TAKE A SUMMER RIDE WITH THESE NEWLY RELEASED CDs

By Dee Dee McNeil

June 4, 2021

BRIAN BROMBERG – “A LITTLE DRIVING MUSIC” – Mack Ave Records

Brian Bromberg, double bass/piccolo bass & hollow body piccolo bass guitar/electric bass/ some horn arrangements/composer/arranger; Joel Taylor & Tony Moore, drums; Tom Zink, keyboards; Jerry Cortez & Ray Fuller, rhythm guitar; Lenny Castro, percussion; Everette Harp, Darren Rahn & Elon Trotman, tenor saxophone; Andrew Neu, alto, tenor, baritone saxes/clarinet/ horn arrangements; Dave Koz, alto saxophone; Marion Meadows, soprano saxophone; Michael Stever, trumpet/piccolo trumpet; Nick Lane, trombone; Nathan Tanouye, horn arrangements; Craig Fundyga, vibes; Mitch Foreman, accordion; Charlie Bisharat, solo violin; Member of the National Symphony Strings arranged & conducted by Corey Allen; Milena Zivkovik, cello solo; the Social Distancing Orchestra: violins, violas, cellos.

“A Little Driving Music” is the third Brian Bromberg album created in quarantine, during the COVID19 pandemic.  It features an all-star cast of musicians that include Dave Koz, Marion Meadows, Elan Trotman, Everette Harp, Gary Meek and Nick Colionne as special guests.  Along with his normal bandmates, this album is packed with star-power!  They open with “Froggy’s,” a tribute to the choir of frogs that often croak to the composer at his Southern California home.  On this energy-driven, funk tune, Bromberg surprises with a blistering solo on piccolo bass.  A piccolo bass has each string tuned an octave higher than usual. The sound could easily be mistaken for a shredding, electric guitar.  Bromberg has popularized that piccolo bass sound over the years.  Joel Taylor pounds this track forward with his powerhouse drums and Bromberg’s bass line locks relentlessly into the groove.  They supply a rhythm track that bounces like a trampoline for Everette Harp to showcase his dancing saxophone.  Track 2, “Quarantine” flows smooth as satin out of my speakers and certainly does sound like ‘driving music.’ Brian Bromberg plays electric bass on this selection, along with the hollow body piccolo bass guitar. Tony Moore slaps a medium tempo drum beat into place and I can picture myself cruising along the Pacific Ocean coastline, up PCH towards Pelican Beach.  Track 3 titled “That Cool Groovy Beatnik Jazz” has a killer bass line.  “Walking on Sunshine” (the only ‘cover’ tune) features Dave Koz on alto saxophone and has an infectious melody line that makes you want to sing the song title right off the bat.  Ray Fuller’s rhythm guitar adds colors bright as fire flames.  The title tune has a very rock and roll feel, with Lenny Castro’s relentless percussion mastery beating the melody forward.  “Jedediah’s Gold” is enhanced with strings arranged by pianist, Tom Zink and spiced with Blue Grass flavors.  The tune “Baton Rouge” takes me to a blues joint in Louisiana and spotlights Nick Colionne on guitar.   This is a joyful ride down an open highway that marks Bromberg’s twenty-ninth album release as a bandleader.  You’ll enjoy every composition along the way.

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MARQUES CARROLL – “THE ANCESTORS’ CALL”- Jmarq Records

Marques Carroll, trumpet/flugelhorn/composer; Amr Fahmy, piano; Christian Dillingham, upright & electric bass; Greg Artry, drums; Brent Griffin, alto saxophone. SPECIAL GUESTS: Victor Garcia, congas; Alex Wasily, trombone; Sharon Irving, vocals.

Marques Carroll is a Chicago-based trumpeter, a fluid composer and an astute bandleader.  He has composed eight songs that celebrate the importance of recognizing your ancestral history, culture and family. 

