HAPPY FATHER’S DAY: A CELEBRATION OF MEN IN JAZZ

BY Dee Dee McNeil/Jazz Journalist
June 11, 2019

DWIGHT TRIBLE: MOTHERSHIP Gearbox Records

Dwight Trible, vocals; Mark de Clive-Lowe, piano; Mala, harp; Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, viola; Carlos Nino, hand percussion; Derf Reklaw, percussion; Ramses Rodriguez, drums; Kamasi Washington, tenor saxophone; John B. Williams, double bass.

One of the most exciting and extraordinarily original vocalists in jazz today has got to be Dwight Trible. His latest album titled,” Mothership,” explores the music of one of his deep influences and his friend, Oscar Brown Jr. with songs like, “Brother Where Are You” that plead for unity and respect for one another in both lyric and the tone of treble’s voice. Ramses Rodriguez establishes the heartbeat of this song on his trap drums. Reaching into his bag of Latin tinged arrangements, Trible sings “It’s All About Love.” The percussion by Derf Reklaw colors the arrangement and the lyrics summarize the explosive emotions that Trible personifies on recording and in person. His ‘live’ performances are magnetic, visually exciting and genuine. In fact, that’s what this artist is all about; being genuine.

There appears to be an homage to motherhood on this album, in its many nurturing forms. Bassist, James Leary, has composed “Mother,” and it’s a beautiful song with warm, tribute lyrics and a haunting melody. Trible’s voice caresses each word, caramel sweet, letting his thick baritone vocals coat each sentence with love and respect. The title tune, “Mothership,” epitomizes a spiritual teaching from ‘The Nation’ as well as a compliment once again to motherhood, the womb of life and to the importance of teaching spirituality and respect for the knowledge of elders. The lyrics are deep. You have to listen twice, maybe three times to soak up all the goodness provided by Mark de Clive-Lowe on piano, Carlos Nino on hand percussion and the dynamic tenor saxophone of Kamasi Washington.

Dwight Trible is the epitome of what jazz should be. Freedom! Honesty. Soul. Messages of universal nature and stature. Space. Room for musicians to explore and emotions to soar. This artist got his vocal palate wet working with the phenomenal Horace Tapscott and the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra and singing with the iconic Pharoah Sanders Quartet. He’s an experimental artist, unafraid to cross musical genres, but always steeped and cemented solidly in jazz. He’s worked with L.A. Reid, D.J. Rogers, pianist/recording artist, Patrice Rushen, and ventured into electronic and hip-hop with Carlos Nino. He has recorded a duet album with great pianist/arranger, John Beasley. Dwight’s diversity of choices in music are evident, but one thing remains strong and undeniable. That is Dwight Trible’s desire to change the world with his music and to inspire peace, love, harmony and unity. When he sings, “Standing in the Need of Prayer,” soaring vocally from his rich baritone to his crystal-clear tenor tones, he seems to be pulling his source from the gates of heaven. Dwight Trible is channeling his music from a higher power and offers it to us in his own unique way, endeavoring to open our hearts and our minds.


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ERIC ALEXANDER – “LEAP OF FAITH” GiantStepArts

Eric Alexander, tenor saxophone/composer/piano; Doug Weiss, bass; Johnathan Blake, drums.

Right out the gate, this trio is stomping, powerful and with a straight-ahead march, minus piano or guitar. This is tenor saxophone, bass and drums taking a ‘Leap of Faith’ to translate Eric Alexander’s original compositions from sheet music to a ‘live performance.’ His is a chord-less concept.

“You have to trust what you’re doing, or it can be very hard to be genuine,” Alexander explained about this new direction in his music.

On the first tune, “Luquitas” played at a brisk speed, Johnathan Blake takes a solo that re-establishes him as one who is at the forefront of the new and powerful jazz drummers. This tune establishes the unrestricted and boundless energy these musicians bring to the stage. This is a ‘live’ performance, recorded at the Jazz Gallery in New York City.

