Friday, February 6, 2015

Phil Haynes - NO FAST FOOD: In Concert

Year: 2014

Style: Alternative

Label: Self- Produced

Musicians: Phil Haynes - drums; Dave Liebman - tenor, soprano saxophone & wood flutes; Drew Gress - bass.

CD Review: SET 1: Rochester NY Concert: Phil Haynes' new release "NO FAST FOOD: In Concert" is a triumph for spontaneous, innovative improvisation in a piano-less trio setting. Without the piano to lead, or suggest ideas for soloists, it is one of jazz music's most basic, and challenged groupings.

Tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins' 1957 piano-less trio album "Way Out West," which featured Ray Brown, bass and drummer Shelly Manne; and saxophonist, trumpeter, violinist, composer Ornette Coleman's 60s piano-less trio with bassist David Izenzon and drummer Charles Moffett, were perhaps the two most forward-leaning and influential of this setting. The audience at The Bop Shop @ Lovin' Cup got to experience "NO FAST FOOD'S" dynamic threesome following the footprints of jazz giants; extending 'the tradition of the collaborative jazz trio' into protracted modernism; exploring the genre's vast outer reaches with virile intrepidity buoyed by consistency of sound and approach.

Accompanying the parallels of creative concept and formation that "NO FAST FOOD" shares with the historic trios of Rollins and Coleman, is a varied infusion of primal spiritualism, intense, angular discourses between players, and the recognizable, still echoing concepts of jazz masters reprised by committed, progressive players; NEA Jazz Master, saxophonist and flautist Dave Liebman "...among the most important saxophonist in contemporary music...a leader and artist of integrity and independent direction" --Downbeat Magazine; commanding master bassist Drew Gress "...relentlessly creative" --Nate Chinen, New York Times; and elite percussionist/composer Phil Haynes whose work has been ranked with that of drummers Jack DeJohnette, Elvin Jones and Roy Haynes: a collective of brilliant musicians scrupulously prepared to expel burdensome obfuscation and campy familiarity that may stifle the language of jazz required to state its deepest, non-material meanings and limpid mission.

The trio's combined improvisations on the opening track (Dawn On The Gladys Marrie) uncover  the spiritualism fashioned into an imaginative and penetrating lyric by Mary Elizabeth (Haynes) Lee; singularly, with Liebman's archetypal flute colors; and dually, in Haynes' mystical percussive accompaniment to the baleful bass figures laid out by Gress, like the first murmurs of new-born music before separation from ancient culture by time, technology and travel: each unveiling a fertile, collective imagination, with a penchant for targeting the untamed heights of artistic development.

But no matter how rarefied, or sacred the height, or depth, of the trio's collective creative reservoir, they never stray far from the fierce energy at the heart of free, spontaneous, cutting-edge mutuality that informs familiarity with bopish structural integrity (West Virginia Blues; Together); or the readiness to expand the boundaries of bewitching, 'free-ballad' beauty, as expressed in Liebman's tenor ode (Last Dance).

The tour-de-force of a concert is seldom planned; it arrives unexpectedly; very often from a surprising source. Such is the moment (The Code) Drew Gress' bass made good work out of during an extended, tension-laden display of technical proficiency, rooted in rigor from a prodigious active imagination, leading to a crushing final climax; giving final clearance in the form of explicit credence to the trio's unequivocal mission statement: NO FAST FOOD: credence then amplified in the concert's denouement (Ballad du Jour); a subtle, effectively placed melodic ornamentation to enhance the smooth curvature of the performance as it receded into the long-term memories of the audience. An audience unambiguously convinced that a collaborative, piano-less jazz trio that can master the ballad; will master everything else.

Track Listing: Dawn On The Gladys Marrie; West Virginia Blues; Together; Last Dance; The Code; Ballad du Jour.


SET 2: Concert : Milheim PA: Elk Creek Cafe & Aleworks: The second concert at the Elk Creek Cafe & Aleworks on 9/8/12, two days after Rochester NY, was an affirmation of "NO FAST FOOD"  burgeoning status and Haynes' composing prowess. All music was written and composed by Haynes. Each song a strainless accelerated performance; remarkable for prolific, innovative writing that brings to mind the 60s work of  Wayne Shorter while he was a member of Miles Davis' second great quintet. Shorter contributed almost half of a trifecta of original material (ESP; Nefertiti; Miles Smiles). That historic quintet developed into a virtual music machine. It obliterated boundaries at will;  'fast food' was verboten then too;  an elevated level of collaborative communication assured ground-breaking music on demand. Without question, it re-vitalized the genre and went on to inspire generations of future jazz musicians, and to thrill audiences with a ferocity that NO FAST FOOD was now poised to repeat.