“I have been a firm believer, throughout my life, that our elders and ancestors are the foundation to our beginning.  I have been fortunate to have had so many of these great spirits in my life show who lead the way for me in my darkest hours and in my brightest moments,” Marques affirms.

Marques Carroll opens with “The Ancestors’ Call upon Us,” arranged in an African 6/8 tempo with special guest, Victor Garcia adding congas that fatten the mix.  Marques has composed this song to reflect an old man’s pathway of life, with the drums calling him (like ancestor voices) and the melody leading him up a pathway to his destiny.  Carroll believes it is the ancestor wisdom that helps us all master the art of living.  As he blows his trumpeted melodies, fat with knowledge and wisdom, his wish is that these compositions uplift and inspire communities to work together.  His songs reflect unity and the determination to fight injustice.  This is the theme of his musical gifts.  The Carroll composition titles encourage “Generational Response” and to “Assemble the Enlightened.” Greg Artry on drums catches every lick and nuance in the arrangement for “Assemble the Enlightened.”  It’s a highly energetic, exciting arrangement.  “Beyond the Battle” is more Avant-Garde and indeed, sounds like a battle during the intro, until it settles down into a pulsating, rhythm-driven, very melodic groove, harmonically led by Carroll’s trumpet and Brent Griffin’s alto saxophone.  Amr Fahmy’s piano solo is sweetly provided, like warm, caramel icing poured over a Bundt cake, while Griffin’s improvisational sax solo is spicy.  The master composer and bandleader, Marques Carroll takes a spirited horn solo and then he and Griffin play a duet, answering each other as though they are conversating.  On the tune, “Urgency” you can hear the spontaneous merging of these musicians, using Latin influence to engage the listener.  I felt like I was in Spain at a bull fight when this composition played.    Sharon Irving’s vocals on “Aires Goddess” is beautiful and powerful.  She encourages us to fly away, fly away and rise above.  She interjects a brief spoken word to sum up the premise of this project, in between her vocalization. The ensemble closes with a reminder that “The Ancestors’ Final Words” are worth paying attention to and treasuring.

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ANDRE FERRERI QUINTETTO – “NUMERO UNO” – Laser Records

Andre Ferreri, guitars/composer; Mark Stallings, piano/B3 organ; Sean Higgins & Phillip Howe piano; Ziad Rabie, tenor saxophone; Kobie Watkins, drums; Anna Stadlman, acoustic bass; Brad Wilcox, trumpet.

Guitarist, Andre Ferreri, has assembled a quintet that swings.  Based in Charlotte, North Carolina, Andre is first call guitarist with the Charlotte Symphony and he’s co-founder of Laser Records.  His “Numero Uno” sounds just like a number one on the jazz charts.  It’s joyful music, spurred by the extraordinary musicians in his ensemble.  This is traditional, straight-ahead jazz at its best and Andre Ferreri has composed every song.  Each composition is well-written and allows space for his musicians to feature their talents.  Sean Higgins brings fire and excitement to the piano on the opening tune, “Mighty Fine.” Ziad Rabie lends his tenor saxophone richness to the mix, introducing us to the melody and expanding on it.  Andre Ferreri named his group the Italian version of quintet, because the project has a Euro-Italian feel to it and he is paying homage to both his heritage and the inspiration he found during time spent in Italy.  He brings us, in both his compositions and talents on the guitar, a love of bebop, trad jazz and swing.  There’s nothing better for my ears!   Anna Stalman steps into the spotlight on this premiere swing tune, playing her double bass, she walks all over this tune in a very pleasing way.  Kobie Watkins, on drums, drives the piece like a 16-wheeler and shows off his trap drum mastery.  He’s played with everyone from Kurt Elling and Arturo Sandoval to Sonny Rollins.  As a seasoned jazz veteran, with deep roots in his home state of New York, Andre Ferreri and his ‘quintetto’ bring us a powerful presentation and interpret his compositions flawlessly.  This group puts a capital ‘E’ in EXPLOSIVE!

