Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Hot Tone Music Indeed!

Hot Tone Music is a label based in Brooklyn, New York, and has just issued 3 CDs (on the same day - 2/04/14) featuring the music of Mimi Jones, Camille Thurman and Shirazette Tinnin.  Ms. Jones (bassist, composer and vocalist) produced her own recording and is listed as co-producer on the others (and plays on Ms. Tinnin's disk.)

Mimi Jones (real name - Miriam Sullivan) has been on the music scene for over 2 decades.  Since graduating from the Manhattan School of Music, Ms. Jones (who started on cello before moving to acoustic bass) has worked with Roy Hargrove, Tia Fuller, Kenny Barron, Terri Lynn Carrington and is currently a member of drummer Rudy Royston's "303" Septet.  "Balance" is her second CD as a leader (her debut "A New Day" was issued by Hot Tone in 2009) and finds her leading an ensemble that features Enoch Smith Jr. (piano), Luis Perdomo and/or Miki Hayama (keyboards), Justin Faulkner and/or Ms. Tinnin (drums) and guests that include Ms. Thurman (flute, voice), Ingrid Jensen (trumpet), Marvin Sewell (guitar, piano), Sean Harkness (guitars) and vocalist Mala Waldron, daughter of the late Mal Waldron.

The 80-minute program opens with the straight-ahead swing of Bob Dorough's "Nothing Like You" - Ms. Jones' articulate bass lines lead Faulkner and Perdomo in, after the trio states the melody, the leader takes the first solo. The following track, "Traveler", is the first of 7 Jones' original compositions (she co-wrote 2 of the pieces). Her solid electric bass lines over the pounding toms of Ms. Tinnin give way to the leader's finely-hewn vocals.  Solid solos from pianist Ms. Hayama (the bassist played on her 2004 debut CD) and guitarist Sewell are intense but do not boil over.  Ms. Jensen makes the first of her 2 appearances on the up-tempo "Speedbump", dipping and soaring over the splashing piano chords (Perdomo) and the forceful drive of Ms. Jones and young Mr. Faulkner (Branford Marsalis Quartet, Kurt Rosenwinkel); the piece slows down in the middle for a sparkling solo turn from Perdomo. The bassist's take on the children's classic "The Incy Wincy Spider" (often heard as "The Itsy Bitsy Spider") opens in rubato mode, with bowed bass, hand-held percussion, impressionistic piano chords and a dramatic vocal.  After the first verse, the piece pivots 180 degrees to become a swinging romp.

The program never settles into one particular pattern (a good thing), which is what one should expect from a person who has multiple influences.  Ms. Jones shares the spotlight, anchors the music, and she delivers vocals that are honest, without pretense. Pianist Smith's arrangement of Adele's "Someone Like You" is quite pretty, with fine percussion from Faulkner and country-flavored guitar work from Harkness. Ms. Waldron adds her voice to Ms. Jones' on the final track, "Dream", an inspirational lyric that reminds us to "keep reaching for our dreams." The blend of the 2 vocalists is soulful and smart, a strong ending to the CD.

The issue with such a long recording is that few people will sit through this in one sitting (yes, some of us still do that) but "Balance" is worth your time.  Mimi Jones has created an intensely personal statement that invites all to partake and is, in the end, an uplifting experience.  Take your time with this music and you will be rewarded.  For more information, go to

Camille Thurman began studying flute at the age of 12 and tenor saxophone at 14.  She, like Ms. Jones, studied at the noted Fiorello LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts in New York City.  After earning her degree in Geological & Environmental sciences at SUNY/Binghampton, Ms. Thurman returned to New York City and began performing with trumpeter Valery Ponomarev, drummer Charli Persip, and Gabriel Alegria & his Afro-Peruvian Sextet.  She is also a 2-time winner of the ASCAP Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composers Award.