The potency of the spiritual experience discharged in Milheim PA by NFF, was not unlike that previously felt in Rochester NY. This time it was manifest in the enlightened, disciplined observance of (Zen Lieb). The audacious stylistic shifts, rhythmic complexities, irregular phrasing and fluctuating tempos of (Out Of The Bowels; Blues For Israel; Incantation; Chant) treated the audience to the subtle, critical intangibles attendant to 'major league' musical aggregations: critical thinking; speed of light communication, stealth listening, and an innate facility always to be prepared for the unexpected.

Those who relish the rise and fall of smoldering passion from the raw, unbridled, collaborative jazz trio genius of renowned jazz masters (Rollins and Coleman especially), found it all alive and active in Liebman's raucous tenor saxophone (Workin' It); toting concepts and ideas collected over a lifetime, and now fused into a hard-bopish, progressive rant

"NO FAST FOOD" made good on its blunt boast of No B. S. in the other unplanned tour-de-force performance that electified the patrons at the Elk Creek Cafe & Aleworks. This time it came from Liebman's fire-breathing soprano saxophone during an insane, all-out frontal assault, with aggravated angularity and pernicious jaggedness unleashed upon the boundary-stretching magnum opus (Encore du Jour); creating a magnificent finale out of a manic mixture of chaotic spontaneity, divergent emotions and colors, buttressed by compacted architectural integrity; blended and broiled into a dizzying harmony of left-brain wits, agile creative imaginations and unusually coherent, 'free' mayhem.

Phil Haynes: NO FAST FOOD - In Concert is a collaborative jazz trio that challenges the listener to listen honestly; one that the committed jazz enthusiast must hear.

Track Listing; Zen Lieb; Out of the Bowels; Workin' It; Blues for Israel; Incantation; Chant; Encore du Jour.

Recorded lived by Jon Rosenberg
Edited, mixed and mastered by Jon Rosenberg

Produced by Phil Haynes


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Jerry Kalaf - Welcome To Earth: Music For Trio & Sextet

Year: 2014

Style: Jazz Instrumental

Label: Palm Mountain Records

Musicians: Doug Walter, alto & soprano saxophone; Barry Coates, guitar; Jeff Colella, piano; Gabe Davis, bass; Scott Breadman, percussion; Jerry Kalaf, drums (Tracks 1, 5, 7)

Leonard Thompson, piano; Ryan McGillicuddy, bass; Jerry Kalaf, drums (Tracks 2, 3, 6)

Rich Ruttenberg, piano; Domenic Genova, bass; Jerry Kalaf, drums (Tracks 4, 8) 

CD Review: For the past twenty years drummer/composer/arranger Jerry Kalaf has been quietly amassing a collection of impressive, original compositions. His last four released CDs, dating back to his first: (Trio Music, 1995), have produced over two dozen original works. On his latest album Welcome To Earth: Music For Trio & Sextet, Kalaf's composing & arranging take center stage with eight more original pieces.

Nice work, if you can get it.

Most of Kalaf's writing and arranging have been for trio, this venture into sextet may represent a change in approach; though not so much in style, leaving his penchant for surprise and unexpected harmonic twists intact, and vital to his work. On Welcome To Earth Kalaf deploys three different ensembles and as many pianists and bassists. The pianists are top drawer. Leonard Thompson is a first rate musician and jazz pianist. He has studied classical music and jazz since age 8. Rich Ruttenberg wanted to play jazz piano after he heard Bill Evans and Oscar PetersonJeff Colella is a legend; a veteran who knows where a lot of bodies are buried. For more than a decade and a half, he had been the pianist/conductor for singer Lou Rawls: a summation of talent that faithfully captures Kalaf's signature, manicured, tone colors; his melodic ornamentation; sense of harmonic development; and his economy and fluidity of transformation from one chord progression to another; entirely covering the collective spectrum of melody, harmony and rhythm, no matter the section rearrangements. It is a remarkable achievement and testament to unpretentious, adaptable, graceful form.

Kalaf's compositions for sextet are beautifully textured, refined and spacious.The opening piece (Ambiguity), an enigmatic melodious composition, supports his cogent entreaty " approach to composing can be termed absolute rather than programmatic. In other words, I usually don't draw from sources outside of music. I don't have a specific subject matter or imagery in mind; rather, I'm concerned with melody, harmony and rhythm. I often think of the names only after the piece is written." (Kalaf) So, it does not have to be defined to be real; it just is; it's just there: the hallmarks of a secure essentialist.

Drummer and composer
Jerry Kalaf
Melody, harmony and rhythm takes no holiday in another Kalaf composition for sextet (Siyaya Samba); with superb melodic line player Doug Walter on soprano saxophone exemplifying the understated elegance in the Kalaf's writing; contoured by Jeff Colella's sympathetic piano, and further augmented with Scott Breadman's nuanced, blending percussion.

