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 to create 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 and helping out 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 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

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

EZRA WEISS SEXTET - Before You Know It [Live In Portland]

Year: 2014

Style: Jazz


Musicians: Ezra Weiss - piano; Farnell Newton - trumpet; John Nastos - alto saxophone; Jon Shaw - bass; Christopher Brown - drums.

CD Review: The highly acclaimed pianist/composer/educator Ezra Weiss follows up his purposeful, groundbreaking jazz/big band CD: Ezra Weiss and the Rob Scheps Big Band- Our Path To This Moment (ROARK RECORDS, 2012), with his new equally dazzling and powerful live date: Ezra Weiss Sextet - Before You Know It [Live In Portland]: at the Ivories Jazz lounge October/December 2013, to be more precise.

Weiss, an inclusive and versatile pianist/arranger, much lionized by peers as a formidable jazz composer, has assembled a pride of young musical lions from the burgeoning Portland jazz scene and provided them with the kind of extended landscape for innovative exploration that brings into sharp focus the dynamism, skillful innovation and modernism of great sixties classic sextets: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley and Horace Silver.

Weiss' compositional architecture for the sextet breathes openly and freely. Adequate space is deployed for soloists' statements to go full-tilt towards improvisational maturity; then 'way out' into bristling, invigorating modernity and versatility fueled by the unbridled power of trumpeter/educator Farnell Newton, "considered a young lion on the (Portland, Oregon) jazz scene...his name on a bill serves as a seal of freshness"(; alto saxophonist John Nastos, another young lion on the Portland jazz scene, a native of Portland, Oregon and multi-instrumentalist who has performed with a who's who of jazz luminaries from New York to Oregon. His most recent work has been with the Dianne Shuur touring band; and finally, tenor saxophonist Devin Phillips, a native of New Orleans who is credited with possessing "an intricate and rhythmically innovative sound." (Bio), has toured and recorded with Wynton Marsalis, Eddie Palmieri, the Headhunters, the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra and others.

The structural integrity of the rhythm section is shored up by Weiss' piano, bassist Jon Shaw, teacher/performer and another rising star on the Portland jazz scene, and drummer Christopher Brown's "mix of a swinging straight-ahead style and tight R&B grooves." (Willamette Week).

Ezra Weiss Sextet
Pace of performance is crucial in live concert settings: it augments mood and tempo. Ezra Weiss Sextet demonstrates a keen awareness of these appealing aesthetics with a careful setting of each (Winter Machine); an opening track bundled within indigo repeating patterns from Weiss' piano - a format effective in soliciting listener attention - and a smooth entry way for soloists, in this case the swinging clarity of John Nastos' alto saxophone, and the features of modernism outlined in Farwell Newton's trumpet. Newton, and Nastos then take the tempo up more than a few notches (The Crusher); leave no doubt about their significant improvisational prowess, and provide subtle hints of a musical firestorm looming in the works.

But first, a contribution of symmetry, balance and form to the sextet's performance arc is proffered via the charming, bluesy (Don't Need No Ticket); emerging cohesively out of the limpid depth of the sextet's collective creative imagination; then contiguously positioned against a complex, but familiar, forward-leaning arrangement of George & Ira Gershwin's 1937 jazz standard (A Foggy Day); itself a bridge to the nostalgic (Jessie's Song), an import from Weiss' 2012 CD: Our Path To This Moment. A moment that elevates the ambient musical temperature through Weiss' effective application of force, appealing keyboard runs and studied minimalism to assist Newton, Nastos and Phillips in building prolonged tension and climaxes into a challenging (The Five A.M. Strut); the front line horns go way out unobstructed, Jon Shaw's bass is super funky, and Weiss' piano soloing is crisp, coherent, logical and ultra-modern.

The first suggestion of an emotion-packed firestorm of sound from the Ezra Weiss Sextet about to bear down on the Ivories Jazz Lounge in Portland, Oregon, began with Weiss' unrelenting, brooding, sorrowful McCoy Tyner-esque piano prelude to John William Coltrane's powerful 1963 elegy (Alabama). Tenor saxophonist Devin Phillips' approach to the composition's bottomless sorrow is compassionate, even reverential, and deeply moving. Once the coincidence of reflection and understanding is achieved, the sextet moves deeper into the mystical recesses of Coltrane's endless spiritual universe; chaos advances stealthily out of Christopher Brown's smoldering drums, Jon Shaw's cimmerian bass figures, and Weiss' unyielding piano...but Phillips' tenor is indomitable and can't be denied; Coltrane's spiritual presence is overwhelming in  untamed beauty and strength from the majestic turbulence of his 'sheets of sounds'...and then, when time ultimately  stands still, the tenor's voice succumbs to a coda of resolution through a Trinity of harmony, tranquility and order.

The final selection, and the date's title track (Before You Know It), records the arc of the sextet's performance at its apogee; as a distant light which spells promise and hope; a dedication to Weiss' first born son . Its colors are bluesy, cool and soulful, with a touch of Gospel, and the emotional features of Zawinul's "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" a perfect tune to guide an audience down the final descent from an exquisite evening of jazz music played by master musicians.

EZRA WEISS SEXTET - Before You Know it [Live In Portland] further solidifies Weiss' bona fides as a premier jazz composer/pianist/arranger; adds significant real estate to his landscape of music possibilities, and suspends only a deep, wide sky to measure his artistic reach.

