Posts Tagged ‘jazz; cd reviews’

MAKE IT A MUSICAL FATHER’S DAY

June 15, 2022

By Dee Dee McNeil

June 15, 2022

JOEL FRAHM – “THE BRIGHT SIDE” – Anzic Records

Joel Frahm, tenor & soprano saxophones; Dan Loomis, bass; Ernesto Cervini, drums.

“The Bright Side” is the debut record release for The Joel Frahm Trio.  Each trio member is a composer and contributes their talent featuring original music.   Joel Frahm first became acquainted with the piano-less trio concept as a teenager.  He felt this chord-less approach to music allowed a soaring freedom of expression.   After exploring this musical concept for the past decade, both as a bandleader and a member of various chord-less trios, Joel Frahm and current players, Ernesto Cervini on drums and Dan Loomis on bass celebrate the release of their debut album with a 2022 summer tour.  The Joel Frahm Trio is scheduled to appear on the West Coast of the United States in July at the following venues.  Catch them if you can.

July 16 – San Diego Jazz Ventures (https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/joel-frahm-trio-jazz-at-the-athenaeum-tickets-326434042007?aff=ebdssbdestsearch&keep_tld=1)

July 18 – Kuumbwa Jazz Center (https://www.kuumbwajazz.org/calendar/joel-frahm-trio/)
July 19 – Bird & Beckett (San Francisco) (https://birdbeckett.com/)
July 20 – Sac Yard Tap House (Sacramento) (https://sacyard.beer/)
July 22 – The Sound Room (Oakland) (https://www.soundroom.org/)
July 23 – Jack London Revue (Portland) (https://www.jacklondonrevue.com/)
July 24 – The Royal Room (Seattle) (https://theroyalroomseattle.com/)

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KRESTEN OSGOOD – “KRESTEN OSGOOD PLAYS THE ORGAN FOR YOU” – April Records & Music Co.

Kresten Osgood, Hammond organ; Fridolin Nordse, guitar; Ludamir Dietl, drums; Arto Eriksen, percussion.

“My introduction to the Hammond organ came in 1991, when I was a fourteen-year-old kid growing up on the West coast of Denmark.  One summer, lying on the beach and listening to my cassette Walkman, I heard the soundtrack from the film ‘The Commitments.‘ …  When I started high school in 1992, they had a Hammond X5 and I began turning it on and trying to copy some of the sounds I heard,” Kresten Osgood recalls his first infatuation with the organ.

Today, Kresten Osgood is a talented organist.  He has come a long way from those early realizations of an organ instrument he came to love; especially since Osgood was initially celebrated as a Denmark-based drummer. In that capacity, he has worked with Yusef Lateef, Sam Rivers, Wadada Leo Smith, Mouse on Mars, John Tchicai, Billy Preston, Dr. Lonnie Smith and Sam Yahel, just to list a few.  This is his debut album as an organist, although he sounds quite seasoned on the instrument.  He is joined by a drummer and guitarist who are both well-known pop producers and respected musicians on the Danish music scene. 

Kresten Osgood was inspired to jazz through some Lou Donaldson’s albums.  His first jazz heroes were Donaldson, Idris Muhammad, Dr. Lonnie Smith, (who he later played with as a drummer), Leon Spencer and Charles Earland. 

“I met Dr. Lonnie Smith in 2002 and recorded the now legendary album, ‘Hammond Rens’ (ILK Records – 2003) with him and Micael Blake.  Being right next to Lonnie and following his every move brought me closer to the source,” Osgood shares that experience in his liner notes.

Osgood’s current album is propelled by Ludomir Dietl’s drums with a strong funk, rock beat.  However, when I listen to the way Osgood approaches the organ, I hear so much jazz that I would love to hear him play with someone like the late, great Ralph Peterson.  I don’t mind the rock-fusion, electric guitar of Fridolin Nordso.  I think the fusion guitar solo adds to the arrangement of “Baby Let Me Take You in My Arms,” a song written by Abrim Tilman of the Detroit Emeralds; an artist from my hometown of Michigan’s famed Motown.  

Clearly, the percussionist is very talented.  His drum support on Ahmad Jamal’s historic “Poinciana” tune lends a thick, Latin base to the group’s arrangement and is very exciting.  Perhaps they chose to utilize the rock drums on some tunes to make the album lean more towards pop commercialism.  But undeniably, Kresten Osgood is a jazz organ player, with or without the rock-oriented drums. 

“… I transcribed a bunch of Grant Green, Lou Donaldson and Charles Earland tunes.  I formed a band.  We began performing around the town of Holstebro in Western Denmark,” Osgood recalls the early days of his playing organ.

