Thursday, April 27, 2023

Listening to The Brothers


Photo: Shervin Lainez
The Le Boeuf Brothers, Pascal (piano, compositions) and Remy (alto and tenor saxophones, compositions), first came to critical attention in 2009 when they self-released their debut album "House Without a Door".  The identical twins have both managed to carve out solo careers as performers, composers, arrangers, and educators. Pascal leads a Trio and works with vocalist Allan Harris and saxophonist Jeff Coffin while Remy leads a large ensemble known as Assembly of Shadows. He received several GRAMMY nominations for his work with that ensemble and Pascal just (in mid-April) was rewarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.  Their co-lead group has issued four albums including 2013's "Remixed" and 2016's "Imaginist" with the JACK Quartet.

"Hush" (SoundSpore Records) is the brothers' first release in seven years. Featuring Dayna Stephens (tenor saxophone), Linda May Han Oh (bass), and Christian Euman (drums, cymbals, brushes), the majority of the 19 tracks (only three are over five minutes duration) live up to the recording's title.  Euman uses brushes on the majority of the songs––in fact, it's the quiet nature of the music and the emotional richness of the melodies that pulls in the listener.  Due to the brevity of many of the cuts, there are few solos yet the poetry in the melody often stands out.  Pieces such as "Soot", "Please Scream Inside Your Head", and "State of Conflict" are much more beautiful than their titles suggest. Take the first track listed (listen below); despite the name, the music is gentle with the melody played by a breathy alto saxophone underpinned by gentle piano chords and low bass notes plus just the hint of mallet work.  As the piano moves up front (for just one short chorus), there is no pressure or tension, just an exquisite sense of peace.

Watch the video below for "Wedding Planning", certainly the most spirited piece on the recording. Still, Euman is still using brushes but note how it's Pascal's piano and Ms. Oh's wonderfully articulated bass lines that move the music forward.  The alto solo is quite joyful and there are moments when the rhythm section gleefully swings!

Really, you need to take the time to listen to this music. There are hints of Debussy and Satie in the melodies as well as folk music and Americana, Sondheim and Bacharach; that's it, just "hints".  Melody and interaction are the watchwords of "Hush", music that eschews technical displays and long solos for haiku-like melodies and soft timbre.  The Le Boeuf Brothers want you to respond to this music by gathering it in, sharing with friends, and returning to the quiet sounds many times. 

For more information, go to  To hear more and purchase the album, go to

As promised, "Wedding Planning":

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

To Listen is to Wonder, To Dream


Photo: Dave Stapleton
Ben Wendel, born in British Columbia, raised in Los Angeles, and now living in Brooklyn NY, is a multi-faceted musician. He plays tenor and soprano saxophones, bassoon, synths, and percussion, composes, arranges, produces, and more. He was founding member of the instrumental ensemble Kneebody and he has worked with artists such as Snoop Dogg, Linda May Han Oh, Eric Harland, Prince, and many others.  He's issued eight albums as a leader plus produced sessions for Gerald Clayton, Dan Tepfer, and Dave Cook.  Wendel has played on sessions led by Moonchild, keyboardist Tigran Hamasyan, percussionist Adam Rudolph, and pianist Taylor Eigsti (among others).  He currently is adjunct faculty at the New School in New York City and conducts masterclasses around North America.  His recordings cover a plethora of styles from from jazz-fusion to "straight-ahead" to exploratory but with an ear towards strong melodic lines.

His new album "All One" is Wendel's second for Edition Records––it's basically a solo album with guests but what a lineup. The six-program song opens with "I Loves You Porgy".  The Ira & George Gershwin classic from "Porgy and Bess" features Wendel on saxes, bassoon, and synth bass supporting Cécile McLorin Salvant whose emotionally stunning vocal stands out.  His arrangement for the reed orchestra (all parts played by Wendel) is a delight from start to finish. Later in the program, Jose Jamés inhabits "Tenderly" (music by Walter Gross, lyrics by Jack Lawrence)––the 1946 tune has been recorded by Sarah Vaughan, Rosemary Clooney, Nat "King" Cole, Louis Armstrong & Ella Fitzgerald, Eric Dolphy, and many others. Wendel's arrangement is stunning not only when the reeds support the voice but how he "paints" the background behing the handsome tenor sax solo.   

