Thursday, September 13, 2018
"Got a Light?" (ALMA Records) is his debut as a leader. With the splendid drumming of Larnell Lewis (Snarky Puppy) and the handsomely thick electric bass sound of Rich Brown, this music jumps right along. Ledbetter is a two-fisted pianist with a fine blend of percussive and melodic elements. The nine tracks - eight originals plus the Tragically Hip's "Gift Shop" (recorded one week after the passing of the group's front man Gord Downie) - have great power thanks to the talents and big ears of the participants.
There is a softer side. Vocalist Eliana Cuevas joins the trio for "Her New Wings" (the leader switching to electric piano and leads the vocals in by playing the melody on melodica). The blend of her voice with the melodica is lovely plus there is a smart use of vocal overdubs to enhance the sound. The rhythm section sits out "Suspirito" with batá drummer Reimundo Sosa joining Ledbetter for the quiet performance.
The album closes with a solo piano piece, the gentle, gospel-infused, "The Tightrope Walker." In various places on the album, one can hear the influence of Bruce Hornsby on Ledbetter's melodic and rhythmic choices. Let this music wash over you. The Jeremy Ledbetter Trio will shake the rafters but also give you moments of peace in a crowded day. "Got a Light?" grabs the listener from the opening note, not only because this is not your traditional piano trio but really because the music is quite enjoyable.
For more information, go to www.jeremyledbetter.com.
Take a look and listen to the Trio:
Grossman shows his versatility right from the start. A sweetly melodic introduction opens to a funky/Latin groove as "Georgie and Rose" dance across the speakers. Soprano saxophonist Chris Roberts and trombonist Christian Overton step out for delightful solos powered by the delightful rhythms of drummer Ben Ball and percussionist Luis Orbegoso. "Brad's Prudence" is a smart reworking of The Beatles' "Dear Prudence", the assemble trombones playing the melody as the trumpets and saxophones provide color commentary.
Two decades - 20 years - is a good long time in the life of a modern big band. While they may only have four albums, Josh Grossman has kept the TJO busy with several side projects. "20" is a celebration and, hopefully, a harbinger of more to come.
For more information, go to www.thetjo.com.
Josh Grossman (Artistic Director, conductor)
Chris Roberts (soprano sax, alto sax, flute)
Jake Koffman (alto sax, flute)
Paul Metcalfe (tenor sax, clarinet)
Chris Hunsburger (tenor sax, clarinet)
Shirantha Beddage (baritone sax, bass clarinet)
Steve Dyte (lead trumpet)
James Rhodes (trumpet)
Alexander Brown (trumpet)
John Pittman (trumpet)
Christian Overton (lead trombone)
Pat Blanchard (trombone)
Mark Grieve (trombone)
Sylvain Bedard (bass trombone)
Todd Elsliger (guitar)
Carissa Neufeld (piano, Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer)
Mark Godfrey (acoustic & electric bass)
Ben Ball (drums)
Luis Orbegoso (percussion)
Listen to Josh Grossman talk about the band and the recording:
here). The program includes a totally new lineup from the previous disk but Promane again creates an album that features standards, an original work (by current tenor saxophone John Nicholson), and a surprise in the addition of "(Ocean) Bloom", a Radiohead piece from its "The King of Limbs" album rearranged by Hans Zimmer for the BBC series "Blue Planet."
"When Day Slips Into Night" not only highlights the young musicians who are part of the programs at the University of Toronto but also illuminates the vision of Terry Promane has for this odd-sized large ensemble. Everyone plays well, Brooklyn Bohach stands out without stealing the spotlight (the arrangements always posit her as one of the band), and the material covers a large swath of the jazz ouevre. Like their 2017 release, The U of T 12Tet keeps your attention throughout by making memorable music throughout.
The ensemble has no true website but you can buy the albums and listen to excerpts on both iTunes and Amazon.
Brooklyn Bohach: vocals
Michael Henley, Kaelin Murphy: trumpets
Karl Silveira: trombone
Brandon Tse: alto saxophone
John Nicholson, Kieran Murphy: tenor saxophones
Russell Matthews: baritone saxophone
Noah Franche-Nolan: piano
Julius Clegg: guitar
Evan Gratham: acoustic and electric bass
Keagan Eskritt: drums
Monday, September 3, 2018
|Photo: Tim Wright|
There is so much to enjoy on "The Waters Above", just don't expect an elongated "blowing" session. The music, the quartet, the composer want you to enter a different soundscape if you are willing to explore. If you are, Phil Schurger and his music will reward you generously.