Special mention must be made of Kalaf's tribute to the late, esteemed jazz guitarist, composer and arranger James Stanley Hall a.k.a Jim Hall (This One's For Jim (For Jim Hall)); Hall is portrayed melodically, harmonically, rhythmically and swingin' by Doug Walter, alto saxophone, Barry Coates, guitar, Jeff Colella, piano, and Jerry Kalaf, drums.

Kalaf's trio composing and arranging also should be added to the 'special mention' list. There are some gems to be mined there. On the Bill Evans inspired (The Jazz Answer), pianist Leonard Thompson reprises Evans' classical, jazz curvature of the improvised line. Thompson's piano is versatile; later he approaches (Not Knowing) like real cool love, quietly, steady and stable; not running off with each new idea that presents itself, he gets good support from Kalaf's sensitive, unobtrusive brush work, to build and release melodic tension, and sustain extended, mood-driven conversations with bassist Ryan McGillicuddy.

Kalaf's writing to pianist Rich Ruttenberg is poignant and elegant. It decodes Kalaf composer's other vulnerable side (See You Next Year; Moving On); Ruttenberg and lyrical bassist Domenic Genova read each piece with refined style and consideration; by products of long, trusted professional relationships; ever ready to support Kalaf's search for creative, inspirational sources not "outside the music."  

To the listener it may be immaterial whether Kalaf's work reflects his 'absolute' or, is essentialist. What is more compelling though, is: Kalaf is the best kind of traditional sentimentalist: honesty and commitment brace his art.

Track Listing: Ambiguity; The Jazz Answer; Welcome To Earth; See You Next Year; Siyaya Samba; Not Knowing; This One's For Jim (For Jim Hall); Moving On.

Produced by Jerry Kalaf

Saturday, January 24, 2015


Year: 2014

Label: CAPRI Records

Style: Jazz instrumental

Musicians: Jeff Hamilton - drums; Tamir Hendelman - piano; Christoph Luty - bass.

CD Review: The Jeff Hamilton Trio's decade-long working relationship has produced another patently remarkable date: Jeff Hamilton Trio: GREAT AMERICAN SONGS - Through The Years.  The trio features Tamir Hendelman, piano; Christoph Luty, bass and Hamilton on drums. They stitch together an impressive collection of show tunes, ballads, classic standards and popular songs by some of America's most esteemed composers; splendidly arranged and recorded; creating warmth, palpable excitement and wonderful nostalgia.

Hamilton is known as a versatile, original drummer with deep-rooted jazz associations. He has worked with such notable musicians as, bassist Ray Brown, pianists Oscar Peterson and Monty Alexander, and vocalists Ella Fitzgerald and Rosemary Clooney among others. Hamilton is an active, first-call drummer who co-leads the Clayton-Hamilton big band in addition to fronting his high powered, working trio. Tamir Hendelman is an award-winning jazz pianist/arranger. He brings an eclectic mix of playing styles to the ensemble, especially Brazilian and blues forms; he is an exceptional interpreter of the jazz standard. Christoph Luty is a formidable double-bassist, whose work is extolled by his mentor and teacher, renowned bassist John Clayton as playing that exemplifies "...swinging bass lines, lyrical solos and a great, natural sound that is huge and full." By any measure, an exquisite group of jazz musicians.

Despite such an extended length of time spent on the bandstand, they still play with a verve and indomitable commitment normally reserved for the domain of newlyweds; enabling this date to glisten with swing, cohesion, and the oft overlooked main ingredient: perfect tempo: enough to sate the passions of the most discriminating music lovers. In the pantheon of jazz trio recordings of songs from the American Songbook, this performance is remarkable for the modernism, imagination and interpretive fortitude affected by the players.

Pianist Tamir Hendelman
Modernism takes a giant leap in the opening track (Falling In Love With Love), a 1938 show tune by Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart. Originally composed as a waltz, it comes rejuvenated, under the spell of Hendelman's swinging 88s and Luty's lyrical bass lines. Jimmy Van Heusen & Johnny Burke's 1944 jazz standard (It Could Happen To You), a particular favorite of Bud Powell, Chet baker, Miles Davis and Shirley Horn, is also appropriated and scorched by Hendelman's piano, and Hamilton's drums, into a manic modernism way beyond its years.

The trio puts its collective imagination on display with an interpretation of George & Ira Gershwin's 1926 'all out' ballad (Someone To Watch Over Me). A song that seems never to stop weeping, it tempts Luty's versatile bow into empathetic compliance; leaving Hendelman's piano to read and translate distress; measuring, note by note, the depth of longing buried in the heart of the lyric: in the hands of mainstream musicians, maybe a trivial affair; but to this trio, it becomes a passionate rendezvous of imagination and interpretation.

