classical type piano lick. It makes for a nice listen and gives the listener a recognizable song they can hum along to. Braxton Cook’s saxophone adds a nice, jazzy touch. She only sings two standards. The second is Rogers & Hammerstein tune, “The Sweetest Sounds” establishing her as a singer who can excel at pop and jazz. I do feel that sometimes the production overwhelms the vocals and her voice could have been pulled out in the mix, just a hair. On the whole, this is an enjoyable voyage into waters that bubble around a very talented vocalist and songwriter.

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NATALIE CRESSMAN & IAN FAQUINI – “SETTING RAYS OF SUMMER” Cressman Music

Natalie Cressman, trombone/vocals/producer; Ian Faquini, guitar/vocals/producer

This is a duo whose music projects a folk/world music attitude and beauty. Ian Faquini and Natalie Cressman each have lovely voices that sound delightful in solo settings and mesh warmly, like sunshine sparkling on calm seas, when they harmonize. Their music rolls over us in gentle waves. All the music is composed by Ian Faquini and Ms. Cressman lends her lyrical poetry. They sing mostly in Portuguese, sometimes in French, but for the most part his acoustic guitar and her trombone celebrate Brazilian roots. Both artists have albums of their own. This is Cressman’s fifth release as a leader and Faquini’s third. Together, it becomes their debut collaboration. The opening song is titled, “Tere” and the story is explained in the liner notes. It is an angry, social outcry deriding the violence against women. I wish they had included English lyrics in their album jacket, because the majority of these songs are not sung in English.

Faquini’s guitar is busy, rhythmic and incorporates baiao, samba and ijexa in the various arrangements. Ijexa is a Brazilian folk music influenced greatly by African rhythms. Natalie Cressman has penned the French lyrics to the “L’aube” song. This is followed by “Debandada” imploring the ijexa musical legacy. She plays a soothing trombone solo on this composition. We hear her sing in English on the title tune, “Setting Rays of Summer.” It has a very compelling melody and Natalie Cressman’s sincere and intimate vocal delivery sells the song and shines against Ian Faquini’s sensitive guitar accompaniment. Cressman wrote these lyrics too. Their voices duet and dance on “Mandingueira” in Portuguese. It is an up-tempo composition that begs for a drummer and a percussionist. Faquini himself adds vocal percussiveness at the introduction. Perhaps it is the simplicity of this production that beckons the listener to come closer, with open hearts, and to soak up the purity of their musical message. This music is not what I would call jazz, but it is drenched in the folklore and the hypnotic rhythms and language of Brazil. It’s a sweet listen.

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BEATA PATER – “TET” B&B Records

Beata Pater, vocal; Hiromu Aoki, piano; Dan Feiszli bass; Brynn Albanese & Emily Lanzone, violin; Peter Jandula-Hudson, viola; Barbara Spencer, cello; Steffen Kuehn, trumpet/flugelhorn; John Gove, trombone; Meredith Brown, French horn; Aaron Lington, bass clarinet/flute.

This is Beata Pater’s ninth CD release and “Tet,” the album title, is the ninth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, as well as the symbol for nine. In numerology it stands for completion. Beata Pater explained her description of “Tet.”

“It is symbolic of creativity; a vessel which holds something within a womb for creation. Goodness is hidden within it.”

Opening with the Freddie Hubbard gem of a tune, “Little Sunflower”, Beata Pater’s smoky voice tenderly caresses his song. There is something about this vocalists’ voice that creates a signature sound, much like the great Morgana King or the memorable Shirley Horn. Once you hear Beata Pater, you will remember her sound. She has a unique tremolo, along with her rich alto tones that suddenly soar into a sweet, second soprano. She slides sleepily and laid-back up and down the scale on “It’s a Lazy Afternoon.”

Pater’s vocalization is hypnotic. Hiromu Aoki’s piano solo tinkles the upper register, with the string ensemble beautifully cushioning their arrangement. It’s an intriguing arrangement that highlights Beata Pater’s vocals, expertly framing the colorful tones of her voice. There’s also the hint of an accent to uniquely make her style unforgettable. She tackles some challenging melodies on this album like Chick Corea’s “Crystal Silence” and the haunting song, “Invitation.” Alex Danson’s string arrangements are stunning, as are the rhythm section arrangements that Hiromu Aoki and Beata created. As a violinist herself, Beata Pater pulls from her multi-musical talents and worldwide experiences. After all, she draws from Polish roots, has lived in England, and spent a decade in Japan. Currently, she has settled in San Francisco.

