By Dee Dee McNeil/Jazz Journalist

January 30, 2020


The evening’s moderator steps onstage. He tells us that three years ago the Soraya, a magnificent Center for the Performing Arts, started a jazz club on its premise. Located in “the Valley” of Los Angeles, at 18111 Nordhoff Street in Northridge, California, on the campus of California State University Northridge (CSUN. This huge theatrical facility simulated a smaller area inside the building that features an evening of intimate jazz. It’s my first time visiting this architecturally beautiful, all glass, building. This is the ninth year of the award-winning Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center. Where have I been? The 1,700-seat theater was designed by HGA Architects and Engineers. It was recently cited by the Los Angeles Times as “a growing hub for live music, dance, drama and other cultural events.” Tonight,the small room they’ve created seats about 250 people. Several patrons swarm around the wine-tasting table and there’s a full bar available just outside the jazz room. There is table seating upfront and theater seating in the rear. My friend Dwan and I find a spot close to the stage.

The evening’s featured artist is Luciana Souza. She is a Brazilian vocalist with Sao Paulo roots. She took the stage with two other musicians who she introduced. Ms. Souza told us she met Scott Colley (bassist) in New York and fell in love with his playing. “He is an architect of our music,” she gushed. Next, she introduced Chico Pinheiro, a guitarist also from Sao Paulo, Brazil. Luciana and Chico met at Berklee College of music and Souza told us he is a great storyteller on his instrument and a very popular instrumentalist in Brazil. She went on to say that poetry deepens our humanness. “It’s always fertile ground,” Luciana asserted. That’s why she adopted some of the poetry of Leonard Cohn and set his prose to music. She spoke the words of Cohn over the silence in the packed auditorium. Then, her two-man band began to play. First Scott Colley’s bass set the tempo. Ms. Souza, standing before a snare drum and a single cymbal began gently stroking the cymbal with her brushes. She tilted her head back and began to sing. Enter Chico Pinheiro on guitar. Our concert has begun.

The second tune was more energetic with tempo changes from hot, Latin rhythms reduced fluidly to a sultry ballad. Souza plays her percussion instruments effortlessly, tossing the Portuguese language into the mix on the fade of this song. Her vocal notes fall like shiny pebbles onto a rushing musical stream. At the conclusion of this song, the applause is generous, as she tunes her tambourine in preparation for their third song. Scott opens with a deep, bass solo introduction, setting the mood and tempo. It’s a happy tune that makes me want to dance. I wish Ms. Souza had told us the titles of the songs they played. She mentioned a few along the way, but not many.

“Being from Brazil means a wealth of music we get to drink,” she spoke to the attentive audience. Speaking of drinks, we sat there sipping our wine, enjoying the music with beverages sponsored by WINC, an online wine distributor. Luciana Souza told us one composer she loves is Milton Nascimento. She explained, he was born in a hilly state inside Brazil, lush with mountains and she tells us his music is open and elevated like his countryside. On this tune, she features the poetry of Charles Simic, a Serbian/American poet and former co-poetry editor of the Paris Review.

Continuing,Scott pulls out his bow and the bass trembles in a beautiful way. There are no words on this tune. Souza scats her way atop the music, making warm sounds like tropical bird calls and mountain winds. She is consistently singing and playing percussion, which is impressive. However, I do wish her percussion had been more dynamic, instead of just the whisper of rhythm. It was teasingly pleasing. A few bursts of percussion to vibrantly support these amazing musicians would have escalated her production and elevated her percussive playing. Her voice, however, is a lovely instrument and one of the songs she sang was very much a ‘saudade’ ballad that hauntingly floats across Chico’s beautiful guitar background. It’s almost a blues. On this song, the improvisation between guitar and bass is palpable and excites everyone at my table. Luciana Souza sings long, legato lines, holding the final notes of her phrasing tenderly, as though they are her babies. She swings on the end of this tune and scats. On this song, I finally hear some energy in her percussive playing.

Luciana Souza adds a small taste of activism to her program on her second set. She tells us, “we are living in strange times. I couldn’t vote in Brazil for a while when the military took over. So, I have seen some things,” she shared and then sang:

“These are the roads we travel. I don’t know how to get back to you. … These are the wars we fight. These are the tears we shed. … I don’t know how to get back to you.”

Scott Colley, during his bass solo, is brilliant and her voice is like a soft blanket that gently covers his booming bass sound. His instrument bleeds through, accenting the lyrical content.