This is a group that has big fun making music with a profound affinity for each other on the bandstand; every thrill reflected in the music's bright emotional character. It is difficult to avoid noticing the big 'hands' Hamilton and Luty bring on deck to help Hendelman engage his award-winning, torrid, Brazilian musical side on another Rodgers & Hart show tune from 1927 (Thou Swell); filled with awesome runs, and a focused reflection on Billy Strayhorn by way of quotes from a Strayhorn classic, "Rain Check." 

Double bassist Christoph Luty
A powerful element of attraction that deeply appeals to the imagination, and permeates the date, is the sweet sensation of creeping anticipation that arrests the listener as the songs billow; one upon the other. Then...that one special song comes along; the one that brings a deeper satisfaction, where everything comes together in a rush of emotions; and bells start to is the Jeff Hamilton Trio's interpretation of the Gershwins' 1928 evergreen (How Long Has This Been Going On). Hamilton, as mentioned earlier, is a versatile drummer, with an original streak. Nicknamed 'The Hammer,' he summons admirable restrain and agility to the tips of his cat's-paw light brushes (a big handsome, lithe cat), and the tune floats in the air like 'red sparkles.' Meanwhile, Hendelman treats the listener to any number of reflections on great jazz pianists; certainly Oscar Peterson's melodic introspection, and the bluesy, languorous swing of Red Garland. Luty? Well he's just Luty...'lyrical...huge and full.'

Just in passing, (Tenderly), Walter Gross & Jack Lawrence's beautiful standard from 1946, and Jimmy Van Heusen & Johnny Mercer's 1939 whimsical charmer (I Thought About You), are strictly 'off limits': FOR SWINGIN' LOVERS ONLY: Limited edition; special reserve: very high quality stuff; up there where the air is rare.

There are exquisite rhythm sections, and then there are the 'ultra-exquisite' kind that the late, great, pianist/composer/bandleader Horace Silver was wont to call, 'kick ass' rhythm sections; the latter colorfully, and accurately describes the Jeff Hamilton Trio: a jazz trio that comports its musical wares without strain, and moves effortlessly between mood, tempo and rhythm. Through the years, always finding a way to make the listener wish the music would never stop.

Track Listing: Falling In Love With Love; Tenderly; The More I See You; It Could Happen To You; Someone To Watch Over Me; Thou Swell; You Took Advantage Of Me; I Thought About You; All Or Nothing At All; How Long Has This Been Going On.

Produced & Directed by Takao Ishizuka

Arranged by Jeff Hamilton, Tamir Hendelman, Christoph Luty.
Recorded at Tritone Recording, North Hollywood CA

Recorded, Mixed and Mastered by Talley Sheerwood

CAPRI Records Ltd. PO Box 892 Bailey CO 80421



Saturday, January 17, 2015


Year: 2015

Style: Jazz

Label: Challenge Records Int.

Musicians: Eric Vloeimans - trumpet; Tuur Florizoone - accordion; Jorg Brinkmann - cello.

CD Review: Contemporary, traditionalist musicians who declare that the term 'jazz' is too 'limiting' to describe their music, as both trumpeter Eric Vloeimans and cellist Jorg Brinkmann opine (liner notes: Oliver's Cinema), beg the question: what is 'their music'? Further, since each is a serious artist, superbly appointed in technical proficiency, accomplishment and experiential resourcefulness, what do they mean by the term 'limiting'? These questions bring to mind telling musings offered by two of jazz music's immortal icons: Miles Dewey Davis III and Thelonious Sphere Monk. Miles, from his exalted vantage as a jazz innovator/originator, discovered: "In jazz there are no wrong notes"; an observation of the genre's inherent, limitless freedom to interpret, influence, improvise and perform, completely in sync with Monk's rooted, genius composer's admonition to a guest expert on WKCR Columbia University radio station, 1976 "...tell 'the guy' on the air, the {jazz} piano aint got no wrong notes." (Thelonious Monk: The Life And Times Of An American Original by Robin D. G. Kelley)  So much for jazz being 'limiting.' But what exactly is the 'music' that constitutes: ERIC VLOEIMANS' Oliver's Cinema?

All that aside, "Oliver's Cinema" intently focuses on the aesthetics of good writing, innovation and virtuosity to create its art; music that fosters a profoundly emotive use of calm...if contemplated judiciously. Then, there is Vloeimans' purpose to consider, which materialized out of an admitted prejudice against the "kitschy" accordion; and subsequent reversal of attitude and musical tastes: all "after a thorough education" (Vloeimans); sitting at a musical dinner table feasting on classical trumpet and jazz studies at the Rotterdam Conservatory; later benefiting from tutelage by renowned jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd; and afterward, becoming a "...part of the the big bands of Frank Foster and Mercer Ellington." Experiences that facilitate the triumph of timbre over prejudice, and underscore the creative musical concepts expressed by  "Oliver's Cinema."