The second track, “Mars,” starts out at a moderate tempo but soon, pushes into a double-time, bebop groove, propelled by the powerful walking bass of Doug Weiss. Alexander says that this original composition was inspired by pop star, Bruno Mars and his tune, “Finesse”. The jazzy respect given to Bruno and Cardi B. from Eric Alexander is admirable and musically unifying, bridging the genres. I played the video below while listening to Alexander’s “Mars” composition and believe me, you won’t hear a slice of this pop sensation’s song, in melody or rhythm. However, the chord changes are twisted into a jazz composition that takes on new dimensions. I’m sharing the Bruno Mars Video and wish I could have found a video of Eric Alexander’s “Mars” so you could compare the difference.

On his composition,” Corazon Perdido,” Eric Alexander sits down to a piano and plays a few chords in between his saxophone explorations. I was surprised to hear the piano, since, for the most part, this album is devoid of a chord instrument. You will hear the influence of John Coltrane in some places of this production. I found Eric Alexander, Doug Weiss and Johnathan Blake’s music to be completely satisfying and artistic.

Below is a video of Alexander at a live ‘Bronx’ performance including a pianist. He’s performing ‘live’ at Linda’s Jazz Nights with the great Harold Mabern on piano and dueling with Vincent Herring. This is nothing like his Avant Garde music on “Leap of Faith,” but shows the commercial side of Alexander in a more relaxed setting. He still never loses his unique style and expert improvisational skills, pushing the boundaries of his horn and his horn harmonics. Also featured on this 2015 video is Kenny Washington on drums and Phil Palombi on bass.

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JOHN DOKES – “TRUE LOVE” Rondette Jazz

John Dokes, vocals; Mark Gross, alto saxophone; Steve Einerson, piano; Alex Claffy, acoustic bass; Lawrence Leathers, drums.

John Dokes is a gentleman with a penchant for expressing himself through song in a smooth, baritone voice. On this CD, he has surrounded his vocal talent with a quartet of exceptional musicians who make these standard jazz songs come alive. Mark Gross, on alto sax, puts the ‘J’ in jazz. Steve Einerson’s piano talents are riveting, not only as an accompanist, but also as an outstanding jazz soloist and arranger. Einerson was raised in a small city outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and is the son of music educators. He has performed or recorded with great jazz artists like Marlena Shaw, Eric Alexander, Slide Hampton, Jim Rotondi and Dr. Eddie Henderson, to list just a few. Dokes has chosen nine songs the listener is probably familiar with, including “A Sleepin’ Bee,” “Never Let Me Go”, “Pure Imagination,” and “Eleanor Rigby.” On “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” the arrangement races and the lyrical meaning of these poignant words somehow get lost in the double time. Dokes sings it well, but I don’t hear the heartbreak and sadness that this popular standard usually echoes. The arrangement is buoyant and bubbly, rather than melancholy and elegiac. I think that musicians often forget about the lyrics when they arrange music and that’s a big mistake. However, I enjoyed the Dokes rendition of Bernard Ighner’s “Everything Must Change” composition. This production is similar to a “Funny Valentine” arrangement by Billy Childs for Diane Reeves on her first album. The groove is infectious.

Surprisingly, Dokes was once part of a hip-hop dance crew during his high school years.

“My love for the music came from dancing to it,” Dokes shared. “I always imagine what my feet would be doing to whatever music I’m producing, because they tend to have a mind of their own.”

The tenth song on this CD is composed by John Dokes and titled, “Cool Enough.” It introduces us to John Dokes as a composer. His silky, smooth enunciation lets you enjoy every lyric. Yes – John Dokes is the epitome of a cabaret singer in an intimate night club and he’s definitely ‘cool enough.’
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FRED NARDIN TRIO featuring OR BAREKET & LEON PARKER – “LOOK AHEAD” Independent Label

Fred Nardin, piano/composer/producer: Leon Parker, drums; Or Bareket, double bass.

Fred Nardin makes delicious music. He is a creative composer and a technically imaginative pianist. This is a French production, recorded in March of last year. The trio opens with his original composition, “Colours.” It’s straight-ahead jazz at its best. Incorporating a more shuffle drive, “Just Easy” gives Leon Parker a time to shine on drums. He has a light touch on this tune, using brushes to briskly stroke the rhythm and to ‘trade fours.’