On this project, she scats and plays with the familiar “Old Devil Moon” tune, making it one of the few up-tempo arrangements she offers us. With her serious classical studies and playing concert violin for several years in her native Poland, she brings a fresh face to these old standards, perhaps thinking more like a violinist than a vocalist. During the ten years she spent playing, teaching and performing in Japan, she met Aoki, who is one of Tokyo’s top, first-call accompanist for singers. They work well together, with neither afraid to jump off the mountain top without a parachute.

In celebration of her album title, Beata Pater has recorded nine songs and puts her own stamp on each one. This project is a tribute to modern jazz singing and arranging. Beata Pater has surrounded herself with outstanding musicians who play beautifully behind her unique and one-of-a-kind voice. She is the epitome of jazz, in her own delightful way.

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JUDY WEXLER – “CROWDED HEART” Jewel City Jazz

Judy Wexler, vocals/producer; Alan Pasqua, piano/melodica/whistling/co-producer/arranger; Larry Koonse, guitar; Josh Johnson, alto saxophone; Bob Sheppard, alto flute; Stefanie Fife, cello; Darek Oles, bass; Steve Hass, drums; Aaron Serfaty, percussion.

Vocalist, Judy Wexler, has chosen ten songs for this project, some by a group of younger composers on the jazz scene. A few of them are female jazz singers like Sinne Egg and René Marie. Sinne Egg’s “Crowded Heart” song is an extraordinary composition with a creative, challenging and lovely melody. It is the title tune of this album of fine jazz. Alan Pasqua’s arrangements shine on this song and all the others. Judy’s interpretation of Grammy Award Winning composer and artist, Gregory Porter, titled “Painted on Canvas” is sincere. It features a lilting saxophone solo by Josh Johnson. Porter is another fresh composer of lyrical jazz compositions that tickle the brain. “Stars” by Fred Hersch and Norma Winstone, becomes another fabulous pick, joining this abundant basket of winning compositions for Wexler to interpret. It allows Pasqua’s flying fingers to sound-paint original pictures on piano and Judy Wexler is once again challenged by a difficult melody with unusual intervals. She rises to that challenge fearlessly. Wexler has good pitch and enunciates perfectly, so her audience can enjoy every poetic nuance of the lyrics. However, her tone is sometimes quite nasal. This may cause her style to lean towards an acquired taste.

Alan Broadbent and Georgia Mancio’s “The Last Goodbye” is one of my favorites on this recording. This composition, tenderly explored by Judy Wexler, highlights her natural, chest register and her lower tones. The lyrics are rich and captivating.

In fact, all the lyrics of these well-chosen songs are beautifully written and gently scratch at the palate of the listener’s creative heart. Another song that rewards and inspires is René Marie’s “Take My breath Away.” The striking guitar of Larry Koonse introduces her final tune, “And We Will Fly.” This is arranged as a sultry, ebullient Brazilian song with Wexler’s voice bubbling happily above the ensemble. Steve Hass is king on drums.

Judy Wexler and her band of mighty men (plus Stephanie Fife on cello) celebrate songs we’ve heard but may not have listened to. They encourage us to appreciate newer, more modern composers and great lyrics. I commend her for steering away from the over-sung standards and choosing such a royal and ear-opening repertoire.
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PUSHING BOUNDARIES: JOYFUL AND STRAIGHT-AHEAD

May 7, 2019

PUSHING BOUNDARIES: JOYFUL AND STRAIGHT-AHEAD
By Dee Dee McNeil

May 7, 2019

JOHNATHAN BLAKE – “TRION” Giant Step Arts

Johnathan Blake, drums; Chris Potter, tenor saxophone; Linda May Han Oh, bass.

This is a two-record set that features the amazing dexterity and charisma of drummer, Johnathan Blake. On Disc 2, (that for some reason I listen to first) Blake opens cut #1. titled, “Bedrum,” with a flurry of trap drum power and innovation. No other instruments are necessary. He says it all. The next tune titled, “Good Hope” is a platform for Chris Potter, on tenor saxophone, Linda May Han Oh on bass and Blake on drums to explore Potter’s original composition. This song was originally inspired by South Africa and Potter uses a unique percussive approach on his saxophone. Blake is expert and captivating on his drum set.