The series of well-preserved, historic musical pictures through which the trio carefully wanders: pictures of people, places and things, is spell-binding in originality. Clearly reflecting the imaginative right brain anagrammatic decoding of "Eric Vloeimans" into "Oliver's Cinema." The succession of musical images start with Vloeimans' soaring original composition venerating the exotic court of the magical (Aladdin): Vloeimans' trumpet is breathy; personal:  Jorg Brinkmann's cello swings melodically and sensually, as if it were spiritually conceived of the Buena Vista Social Club in Havana, Cuba. Brinkman's cello is uber-versatile; endowed with chameleon-like wizardry; able to lure animated soundscapes out of the conflated rarefied timbre acquired by Vloeimans' trumpet, and Florizoone's accordion. Brinkmann also possesses formidable composing skills, his cello outfits (Prince Henri) with a credible, rest-stroke bossa guitar accent to effect a harmonious contrast to Vloeimans' enthralling, Milesian-like emotional shadings (Saeta: Sketches of Spain) of lament on open trumpet; in time, Brinkmann's forte, an imposing, versatile, bowing technique blossoms on another of his compositions (Seggiano's Eve) and once more in Krzysztof Komeda's (Rosemary's Baby).   

Vloeimans inadvertently follows the  indelible footsteps Miles Davis - a relentless seeker of exceptional talent - to recruit Tuur Florizoone and his venerable accordion: going where good music lives - Davis went to the New York jazz landmarks of Harlem and 52nd Street; Vloeimans to the Belgian town of Rijkevorsel...for a concert, and to imbibe fine beer - each in search of that special player able to achieve a certain 'sound' and aural balance; there after, propelling that musician to higher, 'limitless' performance levels; as with Coltrane, Chambers, Hancock, Carter, Williams, Shorter et al. Vloeimans also mirrors Davis as an artist of extraordinary talent, exhaustive preparedness, and seared ability to 'hear.' Two trumpetists whose soloing techniques - phrasing, use of force, form, and sense of dynamics - are always impeccable. Vloeimans most impressive accumulations of parts of the whole surface on (Les Vapes; Imagining; Papillon). Singularly, his trumpet expresses fluid multitudes of emotions and colors, with cinematic/aural clarity against a background of vigorous, energetic, rhythmic beauty.

The resilience, lithe sonic movement, and crucial artistic link, from past to 'now,' are beautifully annotated in the endless textural possibilities and distinctive timbre of Tuur Florizoone's ubiquitous accordion. Florizoone contributes memory and entertainment to the parade of musical images; a tasteful, succulent interpretation of his joyous composition (L'Amour des Moules); the limpid, impassioned experience of (Imagining); an immersion into pianist Enrico Pieranunzi's luscious, captivating (Fellini's Waltz); and the stunning micro-vibe of the senses being musically appropriated in (Slow Motion). Florizoone's art emanates truly from a center of potent seduction.

Finally, the group's collective arranging, composing and interpretive skills represents critical dispositions concerned over the enduring underpinnings supporting jazz music's model of conceptual freedom, spontaneity and structural integrity spread throughout "ERIC VLOEIMANS' Oliver's Cinema" and without which, it might appeal primarily to a stiff cadre of fastidious cognoscenti.

Track Listing: Aladdin; Prince Henri; Cinema Paradiso; Les Vapes; L'Amour des Moules; Imagining; Seggiano;s Eve; Fellini's Waltz; Slow Motion; Rosemary's Baby; Papillon; Slow Tango; Bambi; Rosa Turbinata.

Executive producers: Marcel van den Broek & Anne de Jong
A&R Buzz by Marcel van den Broek
Recorded & mastered by Bert van der Wolf for Northstar Recording Services BV

Eric Vloeimans plays a Hub van Larr trumpet

Friday, January 9, 2015

Ali Bey - My Finest Hour

Year: 2015

Style: Jazz Fusion

Label: Self-Released

Musicians: Ali Bey - bass; Larry Andrews - guitar; Timothy Omar Stroud - drums.

Guest Musicians: Raymond Davis Jr. - keyboards (3); Raphael Statin - soprano sax (8); Ladarrel Johnson - alto & tenor sax (4 & 6); Larry Tucker - drums (6); Eric Joe - drums (1, 2 & 4).

CD Review: Detroit has produced some of the most famous recording acts in the world of music; from the influential soul singer Little Willie John to Marvin Gaye, the Temptations and Stevie Wonder. These days, genuine top down Motor City fusion - the New Detroit Jazz Funk -  is relentlessly beating its way out of the Metro Detroit area. One of the champions pushing this torrid jazz fusion movement is bass guitarist Ali Bey.