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TIM MAYER – “KEEPER OF THE FLAME” – D-Clef Records

Tim Mayer, tenor, soprano saxophone & alto flute; Rodney Whitaker, bass; Ulysses Owens Jr., drums; Anthony Stanco, trumpet; Adam Rongo, alto saxophone; Tony Lustig, baritone saxophone; Michael Dease, trombone; Miki Hayama & Emmet Cohen, piano.

From the very first track on this album titled, “Big P” Tim Mayer establishes the swinging, straight-ahead groove I love so much.  The horns come out blasting, in a big band style, and then Rodney Whitaker struts out on his double bass, locks horns with Ulysses Owens on drums and Miki Hayama’s piano completes the tight and supportive rhythm section.  Whitaker, a bassist I have long admired, steps into the spotlight and takes a noteworthy solo, sparked by tasty horn licks in the background. Diego Rivera has written all the octet arrangements.  “Big P” is a smokin’ hot arrangement and sets the tone for this awesome album of jazz.  “Bye Bye Blackbird” features a trio performance with Tim Mayer picking up his soprano saxophone to sing the melody, then engaging a meaningful and creative conversation with both Whitaker on bass, before trading fours with Owens on drums towards the end of the tune.  That’s when Ulysses is happy to show us his tenacious abilities on the trap drums.  The Cedar Walton composition, “Hand in Glove” is played at a speedy tempo and features the horns flying and the rhythm section, spurred by the drums of Ulysses Owens.  When the curtain’s part, to feature Miki Hayama’s piano, you hear her rich technique and inspired creativity.  “Blame it on My Youth,” a favorite standard of mine, gives Tim Mayer an opportunity to introduce us to his smoky tenor saxophone.  When Whitaker sings this beautiful melody on his double bass, he starts by reaching up to the top of the strings.  Later, Rodney improvises his way down to the richness at the bottom of his instrument, duetting with Mayer’s tenor in an extraordinary way.  This album is lusciously creative.  Mayer has written two compositions for this release.  “Blues by Four” is Track 5 and “Get Organized” is Track 8. The “Blues by Four” is joyful with a catchy melody.  The horns take this opportunity to harmonize and punch the groove; Anthony Stanco on trumpet, Adam Rongo on alto saxophone and Tony Lustig on baritone sax, along with Michael Dease on trombone.  Tim Mayer’s tenor solo gets busy and the other cats support this tune with wonderful choruses, fluidly written by Rivera.  His arrangements make the octet sound like a big band. Their production of Coltrane’s familiar “Naima” tune is fresh and is one of Tim Mayer’s personal arrangements for this date.  He reinterprets this beautiful composition in a fresh way, letting the band trade fours and giving each musician an opportunity to shine and showcase their talents. 

This collection of music is spirited, spontaneous and emotional.  It reminds us of what a talented woodwind player Tim Mayer is and it tributes some of his jazz heroes from past generations.  He refers to them, and perhaps to his current octet in his album title, “Keeper of the Flame.”    This music is burning hot and will light you up, swing hard, put your feet to the fire and warm your heart.

Here is a sample of his saxophone style from his last CD release, “Resilience.”

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ALEX CONDE – “DESCARGA FOR BUD” – Sedajazz

Alex Conde, piano/arrangements; John Santos, percussion; Jeff Chambers, bass; Colin Douglas, drums; Sergio Martinez, cajon/djembe; mike Olmos, trumpet; Jeff Narell, steel pan; Jose Luis de la Paz, guitar.

This is my first time hearing a tribute to Bud Powell, illuminating his compositions with Latin fusion excitement.  Bandleader, Alex Conde, is a Spanish pianist who has boldly reimagined the brilliant Powell’s bebop music with soulful Caribbean colors and percussive richness.   All the while, Alex Conde shows off his amazing piano ‘chops’ and tenacious technical mastery of his instrument.  His piano playing is provocative and emotional.  He dedicates this album to the fathers of jazz, the Black American composers who created this music and who, he has admired for many decades.   This work of art is the second in a series he calls, “Descarga.”  The first one was released in 2015, a “Descarga for Monk” on the Zoho label.  On this current release, Conde transforms the familiar compositions by Bud Powell into various Latin arrangements.  “The Fruit” becomes a Buleria.  “Oblivion” is a joyful Tango, and one of my favorites. 