Nearly thirty years after he first heard the organ instrument, while lying on a Denmark beach, Osgood claims he still gets goosebumps whenever he turns-on his instrument.  You feel that sincerity and excitement in this recording, along with Kresten Osgood’s dedication to respecting the legacy of great jazz organ performances. 

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JOHN WASSON’S STRATA BIG BAND – “CHRONICLES” – Summit Records

John Wasson, arranger/composer/producer/XOBrass performing artist/bass trombone; RHYTHM: Noel Johnston, guitar; Paul Lees, piano/B-3 organ; Eric Hitt, acoustic & electric basses; Mike Drake, drums; Mike Medina, percussion; WOODWINDS: Bruce Bohnstengel, soprano & alto saxophone/flute; Tim Ishii, alto saxophone/flute; Jeff Robbins, tenor saxophone/flute/clarinet; Michael Morrison, baritone sax/bass clarinet; Chris Beaty, tenor saxophone/flute/clarinet; TRUMPETS/FLUGELHORNS: Keith Jourdan, Miles Johnson, Jack Evans & Pete Clagett; TROMBONES: Tony Baker, David Butler, Chris Seiter, with Paul Birk & John Wasson on Bass trombone. 

That big, beautiful swell of excitement and glory that a big band brings to music is magical.  This album opens with that kind of energy on “Heat-seeker.”  The horns make a bright, tightly harmonized exclamation mark.  Then they crawl up the scale, offering their melody to my attentive ears and totally grabbing my attention.  Pete Clagett is featured on a brilliant trumpet and Jeff Robbins soars on his tenor saxophone solo.  John Wasson has composed and arranged this piece of music.  It’s melodic and cheerful.  In fact, he offers four original compositions to this delightful album, out of the nine songs in the big band’s recorded repertoire.  The bandleader’s song, “Funk City” exhibits that kind of funky energy, driven by the powerful drums of Mike Drake.  Chris Beaty is fluid and stellar on tenor saxophone.  And is that John Wasson on the bass trombone, dancing beneath the rhythm like a bassist?  I love this arrangement.  On “Senor Salsa” (another Wasson composition) the band will make you want to move and dance.  The musicians do a bang-up job of interpreting “Maria” from the popular West Side Story score.  I was eager to hear their arrangement of “Blues for Alice” by Charlie Parker.  I wasn’t disappointed in the least.  They fly through the arrangement on the wings of ‘straight-ahead jazz’ featuring three trombonists who solo like preening birds; David Butler, Paul Birk and Tony Baker.  The Yoko Kanno tune, “Tanki,” features Paul Lees on his organ and Bruce Bohnstengel strutting his stuff on alto saxophone, utilizing the entire range of his instrument.  It opens with the bass of Eric Hitt setting the mood and the quick tempo.  There are some smart tempo changes in this arrangement that call the listener to attention.  John Wynn’s “Song for Kate” is ethereal and dances along at a moderate pace.  It’s refreshing to hear Noel Johnston step into the spotlight on his guitar and the Robbins’ flute darts above the rich orchestration like a narcissistic bird, singing sweetly, look at me. Look at me!  Mike Drake is given several bars to show-off his drum skills.  On this final tune, “The Detective Chronicles” written by Wesson, was inspired by 1960 television shows.  I remember the Peter Gunn series around that time.  That was the first show I ever heard jazz featured as background music.  There is surprise and drama in this Wesson arrangement.

Here is an album of smart arrangements and incredible energy, sparked by the talented musicians who play the music.  John Wesson, composer, arranger, bandleader and extraordinary musician describes this project in his own words. I found them quite succinct, humble and honest.

“I consider all the musical influences in my life as unofficial teachers and mentors. … I am indebted to the great players in the band, who have brought this music to life.  As a creator of big band music, it is clear to me that the written page is only the beginning.  It’s the great performers that ultimately bring the music to life.  This band has given voice to sounds previously heard only in my imagination and I could not be more grateful.  Thank you, guys!”

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OR BAREKET – “SAHAR” – Enja Records

Or Bareket, upright bass/composer/arranger; Morgan Guerin, tenor saxophone/EWI/organ/ arranger; Jeremy Corren, piano/Fender Rhodes/arranger; Savannah Harris, drums/percussion/arranger; Joel Ross, auxiliary percussion/co-arranger/producer.