“These are the duties of the heart. These are the books we read. These are the roads less travelled. I don’t know how to get back to you,” she sings, floating on a second-soprano cloud across a misty, emotional stage.

I long for a program insert,in the main Performing Arts Booklet,that listed tune titles. I enjoyed her patter between songs, describing her beloved Brazil and sharing spoken word or stories about the poets,but I wish she had told us the titles of her repertoire as she celebrated “The Book of Longing” (her latest CD release) that tributes poets like Leonard Cohen, Emily Dickinson, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Christina Rossetti with original music.

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Album REF:Now Playing; Erroll Garner; A Night at the Movies; Dreamstreet; Close Up in Swing; One World Concert; Campus Concert; and A New Kind of Love.

I was overwhelmed to receive six classic albums of music by the iconic pianist and composer, Erroll Garner. He is a pianist I grew up listening to and greatly admire. These are the first six released out of a dozen CDs recently re-mastered. They are released on the Mack Avenue Record label. The first one I listened to was lush with strings and a full horn section. It was created from themes Mr. Garner composed for the Paramount film, “A New Kind of Love.” It was Garner’s first and only film score. Leith Stevens conducts the 65-piece orchestra. Erroll Garner expanded on this film score to create this album, “A New Kind of Love.” Some of my favorite songs were “You Brought A New Kind of Love to Me” that opens this album and a beautiful arrangement of his popular “Louise” composition.

Another of Erroll Garner’s CD releases is “One World Concert.” Originally, it was Mr. Garner’s second concert album after his magnificent success with one of my favorite Erroll Garner albums, “Concert by the Sea.” It’s a trio effort with Eddie Calhoun on bass and Kelly Martin on drums. Right away you are drawn to the pounding rhythm in Garner’s left hand, while his right hand masterfully improvises.It sounds like two people are playing the piano instead of one. He was a flamboyant genius. On this album, Mr. Garner covers ten standards we all love including, “The Way You Look Tonight,” a sweet rendition of “Happiness Is A Thing Called Joe” and a surprisingly classical introduction for “Mack the Knife” that pleases his ‘live’ and enthusiastic audience. This is a gem! It captures the spirit and brilliant style of Erroll Garner in the early days of his popularity. Over the span of a 40-year career, Erroll Garner published more than 200 compositions. His famed “Misty” is ranked by ASCAP as the twelfth most popular song of the 20th century. Since 1954, no other song has been recorded by more jazz artists except Duke Ellington’s “Satin Doll.” “Misty” is a part of this CD production.

On the “Campus Concert” CD he performs the Hoagy Charmichael standard, “Stardust” in a unique and stellar way, making it sparkle and shine like the stars themselves. He adds new voicings to the chord changes and as always, his left hand performs in amazing ways to lay-down the basement for his right hand to build upon. As a pianist myself, I recognize the strength he had in his hands to play in this amazing way and it leaves me awestruck. The audience agrees, with applause that shatters the silence when he pauses in between songs. Also, there is that distinctive little moan he throws into the mix every now and then to remind you that it’s Erroll Garner at the piano.

“CloseUp in Swing” is another Erroll Garner trio production and does not disappoint. It gifts us with ten recognizable standards and the eleventh song is a Garner original titled, “Octave 103.” Next, I popped “Dreamstreet” into my CD player. One of the things I love about the music of Erroll Garner is the innovative way he introduces tunes. You never can be certain what is coming up next. He has an astute ear for arranging and you hear it clearly in his music. This album was originally released in 1959 and sat ‘on the shelf’ and unreleased during a time Garner was fighting for control of his catalog. It was finally marketed in 1961 and features one original composition titled, “By Chance” and nine other songs with an Oklahoma Medley that blends Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin’ with People Will Say We’re in Love and Surrey With the Fringe on Top in a most unique way.

Finally, “A Night at the Movies” features Erroll playing some of his favorite movie tunes and adding one original composition called, “You and Me.” As usual, he features an extended introduction on solo piano before breaking into a moderate tempo’d melodic composition propelled by his left-handed, rhythmic chords. Listening to Erroll Garner again, after so many years, is pure pleasure.

Garner and his manager, Martha Glaser, founded Octave Records. The12 releases currently being released make up the Octave Remastered Series and is being distributed by Mack Ave Records.
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JOHN VANORE – PRIMARY COLORS Acoustical Concepts, Inc.

John Vanore, trumpet/flugelhorn; Ron Thomas, piano/Fender Rhodes/Yamaha DX-7; Terry Hoffman,recording engineer/Olari MX-70/Sony F-1/Studer 810 2 track/mixing.