“Bouncing with Bud” is an Alegria, “Dusk in Saudi” is a Solea and “Wail” is a Calypso that made me dance in my desk chair.  On “Parisian Thoroughfare” Alex Conde’s fingers move swiftly, reminding me of a piece of Bach I used to play years ago.  It’s very jazzy, but with classical overtones strongly resonating.  “Hallucinations” is a title that resonates with the legendary history of Bud Powell’s mental struggles that kept him going in and out of psyche wards for years.  Jeff Chambers is given an opportunity to solo on his bass and John Santos brightly lights the stage with his percussive licks.  “Celia” is arranged as a bright and bubbly Buleria.  This is music that explores Powell’s brilliance, but also showcases the sparkle and genius of Alex Conde and his band of wonderful musicians.  They bring a fresh perspective to jazz music with their own cultural beauty.

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KENDALL CARTER – “INTRODUCING KENDALL CARTER” – Lladnek Music

Kendall Carter, organ; Dave Stryker, guitar; Kenny Phelps, drums.

I love a great organ trio. Kendall Carter is a new organist on the block and he’s added the dynamic Dave Stryker on guitar along with Indianapolis drummer, Kenny Phelps slapping the rhythm in place.  Kendall Carter has been making a name for himself in the Midwest of the country as a jazz organist.  He received a master’s degree in jazz composition and arranging from the University of Louisville in Kentucky; so, he puts that training to use during this debut recording.  The trio opens with “Blame It on the Boogie,” transforming the Michael Jackson hit record to a jazzier rendition of Jackson’s original pop hit.  They add shuffle drums and a swing groove.  I think the engineer had a little trouble mixing and mastering this project.  Aside from that, this first cut comes out the gate full speed ahead.  I didn’t care for the drums on “Afro Blue.”  I missed the strong 6/8 feel that both Carter and Stryker were playing.  Phelps was just busy instead of holding down the Afro-Cuban beat.  But Kendall Carter showed off his skills on the organ. 

When Carter isn’t recording or gigging, he serves as Minister of Music at the Greater Faith Church of Deliverance in Louisville.  He brings his strong gospel roots to the studio on tunes like “The Masquerade is Over” and “That’s All.”  Their arrangement on the latter is fresh and swings hard.  On track 4, Stryker opens up Kenny Dorham’s “Short Story” composition, letting his guitar sing the melody and then veering off to explore the path of improvisation.  When Carter steps onto the exploratory path, he shows off his organ skills.  This is followed by the trading of fours, that brightly spotlight Kenny Phelps’ brilliance on drums.  They’re back to that old familiar shuffle groove on Lee Morgan’s “Speedball” tune and Phelps holds them tightly in that groove, locking into Carter’s organ rhythm and Stryker’s bluesy guitar.  What I miss is that walking bass line that Jimmy Smith used to do so well, stomping his busy feet across the organ pedals.  However, that missing walking bass line takes a little of the excitement out of this production. I take this CD off of one of my players and put it onto another.  That’s when I realize it’s the engineer or the mastering technician that lost the important foot-pedal bass line, because it’s there.  Kenny Carter is doing his job. “The Masquerade is Over” quickly becomes one of my favorite ‘cuts’ on this album, although I do hear some distortion.  Yes, I think the problem is at the feet of the engineer.  On the whole, this is a strong debut for organist, Kendall Carter and his swinging trio.  I look forward to hearing much more from this talented organist.

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WADADA LEO SMITH WITH MILFORD GRAVES AND BILL LASWELL – “SACRED CEREMONIES” – Tum Records

Wadada Leo Smith, trumpet; Milford Graves, drums/percussion; Bill Laswell, basses.