The album title, “Trion,” is a physics term that determines a singlet state formed from three atoms of different colors. Blake originally created this trio as a collective. They called themselves, the BOP Trio, inspired not only by a reference to bebop, but definitely representing the initials of each member’s last name (Blake, Oh and Potter). They’ve been playing together for some time, not only as BOP, but in various other musical settings. Consequently, there is a chemistry and closeness evident on this recording. This music was captured and recorded ‘live’ at New York City’s famed Jazz Gallery before a spellbound audience. Blake plays drums with fire and power. He commands the attention throughout this recording. Johnathan Blake has jazz running through his DNA. His father was the late jazz violinist, John Blake Jr.

Linda May Han Oh begins the introduction of the “Eagle” composition on her bass. Both she and reed master, Chris Potter are impressive modern jazz players. Ms. Oh is given a lengthy opportunity to solo during this composition and throughout this recording. Potter is creative and formidable on his tenor axe, lending consistent powerful solos.

“I’m in awe of both Linda and Chris. This was a really beautiful chance for us to make some honest music together and I really enjoyed the process. We all felt very comfortable in the cordless format. We really know how to fill up the space without getting in each other’s way, which gives each one of us the opportunity to have our shining moments,” Blake shared his appreciation for his bandmates in his liner notes.

Blake, also a composer, wrote some original music for this project that reflects his early days, growing up in Philadelphia’s Germantown and embracing the hip hop and funk music of his younger years, incorporating it smoothly into a jazz format. This trio’s music definitely reflects freedom as they continuously explore expert and creative improvisation.
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MARK DRESSER SEVEN – “AIN’T NOTHING BUT A CYBER COUP & YOU” Cleanfeed Records

Mark Dresser, double bass /Mclagan Tines/composer; Nicole Mitchell, flute/alto flute/piccolo; Marty Ehrlich, clarinet/bass clarinet/alto saxophone; Keir Gogwilt, violin; Michael Dessen, trombone; Joshua White, piano; Jim Black, drums/percussion.

“Black Arthur’s Bounce” opens this CD. Bassist/leader, Mark Dresser has composed this song and all ten of the compositions on this album. His opening tune is avant-garde, with plenty of dissonance and shocking horn harmonies to awaken the senses. It’s written in memory of alto saxophonist, Arthur Blythe, who left a legacy of experimental and extreme modern jazz for the public to consume. Nicole Mitchell’s flute adds brightness and bounce to these dark chords. This is a twelve-minute tune, allowing each ensemble member to step forward and spray improvisational notes all over the place. Joshua White’s piano solo provokes my attention. He’s fluid, strong and attacks his solo with two-fisted, ten-finger power. Jim Black, on drums, never stops inspiring these musicians. His trap drums beat consistently and tenaciously throughout, propelling each song and accenting each musician’s creative improvisation. Here is a musical excursion into the outer limits. Both Marty Ehrlich (reedman) and leader Mark Dresser played with Arthur Blythe’s band before his departure from this Earth on March 27, 2017. Consequently, there is a warm and close connection to their friend and musical mentor.

The waltz composition, “Gloaming” is very melodic and beautiful, showing the tender side of Dresser. The violin addition by Keir Gogwilt sings sweetly. There is no question, Dresser writes lovely melodies and the tunes inspire the spirit, if the listener can let go and dive deep. Between the composed works, Dresser includes short bass solos and improvisations on the McLagan Tines. The McLagan Times instrument is a set of seven graduated steel rods, looking similar to a kalimba, but with larger, rounder tines. This may be another salute to Arthur Blythe, who always included various odd and little-known instruments into his concerts and recordings.

The title tune, “Ain’t Nothing but a Cyber Coup & You” cries out to his public in an activist voice, perhaps referring to the Russian intervention into our elections and using the internet to hack, mislead and influence American voters. In his liner notes, Dresser gives credit for this composition and title to a column written by journalist, Paul Krugman, a New York Times opinion columnist. Dresser describes his piece as an honorarium to the current “reality-horror-show of corruption, malice, xenophobia and class warfare” apparent under the current administration and trickling from the top, downward.

