Posts Tagged ‘French jazz; jazz CD from Italy; Canadian jazz’


February 28, 2022

By Dee Dee McNeil

March 1, 2022


Frédéric Viale, melowtone; Andrea Pozza, piano; Aldo Zunino, acoustic bass (contrebasse); Adam Pache, drums (batterie); Emanuele Cisi, saxophone.

I was surprised to receive a package from France a few weeks ago.  It was a new CD release by French accordionist and harmonica player, Frédéric Viale, who has recorded a wonderful tribute album to Toots Thielemans.  The music of Frédéric and his ensemble is both captivating and inspirational, beginning with their delightful interpretation of “Bluesette.”  The tune waltzed joyfully across my listening room.  This was followed by “Scotch on the Rocks” played at an up-tempo pace, with the bass of Alda Zunino walking briskly beneath Frédéric’s melowtone solo.  Andrea Pozza’s piano solo is performed with swift moving fingers and skill.  “Only Trust Your Heart” is arranged with Latin flavors and Frédéric Viale’s instrument dances brightly over his ensemble’s solid track.  The tune “Cool and Easy” becomes a platform for Emanuele Cisi to shine on saxophone and Andrea Pozza to show-off his blues licks on the 88-keys.  Aldo Zunino steps forward and takes an inspired solo on the double bass.  Throughout this production, Adam Pache holds the rhythm tightly in place on trap drums.  On this tune, he trades fours with Frédéric and the band.  Here is an album I will play over and over again.  This traditional jazz recording is a lovely tribute to Toots Thielemans, sent air mail, express from the super talented French jazz community.  It reaffirms how jazz music and creativity cross all cultures and all borders in a wonderful way. 

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Itai Kriss, flute/composer; Cesar Orozco, piano/Fender Rhodes; Tamir Shmerling, bass; Dan Aran, drums; Marcos Lopez, percussion; Wayne Tucker, trumpet/flugelhorn; SPECIAL GUESTS:  Keisel Jimenez & Jonathan Hoard, vocals; Shai Maestro, keyboards/synthesizers; Malaya Sol, background vocals.

 Itai Kriss is a flautist and composer.  Every song on this album was composed by Itai.  This is his third album and features a multicultural ensemble; Televana.  Greatly influenced by the musical styles of Middle Eastern music and Caribbean sensibilities, this jazz is infused with percussive excitement and joy.  The first cut titled, “The Cusp” inspires me to get up and dance.  It’s such happy music and Itai uses his flute to punctuate the tune with elation.  Wayne Tucker also makes an impassioned statement on his horn.  Itai Kriss seems to have an interest in astrology, since nearly every song celebrates the stars and the zodiac signs in some way.  “Aires” was as joyful as “The Cusp” tune.  Both the flute and the electric piano enjoy a musical conversation, while Marcos Lopez grandly expresses himself on percussion.  The title of this album, “Supermoon” represents a concept that attempts to explain our existence in the universe.  The ensemble, “Televana,” has been a regular fixture of the New York City Latin scene and is composed of multi-cultures including musicians who represent Puerto Rico, Israel, Cuba and the United States.  The tune, “Taurus” features Keisel Jimenez speaking to us in Spanish and Dan Aran’s drums lock in with Marcos Lopez to create a cha-cha-cha rhythm.   Cesar Orozco opens the composition, “Gemini” with tinkling piano keys played at a moderate pace.  He is soon joined by Itai Kriss on flute along with the lilting drums and percussions that continuously drive this music through a Baker’s dozen of original tunes.  Their first single release from this album is titled, “Virgo” and features the vocals of Jonathan Hoard adlibbing freely. 

Kriss is an excellent composer.  His songs are melodic, driven by percussive excitement and his tight “Televana” ensemble.  but more importantly, the Kriss music is full of a joy that will lift your heart, inspire happiness and brighten your perspective on life.

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JACOPO FERRAZZA – “FANTASIA” – Teal Dreamers Factory

Jacopo Ferrazza, double bass/synthesizers/composer; Alessandra Diodati, vocals; Enrico Zanisi, piano/synthesizers/live electronics; Valerio Vantaggio, drums; Livia de Romanis, cello; SPECIAL GUESTS: Fabrizio Bosso, trumpet; Marcello Allulli, soprano saxophone.