Bassist, Or Bareket was born in Jerusalem and raised between Buenos Aires and Tel-Aviv.  Consequently, his music is infused with Mediterranean, South American and North African music styles. He incorporates those cultural elements in his jazz arrangements. Ten years ago, he won the International Society of Bassists’ Jazz Competition.  As a young bass player, he was highly motivated by the music of Jaco Pastorius and began his musical journey playing the electric bass at age sixteen. A few years later, he began to study the double bass and started his classical training with Teddy Kling, the principal bassist with the Israeli Philharmonic.  Bareket’s bass jazz study began with Avishai Cohen.  Currently residing in New York, this album, titled “Sahar,” translates to ‘crescent’ in modern Hebrew.  In Arabic dialects, “Sahar” means ‘just before dawn’ or early morning.  Sometimes it is translated as insomnia.   Bareket’s album becomes a vehicle to explore the poetic meaning of this title.

Bareket has composed all the music on this project, starting with the opening tune “Root System” featuring his bass, out-front and melodic.  I can imagine a new day dawning, with the orange, early morning sun rising in a burst of warmth.  On Bareket’s composition “Soil,” Morgan Guerin uses his EWI to infuse the music with fusion expression and Jeremy Corren answers the dips and dives that Guerin expresses on his wind instrument with piano conversation.  Savannah Harris pumps the drums beneath their musical exchange until the arrangement abruptly stops.  The composition, “Hiraeth” is more pensive.  The tempo slows and the melody drips like molasses poured in winter.  The bass sets the tone, repetitive and determined.  Perhaps this song reflects a dream-like state of mind, as if someone has stayed up all night and is now perplexed and foggy in the early dawn of a new day.  There are song titles that seem to reflect other languages like Track #4 titled “Oyen” and Track #7, “Kapara.”  I wish the liner notes had explained fully the meaning of these titles.  Thanks to Google I discovered ‘kapara’ means atonement and ‘Oyen’ is Dutch (or North German) to describe someone who lives by a water meadow.  In Spanish, it’s the verb ‘to hear.’  I prefer the water meadow description.  Corren finally steps forward on piano to solo during “Oyen.”  It’s a very modern jazz piece, with lots of room for Guerin’s saxophone to push musical boundaries. Savanah Harris is given a space to explore his drums near the end of the song, an arrangement that once again ends abruptly, the way Track #2 did.  “Temperance” is a pretty composition that seems to be part of “Oyen” with a similar melody and key, as though the two songs are part of the same suite.  Harris is brightly featured on drums, which helps to lift a redundant melody line. The atonement tune (Kapara) gives the listener an opportunity to enjoy Or Bareket’s mastery of the bass at the introduction and inside the belly of the tune.  The song “A Lullaby for Troubled Ancestors” quickly becomes one of my favorites with its warm melodic line.  The album “Sahar” is an artistic project that introduces us to Or Bareket as a bassist and blossoming composer. 

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THE HONOLULU JAZZ QUARTET – “STRAIGHT AHEAD” – HJQ Records

John Kolivas, bass/founder/composer; Tim Tsukiyama, saxophone/composer; Dan Del Negro, piano/ composer; Noel Okimoto, drums/composer.

Bassist, John Kolivas formed The Honolulu Jazz Quartet in September of 2001.  They have become Hawaii’s most enduring jazz quartet.  This is their fourth record release in celebration of twenty years together making wonderful music.  They open with “Scarborough Fair” drenched in blues and it’s one of the best arrangements I’ve heard of this familiar tune.  Their sax man has composed a tune called “Right Back with the Snack” that borrows licks from Eddie Harris and Cannonball Adderley to compliment this party tune.  The drums of Noel Okimoto drive this funk tune forward.  This ensemble reminds me of the Kahala Hilton where I spent many an evening in the 1980s enjoying the Hawaii-based live jazz.  It reminds me of enjoying nights out listening to pianist Betty Loo Taylor and her trio and my old friend, Jimmy Borges.  I was not surprised when I read that drummer Noel Okimoto used to work with the legendary entertainer, Gabe Baltazar, with Betty Loo and also satin smooth vocalist, Jimmy Borges. This is the type of group who plays a little bit of everything, all locked together with jazzy, original arrangements that refresh familiar Gershwin tunes like “Bess You is my Woman Now” or “Fascinating Rhythm” beautifully arranged as a Latin tune. 

Meantime, each member of the group is a composer and they offer us their best of both worlds on this album.  For example, Noel Okimoto, the drummer, has composed a tune simply called “Blues” that the group plays Straight-ahead.  The arrangement gives John Kolivas an opportunity to solo on his upright bass and Okimoto to cut loose on his drum set.  Dan Del Negro shines and sparkles on piano.  Surprise!  “Economic Blues” penned by Kolivas, is a jazz waltz with a catchy melody and some unexpected tempo changes in the arrangement.  Dan Del Negro has a piano style that is deeply rooted in the blues.  You hear that throughout this recording as he punctuates each solo with bluesy chops.  I also enjoyed John’s composition, “They Grow Up Too Fast” and the way Tim Tsukiyama’s saxophone interprets that tune.  