Bey and his trio, plus five guest musicians put 'go for broke,' freaky funk into their new CD Ali Bey: My Finest Hour; a 'living in the moment' experience highlighting the resurgence of a great music city. A Detroit native, with a strong connection to jazz, blues, R&B and Gospel, Bey mines the deepest traditions of these music genres and finds everything he needs for him and this high-power group of  jazz fusion masters to stay on the groove, and stoke the jazz fusion passions of listeners near and far.

A top notch jazz fusion band must have a killer back beat, and be quick about integrating a strong feel of funk, soul and R&B into their groove. Bey exploits the back beat using a trio of drummers toting speed, agility and power; Timothy Omar Stroud, Larry Tucker, and Eric Joe: each an in-demand player. The immediate urge to compare their drumming styles reveals only aesthetic differences. Stroud though, harbors a percussive persona that's classy, nuanced and enhances legendary power that garners the singular descriptor: "Thunder"; a resounding feature that comes wedded to the heavy weather in Bey's deeply grooved bass riffs; and tunnels through two of the date's deepest, most soulful compositions (Slugger; Joe Cool).

But it is drummer Eric Joe who draws first 'sticks' to apply his signature back beat, and blazing rhythmic accents to the opener ("Dam" I Got A Toothache!!); throbbing with hellacious jazz funk fury from Larry Andrew's rhythm guitar and Bey's funk-bonded bass; each player giving no ground, and strongly hinting to the uninitiated that, 'no pain, no gain,' is the collective, manic mantra of this jazz funk juggernaut.

As composer/arranger of all the songs on the CD, Bey brings freshness, originality and inspires improvisational spontaneity. As a player, his performance approach is tactfully nuanced: eschewing overplaying in favor of compactness and granite-like rhythmic integrity; he listens well, does not dampen harmonies; generally locks in, settles back, and cruises like he's at the wheel of a hot, new Chevy. The band's versatility and depth augment Bey's exceptional composer/arranger capabilities on (Ace In The Hole); featuring multi-instrumentalist Ladarrel "Saxappeal" Johnson; a fine melodic line player and skillful interpreter; completely at ease with drummer Larry Tucker's solid back beat.

Much like one of his influences (guitarist John Scofield), Bey leverages funky jazz fusion into expanded experimental and improvisational brilliance on the title track (My Finest Hour); utilizing wily dexterity, blazing speed and accuracy, in a duel of rhythmic wits; first with Raphael Statin's counterattacking soprano saxophone; then with Stroud's rockin' percussive mastery: unleashing some of the rawest, funkiest jazz fusion played during the date.

"Ali Bey: My Finest Hour," consumes the better part of an hour: in retrospect it is quality time well spent, funk-bonding with Bey and his band of fusion masters, as he celebrates, 'his finest, funkiest hour.'

Track Listing: "Dam" I Got A Toothache!!; Larry And Ali's Theme; Sanktum Sanktorium; Brooklyn Blues; Slugger; Ace In The Hole; Joe Cool; My Finest Hour.

Recording and Mixing Engineer: Robert G. Andrews
Recorded and Mixed at: Joyful Noise Studios in Detroit Michigan
Mastered by Greg Reilly at the "Disc" LTD, Recording Studios.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Year: 2014

Style: jazz vocal

Label: Skinny Chick Records

Musicians: Jamila Ford - vocal; Michael Long - guitar (1 - 5); Pete Kuzma - piano (1 - 4); Leslie King - bass (1 - 4); Chuck Staab - drums (1 - 4); Pete Korpella - percussion (3 & 5); Anthony Bonsera - trumpet (2), flugelhorn (3).

CD Review: The great jazz vocalist Carmen McRae once famously advised a musician in her band,"if there is nothing to play; play nothing." McRae understood, and adhered to a sustaining adage in jazz that: less is more.

Jamila Ford's latest CD: THE DEEP END, certainly suggests that she is of similar persuasion: Ford performs only five songs on this date - no more: Her songs are painted in vivid sound colors; fearlessly she plunges into the depths of Universal emotions: happiness and sadness; and emerges a charming song stylist validating an impressive artistic repertoire with economy and style, able to straddle original jazz traditions with ease. Ford nails everything solidly in place with one-of-a-kind, exquisite, disarming freshness, bringing to mind with impact, another superb song stylist: Nancy Wilson, and a 1961 classic date with the Cannonball Adderley quintet. Ford however, increases the degree of difficulty significantly. She includes a composition of her own among her souvenirs, and scales the heights effortlessly with flawless interpretations of songs of iconic composers from trumpeter Miles Davis to film score composers Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington.