Jacopo Ferrazza was born in 1989 in Frascati, a city near Rome.  He holds a degree in classical bass and classical piano from the Italian conservatory of Frosinone, “Licinio Refice”.  There is something ethereal and magical about the arrangements on Jacopo Ferrazza’s latest release, his “Fantasia” album.  From the first title tune, I am intrigued by the production and the various elements that mix and swirl together like musical stars in the universe.  Opening with the very classical sounding piano of Enrico Zanisi, after a few bars the sweet, soprano voice of Alessandra Diodati enters and introduces us to the melody.  She hypnotizes with her sound.  Then, with gusto and energy, Fabrizio Bosso enters on his trumpet and whisks us away from dreamland into a bright, jazzy reality.  There is a taste of Avant-Garde style to his trumpet solo when he explores the outer-limits of this tune like a space cadet.  Zanisi teases him on the piano and Diodati reappears with her haunting vocals caressing the tune.  This is a captivating way to open Jacopo Ferrazza’s album.  On Track 2, “The Explorers,” Jacopo’s double bass sets the groove.  Enter Livia de Romanis on cello.  In mere bars, we go from a sweet sounding, melodic ballad to a more contemporary composition, enhanced by Valerio Vantaggio’s drum beats and Ferrazza’s strong double-bass input.  Jacopo walks beneath the production, assertive and creative.  The tempo changes to add interest and excitement to the piece.  I am fascinated by the piano solo, which spotlights Zanisi’s excellent technique on his instrument.  He solos brightly in the upper register while his left hand lays down a rich, chordal base for his right hand to dance upon.  Surprisingly, a synthesizer brings more depth and creativity to the arrangement towards the end of this tune.  Alessandra Diodati, the vocalist, is challenged with difficult melodies and unusual intervals.  No problem.  She performs these songs beautifully and with vocal assertiveness.  On Track 3, “River Theater” they employ a trio arrangement; just piano, Valerio Vantaggio’s drums and Ferrazza on bass, until they invite Alessandra to lend her voice.  She sings prose without rhyme while Ferrazza’s rich, double bass instrument is featured.  Jacopo has recorded two albums as a leader for CAM jazz label, as well as a double bass solo album called “Wood Tales.”  He is also a music educator. 

This is an art project, beautifully produced with unusual and challenging arrangements.  It’s such a creative project that I want to write about each composition and the lovely way Jacopo’s original tunes unfold, like pages of an exciting book; I can’t wait to hear the next chapter.

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Sheila Simmenes, vocals/composer; Per Olav Kobberstad, 8-string guitar; Peter Mesquita & Fredrik Sahlander, bass; Jern Rud & Robertinho Silva, percussion; Bjern Ole Rasch & Eirik Ask, keyboards; Trygve Tambs-Lyche & Per Elling Kobberstad, drums; Tore Brathen, trumpet; Michael Bloch, saxophone; Yeisy Rojas, violin; Sofia Aarvik, Kristin Dahl & Veronica Andersen, background vocals.

The title tune, “Love Was Easy” introduces us to singer, songwriter Sheila Simmenes.  Her roots are in Ipanema Beach, but she is now established miles away, in the Fjords of Bergen, Norway.  Known in the music industry for various co-writing credits, this is her debut solo album and it’s a lovely blend of South American soul, jazz & pop, combined with cultures of Norway, the United States and Brazil.

A strong bass line opens the title tune and her voice floats atop it like an autumn leaf riding on the ripple of a cool lake.  The ‘hook’ is exaggerated by harmonic background singers (Sofia Aarvik, Kristin Dahl & Veronica Andersen) who sing, chant-like, with heavy African influence.  There is a sexy saxophone solo by Michael Bloch. Sheila Simmenes has a style that combines pop and contemporary jazz, with a band that is more jazz traditional.  It’s an enjoyable merger; a good listen!  On “Anywhere You Go,” at the intro, birds sing and a trumpet answers.  Simmenes’ compositions are melodic and lyrically inviting.  They paint pictures of a life that’s happy, positive and carefree. Her voice comes across sounding innocent and honest. You hear that on “Promise Me” where just her vocals, guitar and drums propel the production. Recorded in analog to capture that warm vintage sound, her album features 8-string guitarist, Per Olav Kobberstad, bassist Peter Mesquita and legendary percussionist Robertinho Silva, who has worked with some of the biggest names in jazz history such as Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, Peggy Lee, Sarah Vaughan and George Duke. 