“Let Them Eat Paper Towels” is another protest title that refers to the horrible way Donald Trump treated the victims of Hurricane Maria upon visiting a devastated Puerto Rico. Any news-watcher will recall how America’s rogue president visited the island and shocked us by disrespectfully tossing paper towels into the crowd. The bass line of this tune is an abstraction of the melody of “Que Bonita Bandera” that is the unofficial national anthem of Puerto Rico. Dresser built the counter-lines on this musical basement.

All in all, this is an hour’s worth of creative, ethereal and modern jazz expression, encapsulated and cushioned in avant-garde arrangements and the freedom of technically trained and proficient musicians who showcase Mark Dresser’s composing skills.
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PABLO LENOUGUERE – “ECLECTICO” Independent Label

Pablo Lanouguere, upright & electric bass/composer; Nick Danielson, violin; Fredrico Diaz, guitar; Emilio Teubal, piano; Franco Pinna, drums; Fernando Otero & Antonio Boyadjian, synthesizer.

Argentinian bassist, Pablo Lenouguere, is a composer who offers a dozen original tunes on this album. Born in Buenos Aires, he earned a degree in jazz from the Escuela de Musica Popular de Avellaneda. Six years ago, he moved to New York. His original music embraces modern tango, classical music and his Argentine culture. The first composition showcases the strength and character of his drummer, Franco Pinna. Pianist, Emilio Teubal, plays a very classical role on this track. Pablo Lenouguere’s composition titled, “Piano Piano” features time changes that create suspense and space for his ensemble to improvise, with Nick Danielson’s violin often playing in unison with the piano’s melodic lines. On Cut #3, “Villa,” Lanouguere steps forward on his bass to also sing the tune’s melody, doubling with the piano once again. His compositions are very classically influenced and sometimes melodically repetitious. Lenouguere’s style seems to be based in looping the melodies. These melodies play over and overagain during these compositions, the way hip-hop artists loop their background music. The difference is, this production is quite classical, dramatic and splashed with Tango elements.

https://www.youtube.com/user/pablolanouguere

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MARK TURNER MEETS GARY FOSTER Capri Records

Gary Foster, alto saxophone; Mark Turner, tenor saxophone; Putter Smith, bass; Joe LaBarbera, drums.

On this recording, you will find long, suite-like pieces of music, featuring alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, bass and drums. With the dynamic Putter Smith on bass and the iconic Joe LaBabera at the drums, Mark Turner and Gary Foster are left with plenty of room for saxophone freedom of expression. This project was recorded live and encompasses a two-CD set of brilliant bebop and straight-ahead music. This first tune, “Background Music” offers twelve minutes of recording space for each of these four master musicians to explore their instruments and spotlight their sparkling talents. Below is a recording that features Gary Foster with Joe LaBabera, John Heard on bass and Jimmy Rowles manning the piano.

Although three decades separate Foster and Turner, there is a kindred spirit that connects them musically. Gary Foster, born May 25, 1936, has played on soundtracks that celebrate the work of such iconic artists as Toshiko Akioshi, Lew Tabackin, Barbra Streisand, Mel Torme, Frank Sinatra and too many more to list. He’s been around the jazz and music scenes for over half a century and his talents have meshed with Clare Fischer, Louie Bellson, Jimmy Rowles, Poncho Sanchez and Cal Tjader. Gary Foster’s influences on saxophone embrace historic players like Charlie Parker, Lester Young and Stan Getz. He moved from Leavenworth, Kansas to Los Angeles in 1961 and established a friendship with the great composer/arranger Clare Fischer and composer/tenor saxophonist, Warne Marsh. In fact, Marsh composed the opening song on this album. Foster is a popular studio musician who can easily adapt to any musical style. He plays pop music as flawlessly as jazz and also enjoys his work with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and the L.A. Opera orchestra. He has also played on Grammy, Emmy, and Oscar-winning soundtracks.