For more information, go to www.philschurger.com.
Here's a track to whet your appetite:
I do enjoy the sounds of guitar-bass-drums trio: whether it be the overwhelming attack of Cream or the subtle approach of Jim Hall, the combination is one with so many possibilities. Evan Salvacion Levine makes music that makes us listen with expanded ears, with open minds, and one imagines it's great to hear the trio live in a club setting. The word "Mestizo" refers to a mixture: the album "Mestizo" does just that, mixes influences and goes in many delightful directions.
For more information, go to www.evanlevinemusic.com.
The album will be released on October 5th - look for it by going to shiftingparadigmrecords.bandcamp.com/album/mestizo.
Here's a quick teaser for the album:
Tuesday, August 28, 2018
|Photo: Sara Pettinella|
|Photo: Sara Pettinella|
|Photo: Sara Pettinella|
For more information, go to arthirahara.com.
Here's a quartet track:
"The Literature" (Pine Eagle Records), credited to the Rich Halley 3, is the first time the saxophonist has recorded an album of non-originals. This is not just any random group of pieces but, as you should be able to tell from the title, Halley is exploring "classics": not literature but music from artists such as Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman, Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams, Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, Sun Ra, Miles Davis, and the Carter Family. Eclectic to be sure Halley was exposed to all of this different music in his formative years.
|Photos: Daniel Sheehan|
"The Literature" is no dusty collection of old tracks but a living, breathing, reminder that creative music has a great tradition continually worth exploring. The Rich Halley 3 does that and more. This is an hour well-spent!
For more information, go to www.richhalley.com.
Here's the opening track:
|Photo: Shervin Lainez|
The trio tracks stand out as well. From Ms. Miller's folky ballad "Ready Steady" (that opens with an enjoyable bass solo) to the lovely two-part ballad "Skyway" (also composed by Ms. Miller), the three musicians hold your attention. The latter track closes the album: infused with a gospel feel, it's a feature for Penman's fine solo at the beginning and also in the middle. Ms. Staaf's bouncy "MLW" rides in on Ms. Miller's exotic hand drumming. The pianist also dances here, the rhythmic pulse from her left hand providing the bottom (Penman sits this one out) while her right goes on a jaunty melodic adventure. "West of the Moon" (also from the pen of the pianist) takes its name from the standard "East of the Sun (and West of the Moon") and one can hear similarities in the chords and fragments of the melody. It's a tour-de-force for the trio.
"Science Fair" is very good music and great fun. If you're a big fan of Allison Miller, her playing here is superb. Carmen Staaf is music director for Dee Dee Bridgewater aa well as an excellent music educator. She's also a member of Ms. Miller's Boom Tic Boom and has worked with young vocalist Allegra Levy. Together, the two make impressive that goes beyond the mundane and take into accounts the myriad influences on the leaders and their collaborators. Give it a close listen.
The album will be released on September 18, 2018.
Here's that jaunty "MLW":
Here's that jaunty "MLW":
Thursday, August 23, 2018
"Light In The Darkness" (self-released) is the first album from trumpeter, flugelhornist, composer, and educator Benje Daneman. His sextet is called SearchParty and features a quartet of Chicago-based musicians including Greg Ward (alto saxophone), Rob Clearfield (piano), Andrew Vogt (electric bass), and Jon Deitemyer (drums) plus the leader's wife Ashley (voice, vocals). The program blends ancient texts, fiery instrumentals, mediative solo and duo improvisations, into a story that resonates with spirituality, railing against the daily forces of negativity by creating positive music.
|Overneath Creative Collective|
|Photo: Grant Beachy|
The album will be released to the world on August 31, 2018. For more information, go to www.benjedaneman.com.