A keyboardist is featured briefly before Sheila scats creatively at the end of the song, embracing jazz freedom with sensitive vocals.  I hear some similarity to the style of UK star, Corrine Bailey Rae, but for the most part, Sheila Simmenes offers us her own smooth, stylistic, enticing voice that sings her original songs with confidence, truthfulness and inspiration.  On the Latin tune, “Brazil” she offers us a joyful, energetic production that celebrates her culture as she dips her toes into South American waters.  She may inspire you to join her in that musical celebration.

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Asaf Yuria, tenor saxophone/composer/arranger; Josh Evans, trumpet; Jonathan Voltzok, trombone; Jeremy Manasla, piano; Ben Meigners, bass; Jason Brown, drums.

Born in Tel Aviv, Israel, Yuria was raised on the recordings of John Coltrane and Charlie Parker.  I immediately hear that influence as his first original composition peels off my CD player.  It’s titled “The Bell Ringers” and his three-horn ensemble of saxophone, trumpet and trombone harmonize brightly to open this piece.  Asaf Yuria steps confidently into the spotlight.  His tenor saxophone takes full advantage of the moment, swooping and swelling like powerful ocean waves.  Yuria’s tone and creativity shine brightly.  Asaf’s solo is followed by Josh Evans on trumpet.  Evans continues the straight-ahead concept, exhibiting his talent and a tenacious attitude on his instrument.  He is followed by the noteworthy solo of trombonist, Jonathan Voltzok.   The ensemble creates energy and excitement and Asaf Yuria’s composition introduces us to each musician.  This is Asaf Yuria’s sophomore release.  His debut recording as a bandleader was in 2018; “Papa Wawa.” I am thoroughly impressed by Asaf Yuria’s composer skills.  His melodies are beautiful and he has competently arranged every tune.  They ring rich with harmony and create a musical mattress for his ensemble to happily bounce upon.  Clearly, Mr. Yuria draws from the jazz combo traditions of Art Blakey and Lee Morgan.  This is the kind of bebop-based jazz I love. 

“My priority is for each player to be able to use his voice most comfortably and as beautifully as possible, and to try to create the most compelling compositions I can. … It’s the idea of finding your individual voice through the study of the tradition,” Asaf explains.

Asaf’s beautiful ballad, “Wise Eyes” is dedicated to his mother.  The title tune, “Exorcisms” begins with Ben Meigners’ bass plucking a single note repeatedly.  It grabs the attention.  Jason Brown’s drum-roll pulls back the invisible curtain and the ensemble comes into full view.  On the album cover Asaf Yuria says that “Exorcisms” is to free from, or rid of evil spirits or other harmful elements, by works of spell and magical formulas which intend to trigger a magical effect on a person or objects.  He further explained:

“I’m looking for that mysterious condition in which the listeners and the musicians are immersed in the present moment.”

Asaf Yuria’s project is both beautifully played, smoothly arranged and offers us memorable compositions that highlight Yuria’s full range of musical talents.

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Henry Cole, drums/synthesizers/Fender Rhodes/composer; Metropole Orkest; Jahaziel Garcia, trumpet; Jonathan Acevedo, tenor saxophone; Andrew Gutauskas, baritone saxophone; Kalani Trinidad, flute; Benito Diaz, French horn; Randy Roman, trombone; Giovanny de la Rosa & Javier Perez, guitar; Ricardo Rodriguez, bass; Emanuel Rivera Gambaro, keyboards/synthesizer; Alberto ‘Beto’ Torrens, barril; Bryant Huffman, chekere; Duke Amayo, main vocals; Negro Gonzalez, main vocals; Antoinette Rodriguez, Melissa Orsini, Dayanira Arzuaga & Genesis Z. Cordero, backup vocals.