Mark Turner is a Scorpio, born in 1965, nearly thirty years after Gary Foster’s birth. Turner grew up in Fairborn, Ohio, the son of a family whose house was always full of jubilant music. In their African-American, mid-western home, there was R&B, jazz, soul and gospel being played consistently. In elementary school, young Turner played clarinet before gravitating to the saxophone. His professional parents instilled in him a strong work ethic. In search of becoming the best he could be, young Turner studied the music of Dexter Gordon, Sonny Rollins, Lester Young, John Coltrane and Warne Marsh, to name just a few. Little did he suspect that one day he would meet and play with someone who had been a dear friend of Warne Marsh. Turner graduated Berklee College of Music in 1990 and recorded five albums of his own. He has developed a style that leans heavily on melodic resourcefulness and modern jazz creativity. For example, listen to the ingenuity he uses during the cadenza introduction to the standard, “Come Rain or Come Shine.” But there is a story behind this unique recording with Gary Foster. Foster explained their meeting this way.

“What follows is my recollection of the details of the concert that became the new Capri CD. It was February 2003. Mark Masters brought Mark Turner to perform on a concert series that Masters and faculty member of Claremont College, Ron Teeples, had established at the school. I had heard, but had not met Mark Turner prior to that date. We had one brief rehearsal. The inclusion of the Konitz-Marsh-Tristano originals and the standards were common repertoire and were chosen at that rehearsal. All of the Claremont events were recorded and, I believe, that when Mark Masters and Tom Burns decided to release this CD, the original recording required no sound or performance editing. Masters, Turner and I were together in 2017 for the Capri recording “Our Metier” and spoke then of the 2003 concert at Claremont,” Mr. Foster told me.

Because these two horn players share mutual idols including Lee Konitz, Warne Marsh and Lennie Tristano, in spite of the fact that they had not played together until that 2003 college concert, they sound perfectly matched, inventive and comfortable on this recording. Additionally, you will enjoy their interpretation of the Sonny Red tune, “Teef” and thrown in for good measure, two quickly recognized standards; “What’s New?” and “Come Rain or Come Shine.”
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BILLY BRANDT – “CITY NOIR” Independent Label

Billy Brandt, vocals/composer/guitar; Chris Symer, acoustic & elec. bass; Emmanuel del Casal, acoustic bass; Jamie Maschler, accordion; Bradley Hawkins, cello; Tim Kennedy & John Hansen, piano; Alexey Nikolaev, saxophone; Jeff Bush, percussion; Brad Boal, drums/bongo; Jamael Nance, drums; Brian Monroney, acoustic guitar/12-string guitar/baritone guitar; Joe Doria, Hammond B3 Organ; David Arteaga, Hans Brehmer, Kelly Ash & Darelle Holden, backup vocals.

Based in Seattle, Billy Brandt is a composer, vocalist, guitarist and bandleader. This album is based on his concept of a black and white film of Seattle City, portraying lives and scenes with poetry, lyrics and music that he has composed. The music is a blend of jazz, R&B and soul music. To my ears, he sounds like a storyteller/songwriter rather than a jazz singer. His music is more blues than jazz, and leans more towards soul and R&B. Brandt’s lyrics reflect contemporary city life and the people entrapped in big, city blues and struggle. From the “Frances Doesn’t Care for the Blues” tune to “Ooh Sha Dooby,” (the title garnered from a Rolling Stone tune), he paints lyrical pictures of hard times and dead-end streets. The composer is definitely a poet and his lyrics are strikingly picturesque. However, musically, his melodies are repetitive and sound more like folk music than jazz; almost rock-folk. His product appears to be more like a songwriter’s well-produced demo, than an artist’s album. The band makes this record praiseworthy. At the end of his production, the addition of David Arteaga as a background vocal on the Cuban Reprise of “Ooh Sha Dooby,” rejuvenates Brandt’s composition and brings life to this project.
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ERNEST TURNER – “MY AMERICANA” Independent Label

Ernest Turner, piano; Lance Scott Jr., bass; Jon Curry, drums.

As energy and awesome musicianship leaps from my CD player, I’m enthralled. Ernest Turner comes out like a heavy weight boxer, strong and challenging on the piano. “Return of Thanos” is an exciting original composition and one of three that Turner has composed and arranged for this production. He is ably assisted in the delivery of an outstanding jazz project by Lance Scott Jr., on bass and Jon Curry, dynamic on drums. Turner punches his piano with two-fisted determination. Jon Curry smashes his trap drums in the most amazing way.

“Dienda” is a lovely ballad composed by Kenny Kirkland. I once heard Sting sing this song and it’s very beautiful, both melodically and lyrically. The melodic bass lines of Lance Scott Jr., support Ernest Turner’s musical storytelling in a rhythmic and sensitive way.