Only very confident song stylists lead off a date with a highlight: the definite high point. Properly executed, it can establish necessary trust between performer and listener. And that's the way Ford starts the session; establishing lots of trust with an attention-getting interpretation of Miles Davis' influential classic (All Blues). Ford's vocal colors are sharp, exciting, 'swingingly' pleasing to the ear, and further enhanced by Leslie King's ultra-modern bass funk sunk deep in the groove, and Pete Kuzman's contrasting, nuanced, adaptive, attention to modern keyboard detail.

A graceful pivot by the lissome Ford leads to (Gentle Rain), a classic composition by Brazilian guitarist Luis Bonfa; out of which Anthony Bonsera's trumpet sound leans ever so elegantly towards muted, piercing, Milesian simplicity; spreading a haunting harmonic tapestry over which Ford extend a formidable pitch range, and a keen sense of dynamics nourished by an emotional honesty reminiscent of the late Abbey Lincoln.

The lyricist in Ford blossoms in her composition (Silencio). Her imagery is positive and takes on a life of its own; her creative concepts bear the convincing clarity and subtle intuition of a sage: "...the twinkle in the darkest midnight sky"; "...the dance between the dreamer and the dream." Ford stitches together these images in a sensuous, lilting Latin groove; perfect for close-contact dancing; keeping her creative center open, free, and leaving nothing for the imagination to struggle unnecessarily over.

Unafraid of the 'lightning' in new, sweet love, Ford displays genuine kittenish vulnerabilities in her interpretation of tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine's 1971 defining hit (Sugar). Ford puts over the song with the winning assurance of a seasoned veteran. Mitchell Long's guitar deepens the groove: Kuzma, King and Stabb polish it to a soulful, swingin' consistency.

Ford tops of the date with delectable allure. She reaches into the depth and breadth of her repertoire to offer an impassioned, reprise of Dimitri Tiomkin & Ned Washington's stunning ode to raw, sensual love (Wild Is The Wind) from the 1957 movie of the same name. Ford nimbly navigates the song's subtle chromatic variations, and combines with Long's mindful, solo guitar to extract the profound ache of 'longing' suffused in the lyric; releasing the song's full emotive power with an honest interpretation of the song's deeply moving lament.

Jamila Ford is the real deal; the total package; accomplished; professional; able to harness vocal power on demand; a seeker of excellence; searching out the critical essence of economy and vitality residing 'in the deep end' of creative art where the concept of, 'less is more,' is stored; then thoughtfully applying each to her 'genuine path in life': Music.

And she does not sound like anyone else!

Track Listing: All Blues; Gentle Rain; Silencio; Sugar; Wild Is The Wind.

Recorded at Stagg Street Studios by Thomas Hornig
Mixed at Tom Cat On The Prowl Productions by Thomas Hornig
Mastered at Anisound by Matt Forger
Assistant Engineer: Josh Franks
Trumpet/Flugelhorn recorded at Veneto West by Diego Lopez


Friday, December 26, 2014


Year: 2014

Style: Big Band Jazz

Label: Self

Musicians: Vance Thompson - trumpet & flugel; Michael Wyatt, Joe Jordan - trumpets; Tylar Bullion - trombone; Sean Copeland - tenor & bass trombone; Keith Brown - piano & fender rhodes; Jamel Mitchell - alto & soprano saxophones; Greg Tardy - tenor saxophone & bass clarinet; David King - baritone & soprano saxophones; Taylor Coker - bass; Nolan Nevels - drums.

CD Review: In 2012 Vance Thompson and the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra released an album of glorious Christmas music (The Knoxville Jazz Orchestra: Christmas Time Is Here). It was an impressive date, remarkable for the joy it created, sense of fulfillment it inspired, and the power-packed, unmitigated swing it incorporated across its festive soundscape. This album portrayed Thompson as an creative, non-conforming arranger/player with detailed, innovative concepts of modernity.

On his latest CD, VANCE THOMPSON: FIVE PLUS SIX - SUCH SWEET THUNDER, 2014, Thompson and an assemblage of core players from "Christmas Time Is Here" bring the joyous swing of the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra with them; unleashing a festival of brass and rhythm with real-time, crisp, biting freshness. They combine their talents and ideas with the rest of the ensemble to produce a date of explosive modernity, innovation and charming surprise; highlighted by a searing 'new look' at some rare, but beautiful and challenging compositions of modern jazz music's 'Sacred Three'Thelonious Monk, Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington.

Thompson's innate 'hearing' is acute and discerning. His chart arrangements accent the band's virtuosity and abilities, and he creates great soloing space, ensuring maximum audience enjoyment. In response, FIVE PLUS SIX rises to the occasion on a 'bigger than life' sound of jazz invented by its stunning array of exceptionally vibrant multi-instrumentalists.