When a fire destroyed Cole’s New York City Apartment, he relocated to his native Puerto Rico and started all over from zero.  Then the pandemic happened and by March of 2020, COVID-19 created a tenuous situation for Henry and the whole world.  Concurrently, Cole was uplifted when the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation gave him a grant.  He is one of the only Puerto Ricans to ever be granted this honor.  Consequently, Henry Cole felt a great responsibility to create music that would represent his vision of determination when faced with life-threatening conditions.  A native of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, Coles has a cross-cultural style that draws on African, island folk music and indigenous music with European influences.  He mixes these with jazz and spices his arrangements and compositions up with twenty-first century rhythms.  Henry Cole opens this recording with one of his compositions being interpreted by the Metropole Orkest.  This fully orchestrated composition begins with strings and a full horn section in a very warm and sweet way.  That quickly dissolves to a moderate, rhythm-driven piece featuring a repetitious melody line that stitches through the song like an iridescent thread.  The horns drive alongside the rhythm of Cole’s drums, bright as the yellow line on an open highway.  At points in the arrangement, Cole lays down almost a funk drum beat beneath the repetitious melody sung by the horns over and over again. 

Henry Cole is a GRAMMY-winning drummer, composer and arranger.  This particular recording was commissioned by Chamber Music America’s New Jazz Works.  Over years, Cole has expressed his unique power and versatility by playing with some of the world’s most acclaimed jazz groups.  Those include Miguel Zenon, David Sanchez, Gary Burton, Fabian Almazan and many others.   His ‘Villa Locura’ ensemble features an eclectic cast of top-notch musicians and collaborators.  Track 2 is very ‘Rock’ oriented with the guitar taking center stage in an unforgettable way.  On Track 5, a song titled “De Frente,” he features the rap of Negro Gonzalez against a back-drop of harmonic horns and a power-driven rhythm section and synthesizers.  The bass of Ricardo Rodriguez enforces the rhythm and dances brightly beneath the piece.  Henry Cole has composed music that reflects the human spirit and how we access ‘super powers’ when we face fight or flight situations.

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Danilo Brito, mandolin/composer; Joao Luiz, guitar/arranger.

When the universe smiles and the stars come together, an album like this is born.  Both Danilo Brito and Joao Luiz are each master musicians and play music at an elevated level.   Brazilian native, Joao Luiz, is a respected virtuoso of Brazil’s popular music.  He was trained in classical guitar by Henrique Pinto.  Danilo Brito has been called a genius on mandolin and deemed an authority in Choro.  The Choro style claims the same cultural parents as jazz and blues.  It’s a music that blends African roots with European classical forms and new world, improvised cultural music, adding various rhythms.  These two brilliant musicians first met in 2004 at the Visa Music Award show.  When Danilo Brito heard Joao’s playing, he was captivated.

“I realized that he had a sound of a classical guitarist, but was full of Brazilian swing of the popular music,” Brito mused.

More than a decade later, in 2017, they performed together at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York.

“The energy was so good that we went on tour the next year,” said Brito.

This duo brings us a project that is soothing, warm, comfortable and creative.  Opening with “Gargalhada,” it’s a song composed for flute by Pixinguinha back in 1917.   Their duet dance moves from delicate to dynamic.  The classical mastery of each man on his instrument is clear and is richly soaked in Brazilian culture.  They follow this with an original composition by Brito, the title track, “Esquina de Sao Paulo.”   It’s arranged, at first, as a tango with all the passion and familiarity of that popular dance and played exquisitely by the two masters.  Surprisingly and pleasantly, the piece turns into a waltz, concentrating musically on bringing more romance to the arrangement along with their tango passion.  Brito’s mandolin sings like a mixture of flute and treble piano as Luiz pulls all the excitement and emotion to the surface with his guitar genius.  This is a match made in heaven.  It’s their debut recording on the Zoho label and they offer us nine stunning duets, three of which are penned by Danilo Brito.  The tune, “Salsito no Choro” is a combination of Cuban Salsa and Pacquito music.  It opens with the string rhythm established by Joao Luiz and was inspired by the duo’s work with the great Paquito D’Rivera.  This original composition by Brito spins joyfully and energetically from my CD player. 