Give a listen to the opening cut:
In 2017, Mindeman returned to Chile where he began to collaborate with vocalist Francesca Ancarola, bassist Milton Russell, and drummer Carlos Cortes Diaz. All three appear on "Woven Threads", the pianist's new Sunnyside album. The music is a tribute to Victor Jara and Violeta Parra, both poets, singers, and activists whose lives were crushed by the Pinochet regime in the mid-1970s. When Mindeman returned to Chicago, he gathered a number of friends to help him flesh out the music. People such as bassist Matt Ulery, drummer Juan Pastor (whose group Chinchano Mindeman works with), percussionist Yuri Hevia, violinist Victoria Moreira, drummer Makaya McCraven, saxophonists Geoff Bradfield and Greg Ward, trumpeters Marquis Hill, Victor Garcia, and Quentin Coaxum, guitarist Matt Gold, and several special guests appears throughout the program.
"Woven Threads' shines from beginning to end. Stu Mindeman makes this music accessible without losing its heart and soul. The message that Victor Jara and Violetta Parra imparted to their native Chile and, several decades later, to the young pianist, is that music has power to make the world better. Just don't be silent.
The album will be released on September 14, 2018. For more information, go to www.stumindeman.com.
Here's the opening track:
Friday, August 17, 2018
And, just like that, Aretha Franklin is gone. Yes, there had been dire warnings but, until her death was announced yesterday (August 16), I could not quite believe it was going to happen. Her voice - that glorious, hair-raising, soulful instrument - has been part of my life since her Columbia Records days in the early 1960s. Those records have their moments yet the day I heard the opening minute of "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)", I was no longer an 18-year old punk but someone who began to understand what "adult" meant. She set the bar so high. Ms. Franklin could take a song, just about any song, and make it her own. She made Otis Redding's "Respect" her song in the manner that Mr. Redding did with the Rolling Stones "Satisfaction" (in the latter instance, the raucous remake makes the original sound like a schoolboy tune). That first Atlantic album, named for the song listed above, unleashed Ms. Franklin's voice - she may have only been 24 but she sang like a mature "knowing" woman. Producer Jerry Wexler (if this was Great Britain, he would be knighted for recording Aretha down South) sat her at the piano in Fame Studio, surrounding her with musicians who worked in that great Muscle Shoals, Alabama institution and let her loose. For subsequent recordings, Wexler would bring the band (or variations) to New York City to record because Aretha was uncomfortable down South.
She had her ups-and-downs, fell in and out of favor, but the voice never wavered. There were several successful gospel albums, plenty of retrospectives, and a a slew of television appearances (especially in the last few years) that always served to remind people this was an artist who transcends generations, labels, and styles. In the articles that have surfaced since the announcement of her passing, just about each one talks about 2015 appearance at the Kennedy Center Honors when she sang "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" in a tribute to its writer Carole King. 73 years old at the time, her voice as amazing as it was five decades before, she "owns" that song, those emotions, that crowd, even the people watching at home. It still moves me to tears and I have watched this video clip a dozen or more times. Whether you believe in a Heaven or Hell or even God, Aretha will bring you to your knees in praise! Bless you, Aretha Franklin! Bless you and thank you!
Take a breath....we move on!
The picture above shows the four members of Spektral Quartet, alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón, and the person who brought those musicians to the studio, bandoneeonist Julien Labro. Spektral and Labro made an album together in 2014 that the saxophonist guested on and, as you will hear in the video below, planted the seeds for a collaboration that has resulted in "Yo Soy La Tradición", an album that will be released in September on Zenón's Miel Music label. Give it a listen plus check out the video below for a full song from the album.
One more deep breath.....and we'll change gears one more time as well.
Guitarist Miles Okazaki, a native of Washington state, moved to New York City in 1997. In the two decades since, he's made his mark working alongside vocalist Jane Monheit, pianist Kenny Barron, trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson, and, most recently, with saxophonist Steve Coleman's Five Elements (he's on the past two albums including the brand new "Live at The Village Vanguard." He's also issued four CDs under his own name.
His latest adventure, recorded over an eight-month period (starting in September of Thelonious Monk's 100th birth year, 2017 and finishing in May of 2018), Okazaki recorded "Work", a six-volume set of the complete works on that most influential composer of the 20th Century. It's only available on the guitarist's Bandcamp page where you can purchase all six volumes together or buy each one separately. I'll post a review soon but I can tell you this - this music is quite fascinating. I've posted one tune below as well as a link to the liner notes to whet your appetite.