Photo: Dave Stapleton
Trumpeter Terence Blanchard joins Wendel for the powerful and wide-ranging "Wanderers" (composed by the leader: listen below)––the orchestral arrangement reminds this listener of Julius Hemphill but note how the piece "opens" in the middle and takes on the feel of a progressive big band. Guitarist Bill Frisell leads the reeds through the handsome aural-scape of his piece "Throughout".  Wendel's arrangement creates layers of sound, some in the front of the mix, others farther back plus the cushion he creates for the guitarist is quite lovely.  Ther Wendel original "Speak Joy" opens with synth bass, bassoons murmuring in both speakers, the lovely flute sounds of Elena Pinderhughes moving the melody forward.  Lower tones dominate the background for the flute and soprano sax solos; there's a splendid moment when the two lead instruments unite and play the melody in unison as overdubbed flutes and saxes swirl behind them.

"All One" closes with the third of three Wendel originals, the atmospheric "In Anima".  Here, the acoustic piano of Tigran Hamasyan joins the synths to create a melancholic and trance-like background for a tenor sax (with effects) solo that threatens to veer off. That leads to a piano solo that builds off the rhythmic pattern and sets the stage for a return to the original melody. Now, it's played by bassoons that are joined by the tenor sax which then steps forward to bring the piece and the album to its gentle close.

"All One" is Ben Wendel's "pandemic" album. Recorded over a period of 18 months (between the Fall of 2020 through March 2022), some artists remotely at home, others in studios, the music never sounds stiff or overly arranged but it's also not a series of jams.  Each track stands out yet the "through-line" is that continued creative endeavors can survive and thrive in the face of an uncertain future. At times playful, other times quite serious, there is tenderness, resolve, joy, love, and even ferocity that makes the listener dig in for repeated listenings. Highly recommended!

For more information about Ben Wendel, go to To hear and to purchase the album, go to

Hear "Wanderers" with Terence Blanchard:

Monday, April 17, 2023

Sounds Abound

Photo: Antonio Narvaez
To the left is a photo of pianist and vocalist Champian Fulton in her natural habitat; that is, playing her infectious, swinging, life-affirming brand of popular music to a happy crowd.  The Oklahoma-born Fulton has been recording since 2007. She prefers the Trio setting (can't blame her––she's a fine pianist) although she often adds her flugelhorn playing Father, Stephen Fulton, to the group.  She's issued 14 albums, many on her own label but also several for Cellar Live and one for Posi-Tone. Over her career, her vocal style has blossomed so one hear a bit of Ella, Sarah Vaughan, and Dinah Washington.

Her new album, "Meet Me at Birdland" (self-released), has just been issued. The 13-song, 70-minute, experience features Ms. Fulton with her New York trio, bassist Hide Tanaka and drummer (brushes-man extraordinaire) Fukushi Tainaka.  This is one tight ensemble and the pianist's chops are on display throughout. Instrumentals such as "Theme for Basie" and the rip-roaring "Happy Camper" give the group room to stretch out while Ms. Fulton's vocals on "Just Friends" and "I've Got a Crush on You" makes one feel like she is singing just for you.  Even the oft-recorded "Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most" sounds fresh and alive. 

"Meet Me at Birdland" closes with "It's Been a Long, Long, Time"––voice and piano, no rhythm section, and this bluesy take is a treat.  One gets the feeling if Champian Fulton lived in the time of the Harlem "Rent Parties", she'd be living in the penthouse. This collection will most certainly brighten your life.  

To find out more, go to  To buy the new album, go to

Listen to the Trio dig into "Theme for Basie":

Like your guitar music electric and loud?  Or do you like is electric and sensitive?  "The Great Mirage" (ASG Recordings) pairs Joel Harrison and Anthony Pirog with the rhythm section of Allison Miller (drums) and Stephan Crump (electric bass) and the results are fascinating.  All four players have excellent jazz chops but here they turn their attention to music that could be best described as "Prog Rock meets Electric Fusion".  There are moments, such as on the album opening title track and on "Mortgage on My Soul" (composed by Keith Jarrett) that try men's speakers with both guitarists displaying chops that would impress fans of Jeff Beck and Steve Vai.  Yet, on "There's Never Enough Time" and "Desert Solitaire", there are moments of beauty and emotional depth.  