This is a delightful album, produced by multi-Grammy & Latin Grammy Award winner, Kabir Sehgal.  It is a duo masterpiece, blending the excellence of two amazing, musical technicians and also a testament to a friendship born through music. 

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Juan Carlos Quintero, guitar/composer; Eddie Resto, bass; Joe Rotondi, piano; Aaron Serfaty, drums; Joey DeLeon, percussion.

Boasting nearly a dozen albums as a leader, Juan Carlos Quintero has established a successful reputation as both an acclaimed guitarist and also as the owner of a successful jazz and World music label; Moondo Music LLC.  Quintero’s music crosses genres and is celebrated on World Music, jazz and smooth jazz radio stations.  His boutique record label nurtures and supports a variety of artists who play jazz, Latin jazz and world music.  This project includes Quintero’s longtime musical companions, Eddie Resto on bass, Joe Rotondi on piano and drummer, Aaron Serfaty.  The quintet is complete with Joey Deleon adding the all-important percussion.  Together, they present ten songs for our listening pleasure, with two being composed by Juan Carlos Quintero.  I am used to hearing Quintero on his nylon string guitar, but this time he has used the semi-hallow, electric guitar.  It highlights the new direction of his music and his record label.   His album, “Table for Five,” offers five jazz standards, three Latin standards and two original compositions.  The title tune, “Table for Five at the Cumbia Inn”, is composed by Quintero, and uses rhythms from the traditional folk music of Columbia.  Quintero always plays a handful of original Cumbias during his live performances.  He wrote this particular song during the recording session.  “Manha De Carnaval” also known as “Black Orpheus” is one of two compositions by Luiz Bonfa.  The band has arranged it as a bolero, with the guitar plush with blues overtones.  It’s a sexy combination.  The entire production is reflective of his birthplace, Medellin, Columbia.  Although he and his talented ensemble play several familiar tunes, like “Song for My Father” by Horace Silver and “Days of Wine and Roses” there is always a Latin persuasion to every arrangement.  Joey DeLeon’s percussion excellence shines throughout, as do Aaron Serfaty’s trap drums.  Juan Carlos Quintero’s arrangements embrace several familiar tunes and reinvents them with Latin-jazz interpretations.  In the process, Quintero reflects an international songbook, mixing the American songs, Cuban and Brazilian standards, with his own Columbian influences.  His beautiful and inspired guitar arrangements bring each song alive as only Juan Carlos Quintero can do.  His original composition, “Porque Si Quieres” will have you dancing in your chair or jumping joyfully to your feet. This is one of my favorites on this well-produced album. 

Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” has a fresh face and Victor Young’s “Beautiful Love” closes this album out in a lovely, emotionally vulnerable way.  Juan Carlos Quintero touches my heart with his awesome delivery on guitar, featured with Resto and Serfaty in a strong trio setting.

“It was a first take.  We know we captured a moment in the studio.  We knew to walk away and let it be,” Quintero described the magical moment they experienced during this recording.

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Oliver Lake, alto & soprano saxophones/composer; Graham Haynes, cornet/electronics/composer; Joe Fonda, double bass/composer; Barry Altschul, drums/percussion/composer.

Four master musicians got together and created the OGJB Quartet based on the initial of each one’s first name; Oliver, Graham, Joe and Barry (OGJB).  Oliver Lake and Barry Altschul are pioneers of modern jazz music.  Their adventure started in the 1960s.  Graham Haynes and Joe Fonda began their exploration into the modern jazz era later, starting their journey in the 1970s.  However, each member of this group is clearly a leader in their own right.  Each musician is a composer.  The title of this current project, “Ode to O” is a tribute to Ornette Coleman penned by Altschul.  It opens this album and cornetist, Graham Haynes, introduces electronics into the arrangement.  Oliver Lake composed Track 2, “Justice” and the eighth cut, “Bass Bottom.”

“Whenever anyone gets the opportunity to play Oliver’s music, they are transported into the Lake universe of sound.  That is where the OGJB Quartet again went when we recorded his two pieces,” explained Joe Fonda.