For her debut CD, "Origins", MS. Thurman (who plays flute, tenor and soprano saxophones, sings and composed all but 2 of the 13 tracks) utilizes the rock-solid rhythm section of Corcoran Holt (acoustic bass) and the energetic Rudy Royston (drums) who gets the first solo on the opening track, the appropriately-titled "Forward Motion."  The leader, on tenor here, delivers a solid solo, riding atop the flying rhythms with a full-toned attack.  Enoch Smith, Jr. joins the trio on acoustic piano for 4 cuts, including the medium-tempo swinger "A Change of Mind", a gospel-influenced piece with a strong vocal from the leader (she has quite a range.) The pianist also is featured on Fats Waller's "Jitterbug Waltz",  a version that has a hip-hop feel in the opening sections before moving into a driving swing tempo. Luis Perdomo appears on 5 tracks, including the handsome "Indigo Moments" that finds Shirazette Tinnin in the drum chair.  Ms. Thurman's elegant soprano saxophone leads the way through a finely-shaped melody which shifts easily over the various tempo changes.  Soprano sax blends with the harp of Brandee Younger on "The Dreamweaverer", another piece that grooves easily in medium tempo (although Rudy Royston invariably gives a more intense feel.)

Right in the middle of the program are 2 fascinating cuts.  The first, "Anna's Joy (interlude)", is a short (91 seconds) unaccompanied scat vocal that leads directly into "In Duetime" (sic) that opens with a fiery duo of flute and cajon (Ms. Tinnin) and into a bouncing Brazilian-flavored groove that spotlights solid bass work from Holt, a hearty Perdomo piano solo, splendid drumming and Ms. Thurman's joyous vocal (her unison scat with the piano brings a smile). Later on, Ms. Thurman joins with Smith, Jr. for a sweet take on "Please Be Kind", a lovely ballad composed by Saul Chaplin and Sammy Cahn. Her versatile voice glides through the verses, displaying a maturity and understanding that is emotionally strong.  Her vocal work throughout the album always feels natural, never forced, influenced by Nancy Wilson, Ella Fitzgerald, Natalie Cole and others.

 "Origins" is more than just a solid debut for Camille Thurman; it's our introduction to a musician/person who is spirited, formidable and dedicated to the myriad possibilities that modern music presents.  For more information, go to

Shirazette Tinnin, born and raised in North Carolina, was exposed to gospel music at a very young age as her parents were members of several large Southern Gospel groups that toured the Northeast.  Attracted to the drums, she studied at Appalachian State University. She then went on to study at Northern Illinois University under the tutelage of Ron Carter (the saxophonist) and performed in the Chicago area.  Upon moving to New York City, she (like Ms. Thurman) began working with Gabriel Alegria & his Afro-Peruvian Sextet as well as pianist Orrin Evans, trumpeter Hugh Masekela, saxophonist Tia Fuller, vocalist Alicia Keys and others.  Ms. Tinnin is also an educator, writer, and clinician.

"Humility: Purity of My Soul" is her debut as a leader and combines her interests in jazz, gospel and funk.  From the Billy Cobham-inspired fusion of the opening track "Her Powerful Locs" to the intimacy of "God's Lullaby" to the Afro-Caribbean take of Eddie Harris's "Freedom Jazz Dance" to the straight-ahead drive of "Inner Frustration", this music takes its cue from the person at the trap set.  Camille Thurman plays tenor saxophone on 7 of the 9 tracks plus adds her fine voice to the leader's original "Jazzmine."   That particular tune flows atop the full-toned bass of Tom DiCarlo and the NORD keyboard work of Rachel Eckroth (who also appears on 7 of the tracks).  Mimi Jones, one of the co-producers of the CD (along with pianist Willerm Delisfort) shows up on 3 tracks including the afore-mentioned "Freedom Jazz Dance" and the lovely medium-tempo ballad "Aunt Sissy."   One of the more impressive cuts is the fine arrangement of McCoy Tyner's "Passion Dance", which simmers and burns with delightful solos from Delisfort, Ms. Thurman (over the energetic rhythm section), and a dynamic drum spot.  "The Warmest Season" features strong electric bass from Amanda Ruzza, rippling guitar riffs from Seth Johnson, excellent piano and keyboard sounds from Ms. Eckroth and a handsome vocal from Angolan-born Afrikkanitha.  Jhair Sala keeps the beat percolating on congas as Ms. Tinnin pushes from beneath and in front of the ensemble.

Shirazette Tinnin is a powerful drummer but rarely overpowers her fellow musicians.  Instead, she pushes, prods, caresses and colors the music with an intensity that often jumps from the speakers.  While the some of the pieces could have more depth, "Humility: Purity of My Soul" is a promising debut for an artist who bears watching and listening. For more information, go to

These Hot Tone Music CDs are worth investigating - let's hope they don't get lost in the blizzard of February releases.  For more information and to listen to these artists, go to

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