This is a project that Wadada Leo Smith and Bill Laswell dedicate lovingly to Milford Graves, who passed of heart failure in 2021, due to amyloid cardiomyopathy.  He was diagnosed in 2018.  This music was recorded between 2015 and 2016.  A deeply admired musician and man of the community, Graves was not only a respected drummer, but a healer, an herbalist, an acupuncturist and a martial artist.  In 1964, he recorded the now historic studio session with poet, Leroi Jones, who later adopted the name Amiri Baraka.  Amiri was reciting his poem, “Black Dad Nihilismus.”  This distinguished drummer’s given name was Ron Wynn and his skill on the percussive instruments embraced a deep knowledge of African drumming and East Indian drumming.  He studied the Tabla from Wasantha Singh and was one of the glitziest and most animated drummers of the ‘free mode’ style.  Milford Graves is the recipient of the DownBeat International Award and the Critics Award.  He also received the national Endowment for the Arts grant and was honored with a Guggenheim Fellowship.[1] A documentary was released in 2018 called, “Full Mantis.” 

Believe it or not, Graves took the Guggenheim Grant money and invested in laboratory equipment to do heartbeat research in his Jamaica, Queens basement.  In 2017, he co-invented a process that can repair stem cells using heartbeat vibrations, for which he was awarded a patent.

This is a 3-CD box set.  The first disc is a duo between Wadada Leo Smith on trumpet and Milford Graves on drums and percussion.  They create very spiritual music together.  The Avant-garde, spiritual percussionist joins talents with Wadada Leo Smith, also a master musician, trumpeter, educator and one of the early members of Chicago’s historical AACM collaborative.  Wadada created his own music language and music philosophy. He has composed all the music for this duo suite with Milford Graves called Nyoto: Parts 1-3.  It’s an enchanting excursion into melody, space and time.  The 5th track is written by both Graves & Smith titled “Celebration Rhythms.”  The starkness of just trumpet and rhythm is both engaging and beautiful. They also collaborated on composing the 6th track, “Poetic Sonics.” Wadada Leo Smith pulls the tones out of the bell of his horn like thick strands of sweet taffy.  Milford Graves chops the strands up with his drum sticks and adds to the sweetness; tastes the flavor; spices up the improvised notes of Wadada Leo Smith as only Milford Graves can; cayenne pepper hot. 

Disc 2 features barrier-breaking, electric bassist Bill Laswell with seven ceremonial compositions that celebrate everyone from Prince to Tony Williams; from Minnie Riperton to Donald Ayler.  Once again, Wadada Leo Smith has composed four of the seven songs and co-written the other three with Bill Laswell.  Laswell, a Detroiter who moved to NYC in the late 1970s, made a name for himself combining rock influenced electronic experimentation and improvisation on his bass.  As a producer, he is best known for his collaborations with Herbie Hancock and their Grammy-award winning single, “Rockit” on the album “Future Shock.”   Laswell has produced albums for Mick Jagger, Yoko Ono, The Last Poets and Pharoah Sanders.  Musically, he has participated as a performer with several groups and released two solo bass recordings.  Disc 3 combines the talents of these three innovative and spiritually inspired jazz artists, culminating their path to “Sacred Ceremonies” by sharing their spiritual and musical discoveries with us along the way.

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LORRAINA MARRO – “LOVE IS FOR ALL TIME” – Independent Label

Lorraina Marro, vocals; Steve Rawlins, piano; Grant Geissman, guitar; Jennifer Jane Leitham, bass; Steve Pemberton, drums; Dr. Bobby Rodriguez, trumpet; Rickey Woodard, tenor saxophone.