The original five core players headlining this gig, are: trumpeter/leader Vance Thompson; trumpeter Michael Wyatt; multi-instrumentalists Greg Tardy & David King; and keyboardist Keith Brown. The remainder of the ensemble's lean and mean 'sweet thunder' is accounted for by trombonist Tylar Bullion; trumpeter Joe Jordan; multi-instrumentalists James Mitchell and Sean Copeland; bassist Taylor Coker and drummer Nolan Nevels.

The band's opening selection, Thelonious Monk's classic composition (Pannonica), penned in honor of the "Jazz Baroness," Kathleen Annie Pannonica Rothschild, was originally written as a ballad, but over time has evolved into a swinger. Of the many jazz compositions dedicated to Rothschild, it is perhaps the most played and best remembered by contemporary jazz musicians; an exception is Horace Silver's "Nica's Dream." It is treated to dense swing, a bracing counter melody, a blazing mid-course trumpet solo, and Monk's signature dissonance reverberates from deep within the brass section...a first class opener!

Turning to the permanent, classic composing structures of Billy Strayhorn (Isfahan); one of the final collaborations between Strayhorn and Ellington which appeared on Ellington's 1966 masterpiece album The Far East Suite, Thompson's chart reprises Strayhorn's identifiable linear style complete with fearless rhythmic configurations, textured chromatic changes, immaculate tonal balance; and a classic Strayhorn-esque coda configured with an unexpected rhumba-like melodic turn; an iconic composer summed up with deft precision by Thompson; and by Ellington as "my right arm, my left arm, all the eyes in the back of my head, my brain waves in his head, and his in mine."

Utilizing the element of surprise to notable effect, Thompson rearranges Dolly Parton's 2001 composition (Little Sparrow); regarded as one her best, it reflects some of the cultural influences of bluegrass, folk and Gospel music that blended profoundly with Parton's East Tennessee heritage. Thompson's arrangement embellishes the song's identifiable melody with ascending harmonies, riveting angularity, shifting moods, a stack of powerful solos from piano, tenor saxophone, and a mellifluous, soaring open trumpet tribute to a Sparrow's fragile existence; beautiful in its meager universe; but telling a larger truth about life, and living, in the all-inclusive jargon of jazz music.

The high point of the album is undoubtedly the title track: Ellington's (Such Sweet Thunder), which appeared on a 1957 Ellington album of the same name containing compositions based on the work of English poet, playwright, William Shakespeare. The band's deep, elegant swing is vintage Ellington; with lots of room for extended solos; a tough tenor that turns in a burner, and Keith Brown's 'magic of the moment' playing to remind us of the inimitable form and distinct character of Ellington's piano.

There are two other Monk compositions to savor: (Ugly Beauty) containing more of Monk's complex dissonance and jagged chromatic dispositions; a tune that obtains a special ranking among Monk's works as the only waltz. It was recorded in 1967. Also, (Four In One) a 1951 Monk composition that encompasses a perfidiously complex melody which throws more than a few curves at the horns; yet they manage to emerge all in tact and together at the end.

FIVE PLUS SIX's final evocations to Ellington are made through Keith Brown's arrangement of (Prelude To A Kiss), a 1938 Ellington jazz standard, originally perfectly suited to Johnny Hodges' sensual alto sax sound, but here Brown's Fender Rhodes gives the tune a quick modern pulse to match brisk, uptempo accents from drummer Nolan Nevels; and finally, (Rockin' In Rhythm) a 1931 freely-swinging Ellington instrumental composition for the colorful, energetic, scantily-clad Cotton Club Revues, expressed in surprising Latin jazz colors thanks to the gutsy baritone sax of David King, and a locked in, rockin' rhythm section.

VANCE THOMPSON: FIVE PLUS SIX - SUCH SWEET THUNDER is a date that benefits greatly from the formidable talent of a fearless arranger who is undaunted in his concepts, and who makes maximum use of the enormous abilities of several accomplished multi-instrumentalists to present music that is never stagnant, but springs from a splendid spectrum of sound colors and mood-changing possibilities.

Track Listing: Panonnica; Isfahan; Little Sparrow; Ugly Beauty; Such Sweet Thunder; Prelude To A Kiss; Rockin' In Rhythm; Four In One: He's Gone Away.

Executive Producers: Barbara And Jeffrey Crist
Associate Producers: Bill And Elisabeth Rukeyser

Recorded and edited by Brendan Harkin at:
Wildwood Recording Studio, Franklin TN - Adam Smith assistant 
Additional editing by Ben Ryerkirk
Mixing engineer: Ricardo Landaeta
Mix Supervisor: Bob Katz
Made at Digital Domain Studio B, Orlando FL
Mastered by Bob Katz at Digital Domain, Orlando FL

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