All of Nardin’s compositions are both melodic and arranged with interesting time changes. On track #3, his classical training is obvious as his flying fingers quickly map out the melody and explore all the secret places inside this song. On “New Direction” the introduction is executed with vocal percussion and what sounds like a tap dancer tapping in the background. Suddenly the sixth track comes barreling-in titled, “One Finger Snap” where Or Bareket takes the opportunity to display his mastery of the double bass. Playing at a brisk speed, he’s supportive as the basement for the group, but then he dazzles us with a long, improvisational solo, before racing into a double time exhibit of speed and excitement on his instrument. Leon Parker also solos on this tune, making his sticks dance and explode during their up-temp enthusiasm. Fred Nardin’s final composition on this production is titled, “Prayers” and it’s stunningly beautiful. This entire production is entertaining, well-written and exceedingly well-played by three masterful musicians.

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THE PETE McGUINNESS JAZZ ORCHESTRA – “ALONG FOR THE RIDE” Summit Records

Pete McGuinness, conductor/trombone/composer/arranger/vocals; Andy Eulau, bass; Mike Holober, piano; Scott Neumann, drums; Chris Rogers, flugelhorn; Bill Mobley, trumpet; Rob Middleton & Tom Christensen, tenor saxophone; Dave Pietro, alto & soprano saxophone; Matt Haviland, Bruce Eidem & Mark Patterson, trombone; Dave Reikenberg, baritone saxophone; Mark Phoneuf, alto saxophone.

Orchestras are so lush and this one is no exception. The Pete McGuiness Jazz Orchestra has been playing and recording critically acclaimed music for thirteen years in the New York area. This is their third release and sure to become another feather in their proverbial cap. To open the album, the arrangement of “Put on A Happy Face” is mesmerizing. It bounces off my CD player like a buoyant beach ball rolling across hot sand. The unusual chord harmonies and exuberant playing is bound to captivate the listener, pumping your spirit up with happiness. Tom Christensen dances across this jazzy arrangement on tenor saxophone. The next song, “You Must Believe in Spring” employs the vocals of Pete McGuinness, who sings melodic horn lines, without words, blending smoothly with the horns. It’s a lovely arrangement. Then, to my happy surprise, Pete shares the wonderful lyrics of this song with us. He even scats and he’s a wonderful vocal improvisor; or was that scat part written? Either way, it was whimsical and excellent in elevating the orchestral arrangement. “Old Roads” is an original composition by Pete McGuinness and gives orchestra drummer, Scott Neumann, an opportunity to solo and strut his sticks around the trap drums with power and precision. Chris Rogers is fluid and dramatic on flugelhorn. Pianist, Mike Holober, makes his own sinuous statement once the horns quieted down. This is one of four original compositions that Pete McGuinness has penned and arranged for this project.

His “Point of Departure” tune becomes a platform for McGuinness to pull out his trombone chops and royally serenades us. This original song also features a solo by Rob Middleton on tenor saxophone and one by Bill Mobley on trumpet, is also noteworthy. The orchestra has a way of swelling and building, like the ocean waves during a storm. The soloists float atop the rich arrangements like sturdy ships at sea. There is vivid motion and movement to these arrangements by Pete McGuinness. At times, the orchestra horns echo each other, repeating lines in a very timely, natural and harmonic way. Scott Neumann continues to hold the ensemble tightly in place with his drumming and also steps front and center to spotlight his percussive talents on this tune. And was that a baritone sax player who eggs him on and catches my ear with a rich, deep, delightful sound? Another favorite of mine on this album is “May I Come In,” a song I’m unfamiliar with that features a great lyric, amply shared by the smoky, baritone vocals of Pete McGinnis. He sure knows how to sell a song.

An alumnus of the Buddy Rich Orchestra, McGuiness is a competent composer, a trombonist, vocalist, arranger and formidable orchestra leader. He’s also a longtime jazz educator who appears on over fifty jazz CDs, inclusive of Maria Schneider’s Grammy Award Winning, “Concert in the Garden.” McGuiness has also appeared in numerous orchestra pits for Broadway shows, heads his own big band and is an Associate Professor of Jazz Studies/Arranging at William Patterson University.

This latest recorded music is an emotional journey of beauty and bravo. I’m very glad and grateful I was invited “Along for the Ride.”
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ROB RYNDAK, TOM LOCKWOOD featuring BRIAN LYNCH – “GRATITUDE” Pacific Coast Jazz

Rob Ryndak,piano/percussion/composer; Tom Lockwood,tenor,alto,soprano & baritone saxophones/clarinet/bass clarinet/flute/composer; Brian Lynch,trumpet/flugelhorn; Sasha Brusin, electric & acoustic guitar; Karl E.H. Seigfried, electric & acoustic bass; Jeff Moehle, drums; Victor Gonzalez, Jr., congas/bongos/percussion; Micah Rutschman, vibraphone; Ryan Koranda, cello; Steve Talaga, piano/electric piano.