Joe Fonda is a seasoned bassist, who studied at Berklee College of Music and has recorded with Wadada Leo Smith among others. He co-founded the Fonda/Stevens Group that became the longest lasting of all the collaborative groups he has played with.  He’s also well known for collaborations with Anthony Braxton, as well as being his own bandleader and recording artist.  Graham Haynes grew up in Queens, New York and is always searching for new directions in jazz.  He enjoys fusing genres including Hip Hop and electronic music. Haynes and Steve Coleman formed the ‘Five Elements’ band in 1979 which encouraged improvisers and influenced a group called M-Base Collective.  He was introduced to the ‘Conduction method’ by its originator and now deceased, Lawrence D. “Butch” Morris. Graham Haynes continues to implement that method in various ensembles.  On the other hand, Haynes has composed works for classical ensembles and also composed for films.  Oliver Lake is an accomplished flutist as well as a reedman, a poet and a visual artist.  His hometown is St. Louis and he began his musical career soaked in R&B music.  In the 1960s, he was one of the founders of the Black Artists Group in St. Louis.   Oliver left the country and he lived briefly in Paris before settling in New York.  In 1977 he co-founded the World Saxophone Quartet with David Murray, Julius Hemphill and Hamiet Bluiett.  They recorded twenty albums of modern creative music.  Lake co-founded (with bassist Reggie Workman and drummer Andrew Cyrille) ‘Trio 3’ and they recorded ten albums.  In the eighties, he led a reggae-influenced group called “Jump Up” and clearly is a musician who enjoys exploring various genres of music.  Barry Altshul began drumming at age eleven.  He also studied piano and clarinet. Raised in the local hard bop scene, he enjoyed playing at jam sessions in the Bronx.  His first truly professional gig was with the Paul Bley Trio in 1964.  He’s worked with some of the most influential groups of the 1970s like Anthony Braxton, Chick Corea and Sam Rivers.  After living in Europe for a decade, he returned to the East Coast of the United States and jumped into the new millennium by establishing the FAB trio for Tum Records and leading the ‘3dom Factor’ with saxophonist Jon Irabagon and Joe Fonda.

Together, these awesome musicians are crossing borders and coloring outside the lines.  They have created a project rich with improvisation, creativity and experimentation, once again gifting modern jazz with new perspectives and, like life itself, unexpected realities.

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Jean-Michel Pilc, piano; Remi-Jean LeBlanc, bass; Jim Doxas, drums.

Jean-Michel Pilc was born Oct 19, 1960 in Paris France and currently lives in Montreal, Canada.  Jean-Michel opens with “Softly as in a Morning Sunrise” solo, just the piano, exploring the familiar song in his own, unique way.  Several bars in, he is joined by his bassist, Remi-Jean LeBlanc and drummer, Jim Doxas.  I have heard this tune a million times, but never have I heard it played like this.  It’s both refreshing and stunning at the same time.  There is nothing soft or laid-back about this arrangement.  These are three dynamic musicians who are clearly on the attack.  They play the song with power and punch.  Even when Remi-Jean takes a bass solo, the expressive counter melodies and responsive piano support add intrigue to the piece. The trio makes you look at this song with new eyes.    This is followed by a tune called “Sharp” introduced by Jean-Michel Pilc’s brilliant piano musing.  At the top of the tune, Jean-Michel and Remi-Jean on bass seems to be letting their instruments hold a conversation, with Jim Doxas chiming in appropriately and creatively on his trap drums.  I am enthralled at the freedom these three musicians display, taking improvisational liberties that create tension and laying their improv talents out in the spotlight to startle the listener with sparkling possibilities.   Jean-Michel Pilc is a genius on the piano both technically and creatively.  I find myself in awe of his musical ideas and pleased at the response he inspires from both Remi-Jean and Jim Doxas.  The bassist and the drummer are both technical wizards on their instruments and all are spontaneous players.  The “Nardis” composition exposes their softer side, giving Remi-Jean a platform to shine.  “All Blues” is a surprise party, presented in a very ostentatious and unexpected way.  Most jazz aficionados know this tune, but you may not fully recognize it at first.  That’s the beauty of this trio.  Together they are formidable, smart and gifted musicians that keep the audience on the edge of their seats; offering unpredictable, rich arrangements and distinguished talent in abundance. 

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