Here's the story:
Thursday, August 2, 2018
|Photo: Montreal Jazz Fest|
The music is, at turns, exhilarating, demanding, forceful, hurtling forward on the power of group interactions - whether the band is playing older material or working through brand-new compositions, the spirit of spontaneous improvisation can be felt from note one. Even Coleman favorites, like his reading of fellow alto saxophonist Bunky Greene's "Little Girl I'll Miss You" has a spontaneous arrangement - you can hear it twice on Disk 1 and it's fascinating to hear the difference between the two. The unaccompanied alto intro remains (though Coleman changes his approach on each rendition) but how the band comes in is different and, of course, so are the solos.
Just pay attention. If you do, you can bask in how Finlayson and the leader interact throughout, hear how Okizaki adds his distinctive voice to the songs, and, of course, the splendid rhythm section. Tidd's electric bass work is delightfully articulate while Rickman's polyrhythmic funk-swing-groove conjures up Sam Woodyard with the Duke Ellington Orchestra (check out "rmt/Figit Time" that opens the second set), Max Roach, Billy Cobham, and Dafnis Prieto without sounding like anyone in particular.
So, dig into "Live at The Village Vanguard, Vol. 1 (The Embedded Sets)", listen closely, and then go see Steve Coleman and Five Elements in person for yourself. Try and stay in your seat.
Release date is August 10, 2018.
Give a listen:
Wednesday, August 1, 2018
Tonight I can write the saddest lines" to the singer's quiet take of "Don't Worry 'Bout Me" (from the pens of Rube Bloom and Fred Koehler), the songs deal with issues of the heart. He's got quite a sparkling band, one that includes Darrell Grant (piano), Clark Sommers (bass), and Brian Blade (drums) as well as the smart reeds of Steve Wilson (alto saxophone) and Geof Bradfield (tenor saxophone) and the powerfully rich trumpet of Marquis Hill. One also hears the electric guitar of Gregory Uhlmann plus contributions from the Avalon String Quartet (Blaise Magniere and Marie Wang on violin, Anthony Devrove on viola, and Cheng-Hou Lee on cello).
Still, it's hard to stay away from the heartbreak. Baker's sweet take of Bonnie Raitt's "Not 'Cause I Wanted To" (which opens with a fine bass solo) is emotionally rich without being saccharine. "People of Paper", based on the 2005 debut novel of Mexican-born author Salvador Plascencia, is a story of love unrequited and lost. The horns float above the vocals until Hill steps out with a most reserved yet heartfelt solo - don't miss the short but stunning soprano sax phrase as the piece fades away. .
Several of the reviews have said that the songs on "Phrases" go on too long and no one song stands out. I beg to differ; to my ears, each piece is part of a longer story, a tale in which love and loss are at the center. Pay attention to the musicians Jeff Baker surrounds himself with, how they serve the music, how the arrangements have a strong sense of drama, and how Sommers and Blade offer such great support. And, I can't through "A Hundred Less One" without tearing up knowing it speaks for the many people I know who have been married for decades. Some music blazes trails, some music makes you dance, and some music takes so far inside yourself you feel as if your life is exposed to the world. "That's "Phrases" in a sentence!
For more information, go to jeffbakerjazz.com.
For more information, go to newyorkvoices.com or to www.bobmintzer.com.
Here are the groups in action:
Personnel of Bob Mintzer Big Band:
Bob Mintzer – Tenor Saxophone, Flute
Bob Sheppard – Alto Saxophone, Flute
Lawrence Feldman – Alto Saxophone, Flute
Bob Malach – Tenor Saxophone
Roger Rosenberg – Baritone Saxophone, Clarinet
Bob – Millikan – Trumpet
Frank Greene – Trumpet
Scott Wendholt – Trumpet
James Moore – Trumpet
Keith O’Quinn – Trombone
Jeff Bush – Trombone
Jay Ashby – Trombone, Percussion
David Taylor – Bass Trombone
Phil Markowitz – Piano
Marty Ashby – Guitar
Jay Anderson – Bass
John Riley – Drums