John Vanore on trumpet and Ron Thomas on piano and keyboards combine their talents for a lush, full sound. In the duet setting, their music is completely spontaneous. The concept was to pick a tune and record it with only one take. A few times they overdubbed some DX7 programming or cymbals. They also experimented with layering instrumentation on Lionel Richie’s famous “Lady” tune and on “Vanore’s original composition, “Origins of Rude.” But even then, they enhance the music with one-take only.

Surprisingly, the original recordings of these songs took place in 1984 and 1985 on cassette tapes. These tracks were discovered in 2019, with many unusable cassette tapes discarded because of shredding during the passing of time. However, these seven tracks were saved and are more than worthy of introspection and offer an hours-worth of a unique listening experience. Fortunately, they offer amazing clarity and creativity. Ron Thomas (at the time of these recordings) was a pioneer of sorts with the use of the Yamaha DX-7 synthesizer. He was a visionary player that Vanore had gigged with around town over 30-years ago. Their camaraderie and closeness are obvious on this recording. From the liner notes, I learned that the setting was a rehearsal room at Widener University. That was Vanore’s alma mater. He would later make a career there as an educator. Gradually, he outfitted the rehearsal room with recording equipment and with Terry Hoffman’s assistance as their producer and go-to-engineer, they created these beautiful interpretations of familiar songs like “Yesterdays”, Johnny Mandel’s “A Time for Love” along with the ever popular “Secret Love.” Pianist, Ron Thomas penned the opening tune, “Final Down” and Vanore offers two original songs. I found his composition titled, “Return” to be a wistful and melodically beautiful ballad. This is a jazz duet that is a testimony to both technical mastery and the intimacy that musical friendship affirms. The duo’s improvisational empathy was captured on 2-track, transferred to cassettes and ultimately has become this awesome compact disc.
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RHYTHM SECTION:Kyle Roussel & Ryan Hanseler,piano; David Pulphus, bass; Joseph Dyson, Jr., drums/percussion; Alexey Marti, congas/percussion; Raymond Weber, Jr., & Willie Green, drums; Detroit Brooks, guitar; TRUMPETS: Scott frock, Andrew Baham, Dr. Brice Miller, John Gray & Michael Christie; SAXOPHONES: Khari Allen Lee, alto/soprano; Roderick Paulin, tenor soprano; Amari Ansari, alto; Scott Johnson, tenor/alto; Roger Lewis, baritone; Gregory Agid,clarinet; Trevarri Huff-Boone,tenor/baritone; TROMBONES:Terrance Taplin, Delfeayo Marsalis, Christopher Butcher & T.J. Norris; VOCALS: Tonya Boyd-Cannon, Karen Livers, Dr. Brice Miller & UJO.

A strong vocalization by Tonya Boyd-Cannon, scats its way into my room, singing a horn line and soon joined by the horn section. She sings the title tune, promising us “We’re gonna have a jazz party and have some fun. So, if you’re feeling bad, come on and party til the blues is gone.” This sets the happy, celebratory tone of this Delfeayo Marsalis production.

Acclaimed trombonist, producer and composer, Delfeayo Marsalis, has spent most Wednesday nights leading his dynamic Uptown Jazz Orchestra for the past ten years. In residency at Snug Harbor in New Orleans, this recording marks his seventh release as a bandleader and features several of his original compositions. He has also arranged six out of the eleven songs featured on this album. The horns swing sumptuously and the tracks give you a sense of excitement. It makes you want to join the party.

“Jazz, the indigenous American music, is a music of celebration and optimism,” Delfeayo Marsalis shares.“The Uptown Jazz Orchestra is such a fun band that I wanted to capture its uniqueness. The idea was to keep the wide variety of styles that we play but to really capture the joy that is a central trademark of the band.”

The joy is definitely captured throughout this celebration featuring great musicians and wonderful compositions. On “Seventh Ward Boogaloo” tenor saxophonist Roderick Paulin represents the great New Orleans saxophone tradition with his soulful solo and Kyle Roussel is stellar on piano. For a brief moment, this tune sounds a whole lot like ‘He’s got the whole world in his hands.’ Then it takes off on its own melodic path. I love the way Marsalis incorporates modern jazz into the mix of his arrangements. You can hear it brightly color the orchestra when they play “Raid on the Mingus House Party.” That arrangement was so good, I had to play that track twice before I could continue listening to this album of brilliant, celebratory jazz. It was a good one! “Mboya’s Midnight Cocktail” brings the blues to the forefront and adds spoken word by Karen Livers to the mix. It is meant to create a common barroom scenario and it does.