This album meanders into my space, strong on percussion and rich on Latin groove. Chicago-based pianist and percussionist, Rob Ryndak along with his musical partner reedman, Tom Lockwood, combine talents and composer skills to create an entertaining project. Each composed six songs for this production and Ryndak’s composition, “Equilibrium” is the first tune on their album. Ryndak was raised on Chi-town’s northside and comes from a musical family. This is his sixth CD release as either leader or co-leader. His musical tastes bounce from rock music to jazz, from Latin, pop and world music to funk. You hear a mixture of funk and jazz on Lockwood’s composition, “Jackie McFunk.” The horns are prominent and punch on this arrangement. Ryndak and Lockwood feature Grammy-Award-winning trumpeter, Brain Lynch on this project. Lockwood and Lynch each perform admirable solos on this track. The Waltz arrangement on Lockwood’s “So Little Time” composition is sweetly played and features a memorable solo by guitarist, Sasha Brusin. The occasional addition of a vibraphone, played by Micah Ruschman is intoxicating and adds a nice touch to several arrangements.

For the most part, this is an easy listening project with a big band sound and arrangements that explore the composition skills of both Ryndak and Lockwood. The production is consistently propelled by the exuberance of Ryndaks percussive grooves and colorfully painted with Lockwoods assorted reed instruments.

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MICHAEL EATON – “DIALOGICAL” Destiny Records

Michael Eaton,tenor & soprano saxophones/composer; Lionel Loueke, guitar; Brad Whiteley,piano; Daniel Ori, bass/gimbri; Shareef Taher,drums; Brittany Anjou, vibraphone; Cheryl Pyle,flute; Enrique Haneine, udu; James Brandon Lewis & Sean Sounderegger, tenor saxophone; Jon Crowley,trumpet; Dorian Wallace,piano/prepared piano; Sarah Mullins,marimba/triangels.

Michael Eaton is a composer who has written a dozen songs for this album. His originality stretches from his composing talents to the production of this music. According to Webster’s dictionary, dialogic is a form of dialogue. According to Michael Eaton, the title “Dialogical” refers to a notion of hybridity in language. Eaton notes that a Russian literary philosopher named Mikhail Bakhtin, thought that “appropriating words of others and populating them with one’s own intention” is perfectly fine. Using that as a premise for his production, Eaton explores a fusion of jazz into the more modern-day looping effect produced by a hip hop influenced culture. His original compositions are based on solid melodies and Eaton uses a repetitious groove to hammer the melody home. Perhaps this is his consideration of fusion by looping. However, on track #2, “Anthropocene,” the band surprises me by stretching out into serious jazz realms and employing improvisation that is inspired by Lionel Loueke on guitar. Then, Michael Eaton lets his amazing tenor saxophone skills soar. It was as if the bird was caged by those repetitious chords earlier and then someone opened the door and set the bird free.

On the 4th track, flutes play tag and sing to each other like dancing Sparrows in space. On cut 6, voices are added to the mix in a bebop-kind-of-way, singing sounds, using notes of expression without words. Eaton expands the music by adding vibraphone, gyil and udo on this tune. A gyil is a type of Balafon instrument or percussive instrument with roots in West Africa. He also incorporates a gimbri instrument, played by bassist, Daniel Ori. It snatches the attention on the tune “I and Thou”. The gimbri is a string instrument carved from a log and covered on the playing side with camel skin. These odd instruments and the talented musicians speak to each other and to the listener. They offer exploratory jazz, pushing the limits of creativity. However, I found the repetition on cuts #10 and #11 completely annoying.