Here is an album that introduces us to a Hawaiian ensemble of jazz musicians and composers, who incorporate everything from blues to reggae; standards pulled from the American Songbook to Latin; pop tunes like “Wichita Lineman” and of course, a whole bunch of “Straight Ahead.”

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TONY FALCO, JOSH SINTON & JED WILSON “ADUMBRATION” – FiP Recordings

Jed Wilson, pianist/composer; Josh Sinton, reeds/composer; Tony Falco, drummer/composer.

Jed Wilson’s piano notes cascades across space like a splashing waterfall.  The notes tumble over each other; melodic droplets.  Josh Sinton plays his saxophone atop the rhythm section with purpose and sensitivity. Tony Falco stirs the sticks around his drum set, accenting generously while holding the rhythm tightly in place.  I feel as though these musicians have been playing together for a while.  There is a notable comfort level between them.

“These two musicians are dear friends of mine,” says Tony Falco in their press package. “There is no greater blessing, as a musician, than to play with those you love.”

The title of this album is “adumbration.”  Adumbration means to foreshadow vaguely; to suggest, disclose or partially outline a plan.

Rather than give titles, these musicians have simply numbered the six songs they’ve recorded.  Consequently, they refer to them as Adumbrations 1, Adumbrations 2, etc.  The album cover is as artistic as the music and was created by the multi-talented drummer, Tony Falco. The trio shares in all composing credits. 

These three friends have known each other since their student days at the New England Conservatory.  Although they kept in contact over the years, it wasn’t until autumn of 2021 that Wilson, Sinton and Falco joined forces to create this debut album.  Each of these players has worked with Avant-garde bands and expanded their creative and improvisational talents.  During their exploration of Adumbrations 2, reed player Sinton offers his first ever flute recording, flying like a bright, beautiful bird above the track.  On Adumbrations 3, Sinton puts down the flute and picks up his bass clarinet.  Jed Wilson uses the treble clef of the piano to creatively whisper beneath Sinton’s rich, bass clarinet notes.  It’s a very effective communication between two instruments.  Sinton is one of New York’s most striking baritone saxophonists and in 2020, he was named “Rising Star” in the baritone saxophone category of Down Beat’s Critics Poll.  Jed Wilson is a new England-based pianist, primarily expressing himself with free improvisation.  Drummer, Tony Falco, is a renowned improviser, recording and mixing engineer and visual artist based in Greenfield, MA.  He often works with Avant-garde guitar legend, Tisziji Munoz and has performed and recorded with a host of others.  One thing about these three musicians is consistent.  They listen, react, create and spontaneously adlib with each other in a very comfortable way. Their music is improvisational, impacting and original.  “Adumbration” gives rise to their new music, as fresh and diverse as a new sunrise. 

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ALBARE & CO – “FREEDOM” – Alfi Records

Albare, guitars/composer; Phil Turcio, piano/composer/arranger; Phil Rex, bass; Felix Bloxom, drums; Randy Brecker, flugelhorn/trumpet; Ada Rovatti, alto & tenor saxophones.

Albert Dadon is better known by his stage name of Albare.  He began playing music at age eight, when his mother gifted him with a classic acoustic guitar for his birthday.  Consequently, he became one of the first guitar students in the newly opened Conservatory of Music in Dimona, Israel.  His love of the instrument was obvious by the time he turned ten.  Influenced by Django Reinhardt, Jimi Hendrix, Wes Montgomery and Antonio Carlos Jobim, Albare has spent his lifetime in study, composing and playing jazz.  In this time of political chaos in our country and a deep divide between people and belief systems, jazz continues to be a music that steps outside the boundaries of discontent to celebrate freedom.  Thus, the title Albare has chosen for this newly released music; “Freedom.”  Jazz has often been called the first music of activism.  It is the poster child for emancipation and liberty, which is why (in the past) so many communist countries banned jazz music, including Russia, Communist China and North Korea. 