One should not downplay the work of Ms. Miller and Mr. Crump.  On the uptempo pieces, they set the pace – the funky rhythms on "East Hurley" rub against the wailing guitars so nicely. Listen to how gently they keep the pace flowing on Harrison's heartfelt "I'll See You in the Shining World". This particular tune is one whose melody sticks to your soul.  

Pirog and Harrison turn acoustic on the 75-second "Last Rose of Summer" with one of them playing dobro. Despite its brevity, the piece stands out.

The album closes with two powerful tracks. First, "Clarksdale" has a hard-edge tempered by the addition of Bruce Katz on the Hammond B-3 organ. Pirog's wailing solo pushes off the rhythm section while Harrison's ringing chords keep the structure. That leads to the rocking "Buffalo Heart"–composed by Harrison, the roaring piece sounds like an homage to Neil Young & Crazy Horse. The guitars roar at each other from thew corners of the stereo mix while the bass and drums throb and thrash in-between them.  

"The Great Mirage" is, in some ways, one of those "turn it up to 10" recordings, with piercing guitars that can cleanse one's soul. To the credit of Joel Harrison and Anthony Pirog, these songs have really strong and, for a good number, engrossing melodies.  Yes, it's loud, yes, it's mostly electric, but this music also has emotional power and maturity, not just a endless of loop of flashy solos.

For more information, go to  To hear more and buy the album, go to

Here's the title track:

Monday, April 3, 2023

A Song of/for Peace


Been listening a lot to "The New Day Bends Light", the self-released debut album of the Erica Seguine/Shon Baker Orchestra. The two leaders (Ms. Seguine is composer, arranger, and conductor while Shon Baker also composers and plays alto and soprano saxophones) formed the 21-member ensemble in 2011. They played intermittently in clubs around New York City and its environs.  They entered the recording studio in late August of 2019 with producer Darcy James Argue––the album was originally scheduled to be released in mid-2021 but it's taken until this year for the music to be released. 

There's plenty of great music over the course of seven tracks and 66 minutes. A look at the personnel listed below will yield a number of familiar names but the focus should be on the music the two leaders have created for their Orchestra.  One can hear the influence of Bob Brookmeyer, Jim McNeely, Maria Schneider, Carla Bley, and others in the arrangements. The original material is top-notch, the soloists stand out, and the sublime voice of Israeli-born vocalist Tammy Scheffer is a brilliant addition.  She shines on "Ose Shalom", Nurit Hirsch's adaptation of the final verse of the Kaddish, a prayer recited by Jews throughout the world during the service and as the "Mourner's Kaddish". The words––"He who makes peace in his high places/He shall make peace upon us/And upon all Israel/And let us say Amen"––do not speak of death but are spoken to help bring comfort to the mourner and the community.  

Listen below then go to and check the other tracks.  This is music that will resonate with you long after the tracks end.

To find out more about the Orchestra, go to

Here's "Ose Shalom"


Erica Seguine - composer, arranger (1, 3, 5, 6), conductor
Shon Baker - composer (2, 4, 7), alto saxophone, soprano saxophone (tracks 1, 3, 5, 6)

Ben Kono- alto saxophone, flute, clarinet
Remy Le Boeuf- alto saxophone, flute, alto flute, piccolo, clarinet (tracks 1-5, 7)
Peter Hess- tenor saxophone, flute, clarinet
Quinsin Nachoff- tenor saxophone, flute, clarinet
Andrew Hadro- baritone saxophone, bass clarinet, flute

Nathan Eklund- trumpet, flugelhorn
John Lake- trumpet, flugelhorn
Jonathan Saraga- trumpet, flugelhorn
Adam Horowitz- trumpet, flugelhorn

Scott Reeves- trombone, alto flugelhorn
Nick Grinder- trombone
Kalia Vandever- trombone
Becca Patterson- bass trombone, tuba

Meg Okura- violin, electric violin (tracks 1, 3-6)
Tammy Scheffer- voice (tracks 2, 5-7)
Eric Burns- guitar
Carmen Staaf- piano
Evan Gregor- bass
Paolo Cantarella- drums