Michael Eaton explained it this way:

“I’m thinking about how the minimalist canon might provide a different way of looking at the overlapping or looping rhythmic cycles that are utilized in modern jazz by people like Steve Coleman, Dave Holland and Chris Potter. I want to interface different styles to see how they all reflect different parts of me.”
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ART “TURK” BURTON – “ANCESTRAL SPIRITS” T.N’T Music ATBCD

Art “Turk” Burton, conga/bongo drums; Eddie Beard, piano/organ; Dushun Mosley, drums; Yosef Ben Israel, bass; Sammie “Cha Cha” Torres, bongo/percussion; Luis “Preito” Rosario, timbales. Featured artists: Maggie Brown, vocals; Edwin Daugherty, alto & soprano saxophone; Ari Brown, tenor/soprano saxophone/piano.

Here is an album that recalls the jazz music of the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s; back when percussion, parks and spoken word were locked familiarly, like hands on drum skins. It recalls poetry echoed atop conga drum beats and civil rights attitudes being reflected in the lyrical word. Back when Eddie Jefferson’s singing poetry reinvented the solos of Moody, Prez and many more with spell-binding lyrics. On Art “Turk” Burton’s album, Maggie Brown sings Eddie Jefferson’s “Night in Tunisia” on this recording. However, the spotlight is on the percussion throughout this production.

On the first track, Art “Turk” Burton’s wife recites her original poetry during this exploration of generational jazz. She celebrates iconic drummers.

“Drummers here … drummers everywhere … Mongo Santa Maria, …we celebrate his life … not to be missed or dismissed; Ray Barretto … Tito Puente, Chano Pozo … Willie Bobo …,” says Patrice “Peresina” Burton.

This Chicago ensemble gives much praise and appreciation to the Ancestors during their recording. Reflected in the title tune, the liner notes dedicate this arrangement to two of the original members of the AACM; Kelan Phil Cohran and Muhal Richard Abrams. This is Avant Garde music, perpetuated by history, culture, freedom of instrument and purpose.

Art “Turk” Burton has a long history of performing with iconic jazz personalities including Dizzy Gillespie, Lester Bowie, Henry Threadgill, Randy Weston, Sonny Stitt, Lou Donaldson, Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell, Joseph Jarman and Elvin Jones.

When he isn’t playing his percussive instruments, Burton is writing books and has published three history non-fictions. They are titled, “Black, Buckskin and Blue (African American Scouts and Soldiers on the Western Front)”, “Black, Red and Deadly (Black and Indian Gunfighters of the Indian Territories 1870 – 1907)” and “Black Gun, Silver Star (The Life and Legend of Frontier Marshall Bass Reeves).” Like his books, the music of Art “Turk” Burton, while deeply rooted in rhythmic culture,his international interest in the history of music is obvious.

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THE DAVE WILSON QUARTET –“ONE NIGHT AT CHRIS’ JAZZ CAFE” Dave Wilson Music

Dave Wilson,tenor & soprano saxophones; Kirk Reese,piano; Tony Marino,acoustic bass; Dan Monaghan,drums.

Dave Wilson recorded this album one night in March of 2018, at the Jazz Café in Philadelphia. His low notes on the tenor saxophone registered with me and sparked my attention right off the bat. He opens with a well-written original song titled, “Ocean Blues.” When he was just fifteen, and while studying the clarinet, young Dave Wilson was inspired by John Coltrane. Another influence was Dexter Gordon. In the early 1970’s, Wilson switched his clarinet instrument to tenor saxophone.

In Wilson’s early years, like most youth, he embraced the top-40 hits and the rock music of his generation. In his case, that was the Grateful Dead rock group. On this project, he celebrates this group by adding “Friend of the Devil” arranged with a Latin groove and he plays soprano sax on this track.

This is a ‘live’ club recording and it includes danceable funk tunes like, “My Own Prison,” a Creed tune plucked from the 90’s. Dave Wilson’s saxophone talent keeps the arrangements jazzy, even though his group sometimes loses the momentum. On occasional moments, it seems that the engine propelling the quartet’s music stalls. This could be because the drummer, who often gets lost in his own playing, appears to forget to hold the rhythm section in place. This is quite noticeable on the 5th cut, “The Biggest Part of Me”. On the whole, Dave Wilson’s Quartet sounds like a local jazz group to enjoy at Philadelphia’s Jazz Café. His horn playing is steeped in bebop, even though he adds songs to his repertoire that are not necessarily jazz tunes. At times, despite Wilson’s energy and ability on saxophones, the groove is missing from this trio. This often distracts from an otherwise entertaining live performance.


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