Albare’s keen sense of purpose and melody is evident in all ten of his original songs.  He has composed, or co-written with pianist Phil Turcio, all the music included on this album.  With the talents of Randy Brecker on trumpet and flugelhorn, along with the tasty saxophone playing of Ada Rovatti, this is heartfelt music.  Each track is inspired by the busy drums of Felix Bloxom and a hearty rhythm section. Albare’s brilliant guitar leads the way.  I enjoyed their arrangement of “Adues” that let’s Phil Rex step in front of the curtain to briefly feature his power on the bass instrument.  On “Lost Compass,” Albare picks up his electric guitar and the jazz turns fusion.  This is another one of my favorite tunes, with Brecker’s bright trumpet a wonderful example of freedom.  The composition, “Love is Always” has a flare of tango music incorporated into its pretty melody and arrangement.  On The other side of the spectrum, “Randy Makes me Smile” is straight-ahead bliss.  The composition “Shimmozle” is a beautiful ballad that becomes an emotional platform for Albare’s awesome guitar tenacity.  “Sunny Samba” makes me want to cha-cha-cha across the floor and something about the title tune, “Freedom,” brings Wes Montgomery to mind in a sweet way.  All in all, this is happy music that makes me want to whistle, dance and smile.

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SIDNEY JACOBS – “IF I WERE YOUR WOMAN” – Independent label

Sidney Jacobs, vocals/keyboards/percussion/composer/arranger; Gene Coye, drums; Solomon Dorsey, electric & acoustic bass; Josh Nelson, piano/keyboards; Ron Feuer, keyboards; Greg Poree, acoustic guitar; Josh Johnson, alto saxophone/flute; Chris Lawrence, trumpet; Nolan Shaheed, trumpet/flugelhorn; Joakim Toftgaard, trombone; Rickey Woodard, tenor saxophone; Munyungo Jackson, percussion.

Sidney Jacobs is a strong, baritone vocalist, who exhibits shades of Al Jarreau’s style during his  arrangement of “On A Clear Day.”  I can hear how Jarreau has influenced this singer.  Like Jarreau, Sidney Jacobs enjoys pushing the boundaries of music and challenging his vocal prowess.  He stretches and explores all the range and possibilities of his voice.  In fact, this entire project colors outside the lines and is still a very beautiful and artistic recording.  Jacobs has an amazingly powerful understanding of the language of ‘scat.’  He gives us a taste during his performance of the standard, “On a Clear Day” and also on his original composition, “Weave the Tale” that becomes a tour de force with a bebop infused presentation of Jacobs’ wordless clarity.  

Sidney Jacobs is a composer who has slipped in snippets of original tunes, like musical paper clips holding his repertoire in place.  He offers a thirty second rendition of “We All,” a twenty-four second snippet of “Stay Up” and a thirty-two second musical interlude that is encapsulated with smart vocal harmonies.  Jacobs gives us his own, fresh and creative interpretation of the hit song by Corinne Bailey Rae, “Like a Star.”  Surprisingly, He has chosen a group of songs for this album that reflects female-oriented songs. 

“I wanted to create a different listening experience and find songs that had personal relevance to me and songs that marked some very specific times in my life,” Sidney explained.

For example, he sings the H.E.R composition “Facts,” a song performed by Lalah Hathaway titled “I’m Coming Back” and “Been So Long” written and sung by Anita Baker in 1986.  But I really get a kick out of the Jacobs rendition of Barbra Streisand’s Broadway tune, “I Feel Pretty.”  It’s such a unique way of looking at this song, through the eyes of a guy. He also flavors the arrangement with scat singing, like hot pepper flakes in the soup.  He has his own spin on my friend and co-writer, Morris Broadnax and Stevie Wonder’s song, “Until you Come Back to Me.”  Sadly, the melody of the song, which is so beautiful, gets lost in the multi-layered vocal harmonics and Jacobs’ own melodic ideas change the tune beyond recognition.  This arrangement is disappointing.  His obsession with voice harmonies throughout this production probably are inspired by Sidney Jacobs’ time singing with the Fifth Dimensions vocal group.  Also, when he was eighteen, he became a principal singer with the Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers and travelled the world with that famous and formidable chorale group.  Another female oriented song he covers is the Gladys Knight gold record, “If I Were Your Woman.”  That was another surprising choice of songs.  I wondered why he didn’t sing, if you were my woman and I was your man? But no, he remains true to the composer’s original lyrics.  Not so much the melody.  I know jazz is celebrated for its freedom and individuality, however some songwriter melodies are important enough to be sung as written.  I do have to applaud Sidney Jacobs for being original.  It takes an artist with talent, a sense of daring, an attitude that’s sure of himself and emotional security to pull this project off.

Surrounded by some of the best musicians the West Coast has to offer, these smokin’ hot tracks celebrate the awesome talents of folks like Greg Poree on acoustic guitar, Nolan Shaheed on trumpet and flugelhorn, Josh Nelson on piano and keyboards, Rickey Woodard on tenor saxophone and Munyungo Jackson on percussion, to name just a few of the stellar players who infuse this project with excellence.  The complete list of participating musicians is noted above.

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