“In thinking about “My Americana,” I wanted to cover songs that reflected how I grew up. So I focused on what I call the ‘Black American songbook,’ including songs from the church and spiritual traditions, while running the pop/jazz gamut from Stevie Wonder to Thelonious Monk and Kenny Kirkland,” Turner explained in his liner notes.

Both artistic and creative, this pianist has worked with iconic musicians including Frank Foster, the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, the Heath Brothers, Ron Blake, Nnenna Freelon and some of the Marsalis family; like Delfeayo and Jason. He’s also leant his piano mastery to ‘pop’ and soulful arenas including a collaboration with John Legend on his recent Christmas album.

Every song on this album is well-played and enjoyable, from “Monk’s Dream” to the Fats Waller standard of “Ain’t Misbehavin” and the Stevie Wonder Classic, “If It’s Magic.” He blesses us with Thomas Dorsey’s classic church hymn, “Precious Lord” and finalizes his CD with the Civil Rights hymnal, “We Shall Overcome.” Well done!
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CHRISTIAN LI & MIKE BONO – “VISITORS” Tone Rogue Records

Mike Bono, guitar; Christian Li, piano; Jared Henderson, bass; Lee Fish, drums; Alex Hargreaves, violin; Chris Marion, strings; Dayna Stephens, saxophone; Jimmy Macbride, drums.

Mike Bono’s guitar solo becomes the focus on his opening composition titled, “Puddles.” Although this is a small ensemble, their arrangements are plush and fat. I regret that it took me so long to listen to this well-written and well-played CD.

Christian Li has composed the second cut, “Little Rascals” and the pianist’s racing fingers, paired with an improvised drum solo by Lee Fish splashes into my room with colorful improvisation and creativity. Bono and Li have composed all of this repertoire for their production and the compositions are memorable. This is quality improvised music, utilizing piano and guitar as the centerfold of arrangements that spreads open like a glossy, well-read magazine. Here is imaginative and sensuous music that incorporates Alex Hargreaves violin excellence, Dayna Stephens saxophone skills, and Jared Henderson’s double bass. Chris Marion adds synthesized strings on track nine and along with the drum power of Lee Fish, Jimmy Macbride plays trap drums on a couple of tracks. These music masters project Bono and Li’s original compositions with gusto and technical precision. You will hear an improvisational and melodic beauty to every arrangement.
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TIERNEY SUTTON BAND – “SCREENPLAY” BFM Jazz

Tierney Sutton, vocals; Christian Jacob, piano; Kevin Axt, & Trey Henry, bass; Ray Brinker, drums/percussion. SPECIAL GUESTS: Serge Merlaud, guitar; Alan Bergman, vocals.

Tierney Sutton has a voice as warm and inviting as a summer sunrise. This outstanding jazz vocalist has chosen to interpret songs from screenplays as her project’s theme. She opens with the popular and haunting song, “The Windmills of Your Mind,” an Academy Award winning composition by Michel Legrand with lyrics penned by the Bergman’s. Not only is Ms. Sutton an interpreter of the lyrical content, she lends believability to the stories. Tierney Sutton ventures easily into scat singing, using the full power of her vocal excellence and whimsical imagination.

One of the outstanding things about this project are the arrangements. On her first song, for example, with only sparse accompaniment, Tierney Sutton’s voice sings legato above Christian Jacob’s piano and the creative drum licks of Ray Brinker. Sutton draws us into the melody with her inventive arrangement of this tune. Her choice of songs explores nearly eighty years of American film. You will be entertained by fifteen tracks of familiar music including, “Moon River,” that always recalls the Breakfast at Tiffany’s movie. She makes this presentation a medley, adding “Calling You,” and borrowing this arrangement from one of my favorite Natalie Cole albums, while she and Trey Henry add a little arrangement twist of their own.

Other familiar songs you will enjoy are, “How Do you Keep the Music Playing,” “If I Only Had A Brain” from the Wizard of Oz, and “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?” On the popular standard, “On A Clear Day,” Christian Jacob is dynamite on piano. The double-time trap drums, by Ray Brinker, masterfully inject a spirited pulse into this tune. Tierney Sutton and her band always entertain with excellence and creativity, painting each arrangement with fresh colors and allowing the brightness of Sutton’s soprano voice to apply the finishing touches.
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