Delfeayo Marsalis and his Uptown jazz Orchestra wraps the legacy of Jelly Roll Morton, Lee Dorsey, Sidney Bechet, Allen Toussaint and Louis Armstrong into an unraveling ball of musical yarn that weaves itself into a shawl of beauty we can proudly wear and say, “Made in America.”
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Mack Ave Records

Aaron Diehl, piano; Paul Sikivie, double bass; Gregory Hutchinson, drums.

The first thing that captures my attention, as I review this trio, is the beautiful yet Simplistic way Aaron Diehl forms musical phrases and melodies. His style is quite unique,using arpeggios and music box treble notes that dance and flutter into the universe. The first original composition by Aaron Diehl is titled, “Polaris” and sets the high bar for what is to come. I note that occasionally the pianist repeats musical phrases to emphatically make his point and perhaps to embellish his style. This technique produces effulgent results. His fingers dance over the keys expressing celerity. There are moments drenched in classical European style, but that quickly turns into improvisation, both creative and fluid. Aaron Diehl has composed seven of the eleven songs and he has arranged everything on this album.

Amply supported by Paul Sikivie on bass and with Gregory Hutchinson manning the drums, this is an enjoyable adventure into the mind and mastery of Aaron Diehl. In 2002, Diehl was awarded “Outstanding Soloist” during the Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Essentially Ellington Competition and invited to tour Europe with the Wynton Marsalis Septet. More recently, he’s served as the long-time musical director for Grammy Award winning vocalist,Cecile McLorin Salvant.
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Rhythm Section: Henrik Gunde, piano; Per Gade, guitar; Kasper Vadsholt, bass; Soren Frost, drums; Trumpets: Dave Vreuls, Bjarke Nikolajsen, Thomas Kjergaard, Mads La Cour, Gerard Presencer & Lars Vissing; Saxophones: Peter Fugolsang, Nicolai Schultz, Hans Ulrik, Anders Banke, Frederick Menzies, Anders Gaardmand &Jan Harbeck. Trombones: Peter Dahlgren, Vincent Nilsson, Kevin Christenson, Annette Saxe & Jakob Munck. Guest Musicians:Rune Harder Olesen & Luis Conte, percussion; Background vocals: Sille Gronbert, Birgitte Soojin, Ninna Milner Juel, Maja Hanghoj, & Alice Carren.

Here is the kind of jazz voice that snatches your attention from the very first note to the last. Her plush, tonal quality and ability to ‘swing’ endears Sinne Eeg to this reviewer. Not to mention, she is an excellent composer. The first song, co-written with American lyricists Mark Winkler and S. Nyman, is stunningly apropos to begin this album of fine music. It swings hard and also lets the orchestra show off the stellar talents of their all-star players. Tenor saxophonist Hans Ulrik plays a head-turning solo and Peter Jensen’s arrangement is exciting and beautiful. I had to play this one twice before continuing on to another Eeg original composition.

“Like A Song” is arranged as a waltz. Sinne Eeg has written both music and poignant lyrics. Henrik Gunde’s piano solo is well played and succinct. Her third track is also an original composition, a ballad called, “Those Ordinary Things.” The starting line reminds me just a tiny bit of Janis Ian’s writing style.

“I co-wrote the lyrics to that with a Danish colleague, Helle Hansen. I started writing the song about how we, in general, tend to miss the little details in everyday life and how we often don’t understand the importance of things until they’ve gone. As I wrote the lyric, I decided to turn it into a love story,” the songwriter explained.

The other original song on this ten-song production is “Samba Em Comum,” a tune this vocalist co-wrote and she sings in both English and Portuguese.

“I’ve been listening to so much Brazilian music. You can probably hear that in some of my own compositions. My husband has lived and worked in Brazil and he shares this passion for Brazilian music with me. He speaks the language and helps me with the pronunciation,”Eeg shares in her liner notes.

On “Come Love” Sinne Eeg shows she can put authentic blues tones into her jazz story, additionally scatting with ease and precision.

Scheduled for a February 21st release, here is a vocalist, a linguist, and a composer who has joined forces with the amazing Danish Radio Big Band and producer, Andre Fischer, to present an exciting array of original music, standard songs and big-band-beauty. Conducted by Nikolai Bogelund with arrangements by Jesper Riis, Peter Jensen and the late Roger Neumann, Sinne Eeg’s voice floats above the lovely music like an ivory lily pad on a Claude Monet painting. Like those classic artworks, she is one of a kind.
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