Track Listing: Winter Machine; The Crusher; Don't Need No Ticket; A Foggy Day; Jessie's Song; The Five A.M. Strut; Alabama; EZ Introduces The Band; Before You Know It.

Produced by Ezra Weiss
Recorded by Rick Gordon
Mixed and Mastered by Katsuhiko Naito

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Delfeayo Marsalis...The Last Southern Gentleman

Year: 2014

Style: Jazz

Label: Troubadour Jazz Records

Musicians: Delfeayo Marsalis - trombone; Ellis Marsalis - piano; John Clayton - bass; Marvin "Smitty" Smith - drums.

Additional tambourine/bass drum on "Sesame Street" by Herlin Riley

CD Review: "Delfeayo Marsalis - The Last Southern Gentleman" speaks low, sensual, musical poetry out of Marsalis' Bach 42-G trombone with a Bach 6 1/2AL Megatone, and emphatically puts that old feelin' in romance again. That errant feeling, so hard to nail down without full blown honesty and commitment, is fashioned out of the beautiful soundscape of the Great American Songbook and others, and adds enviable effulgence to Marsalis' burgeoning reputation as one of the premiere trombonists, composers and producers of jazz music today.

The CD opens with the Delfeayo Marsalis' mesmerizing, mellow-toned trombone, smoothly crooning his composition (The Secret Love Affair). Marsalis play with clarity, economy and superby balanced form reminiscent of Ellington's great trombonist  Lawrence Brown. But it is drummer Marvin "Smitty" Smith who adroitly captures the senses; then transports them to an exotic destination where the 'bolero' is still danced by the light of the moon, and the prevailing mood is perfect for Ellis Marsalis' piano's subtle 'invitation' (Autumn Leaves) to enjoy superb piano stylings shaped from a life of hard working and teaching in jazz. Marsalis' contention being that, "jazz is not just about music - jazz is about life."  

"The Last Southern Gentleman" is a date that has what it takes to trigger a significant emotional event. Significant emotional events usually cause change - be careful with whom you are close, as you listen to the music; change is fickle. It may be good, or not. On the surface though, there is a harvest of 'good' that derives from this music, the musicians and the mission: Music played by a quartet of acknowledged jazz masters with a mission to " tribute to the humanity and humility at the center of the Southern lifestyle that birthed America's original music." (Delfeayo Marsalis). Music that is drawn from classic ballads and jazz standards of venerable composers and lyricists; tunes not heard much these days, but which jazz fans can never seem to get enough of. Of note are (I'm Confessin') Doc Daughtery/Ellis Reynolds/Al Neiburg's 1930 popular jazz standard, and Richard Whiting/Charles Daniels' 1928 popular song (She's Funny That Way) each played by the younger Marsalis with deep emotional reach, and the bracing simplicity of a swan song.

There are few musical highlight, not to be missed (Sesame Street Theme; If I Were a Bell; Speak Low). Delfeayo Marsalis' muted 'Sesame" work swings flawlessly and Ellis Marsalis' fingers are coated with rich 'Mississippi Delta mud and soul, while Herlin Riley and Smith add enough rhythm to rename the street; "Swing Street." Further on down the strip, 'Marsalis, bassist John Clayton and drummer Marvin "Smitty" Smith cruise through a 'swingin', version' of Frank Loesser's 1959 standard "If I Were a Bell." Ellis Marsalis' elegant lyricism, modernity, and limpid spontaneous improvisation reach as high on the arc of performance for  modern jazz piano as William "Red" Garland's 1957 rendition which, up until now, may have been the definitive trio version, with Paul Chambers on bass, and Arthur Taylor on drums (Red Garland & Piano, Prestige 7086). In an all out assault on unbridled swing, the band literally torches and scorches Kurt Weill & Ogden Nash's 1943 jazz standard (Speak Low). Smith gets loose from the rhythm section on this burner, and pours enough high-octane polyrhythmic fuel on the proceedings to start a 5-alarmer. 

In the current jazz universe, the 'brand' Marsalis has an almost eponymous effect on the genre, and the significance of this prideful father/son collaborative cannot be overstated. Apart from its stated mission, it is a date that has something for every jazz enthusiast: nostalgia, romance, modernity; swing and good taste. Good taste as in the final track, Johnny Green/Edwin Heyman's 1933 popular song (I Cover The Waterfront). It's akin to the last ounce of Absinthe, Sazerac, or Hurricane cocktail respectfully left in the bottle for the patriarch to savor at his leisure. It is to remind him of the old times, the good times, and times yet to come.

Track Listing: The Secret Love Affair; Autumn Leaves; She's Funny That Way; Sesame Street; I'm Confessin; But Beautiful; Speak Low; Nancy; The Man With Two Left Feet; That Old Feeling; My Romance; If I Were A Bell; I Cover The Waterfront.

Executive Producer: Branford Marsalis
Executive Engineer: Patrick Smith
Assistant Engineers: Daryl Dickerson, Jacob Dennis & Charlie Bouis

Recorded at Cahuenga Pass Studios, Burbank CA
Mixed at Glenwood Place Studios, Burbank
Mastered by Patrick "Jat EQ" Smith at Pelican Sound.

John Clayton plays a bass bequeathed to him by the great Ray Brown
Marvin "Smitty" Smith plays Pearl Drums, Zildjian Cymbals, Remo Drumheads and Vater Percussion sticks and brushes.

Dedicated to the memory of pianist Mulgrew Miller. A great musician, classy individual & true Southern Gentleman.

Produced by Delfeayo Marsalis    

ESPN Scores & Stats.