Vocalist Lorraina Marro has gathered ten lovely and memorable songs for this, her third CD release.  I became fascinated by her choice of repertoire.  For example, she introduces me to “I’m Not Alone” by Ivan Guimaraes Lins, Victor Martins & Will Jennings. It’s a Latin tinged ballad that lyrically praises a strong relationship, both in person and in memory.  It’s a poignantly beautiful song and features a lovely solo by Grant Geissman on guitar.  Another gem is the Arthur Hamilton tune, “Rain Sometimes,” that I had never heard and thoroughly enjoyed, with lyrics like:

 “…There’ll be Champagne sometime, Lobster flown from Maine sometime; we’ll ride the gravy train sometime, just you wait and see” are such great storytelling words.

Steve Rawlins is a sensitive and competent accompanist on this project and also arranges many of the songs.  Ms. Marro has surrounded herself with some of the best players in Southern California like Rickey Woodard on tenor saxophone, Dr. Bobby Rodriguez on trumpet, Jennifer Jane Leitham on bass and Steve Pemberton manning the drums.  The tracks are strong and compensate for this seasoned veteran’s uncontrollable tremolo that textures her voice.  She compensates for that with an emotional delivery that allows her sincerity to shine though.  I remember when the great Billy Eckstine had that challenge with his vocals. Lorraina Marro sings “Viajera Del Rio” and “Esta Tarde Vi Llover” in Spanish.  She also reminds us how much we love the Great American Song Book with tunes like “Stairway to the Stars,” and “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes.” 

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BRUCE HARRIS – “SOUNDVIEW” – Cellar Music Group

Bruce Harris, trumpet/composer; Sullivan Fortner, piano; David Wong, bass; Aaron Kimmel, drums; Samara Joy, vocals.

I love the very first cut and title tune, right off the bat!  Bruce Harris is someone Wynton Marsalis says is:

“One of the five young players you should know.”

I agree with Wynton!  With the assistance and support of producer, Jeremy Pelt, this up-and-coming trumpeter has embraced the Black American Songbook.  His goal is to showcase the voices of Black artists and composers like Track 2, “Satellite” by Gigi Gryce.  Gryce was a Black American reedman, arranger, composer and educator. 

He also chooses the music of the great Hank Mobley on “Hank’s Prank” that races onto the scene like a squad car in pursuit of run-away justice. The Bruce Harris trumpet is as bright and attention getting as a siren or the red and blue lights sparkling in the night. The beautiful Mercer & Malneck tune, “If You Were Mine” features the honey-sweet vocals of Samara Joy.  Harris also showcases a composition by Eubie Blake and A. Razaf that is absolutely beautiful titled, “You’re Lucky to Me.”  Harris’ trumpet glides smoothly across the melody like an Olympic skater.  Sullivan Fortner’s piano improvisation is thoughtful and creative, sometimes reminding me of the Thelonious Monk style, but Sullivan is always his own man.  David Wong has a strong bass voice and asserts it during his solo in the spotlight.  This fantastic quintet also celebrates Duke Ellington during a suite of the bandleader’s music.  They delve into Avant-garde music half way through and drag us by the ear to the ‘outside’ of the music. They also tribute Barry Harris, playing his “Bird of Red and Gold,” enhanced by Samara Joy’s lyrical interpretation. She is the Sarah Vaughan Competition Champion and has a voice that caresses each note and clearly enunciates each word and meaning.  Bruce Harris interjects his horn tastily, coloring the production delicately as they deliver “the almighty’s gift to you.” They close with “Saucer Eyes” by Randy Weston and it’s a fitting closure to a beautifully produced and executed album of unforgettable jazz.  Aaron Kimmel is given an opportunity to solo on his trap drums and he lifts the music exuberantly.  I liked this group so much; think I’ll play this CD again.

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[1] http://www.bennington.edu

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One Response to “TAKE A SUMMER RIDE WITH THESE NEWLY RELEASED CDs”

  1. REVIEWS: Marques Carroll, Tim Mayer, Alex Conde & Bruce Harris - Musicalmemoirs's Blog - LYDIALIEBMAN.COM Says:

    […] By Dee Dee McNeil, Musicalmemoirs’s Blog […]

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