Archive for the ‘ CD Reviews ’ Category

Felipe Salles – Ugandan Suite

Take pieces of jazz, smidgens of classical and bits of African music, and you’re likely to get something close to Ugandan Suite (Tapestry Records, 2014) by Felipe Salles. This unusual, yet interesting approach brings nearly an hour’s worth of music.

Salles players tenor and baritone saxophones, flutes and bass clarinet. Fellow wind instrumentalist David Liebman plays wooden flute, soprano and tenor saxophones. Nando Michelin is on piano, and Keala Kaumeheiwa handles the bass. Versatile percussionist Damascus Kafumbe handles several instruments, including tube-fiddle, bow-harp and madinda xylophone. Rogerio Boccato takes care of other percussion.

Each piece is named for a wild animal. “Movement 1 – The Buffalo” begins quietly. Slowly, the beat begins to pick up, possibly indicating a herd on the move. The flute and piano gradually come into the picture, setting up the layered theme, with Salles and Liebman handling multiple instruments. The music comes to an abrupt stop, shifting to a slower, softer mood – as if the herd found a watering hole. The animals rest and drink but with senses on full alert for predators. Then the beat returns as the herd moves on. Liebman plays the soprano with flits here and there, followed by a more rhythmic tenor. One of the horns does some rolling wails, symbolizing an animal crying out. The intensity builds as Salles and Liebman answer each other’s calls, at times overlapping. After a narrow escape, the herd moves on.

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Terje Lie – Bright Moments

Norwegian born saxophonist Terje Lie found his cultural home in L.A., where he is performing in clubs and at festivals and concerts throughout the West Coast.

He started his solo career with the album Traveler (2007) featuring jazz fusion legends Jimmy Haslip and Jeff Lorber. He continued this collaboration on his sophomore album Urban Vacation (2010) and now on his new album Bright Moments.

On selected tracks he is furthermore supported by a cast of premium musicians listed below. To warm up Storm Skies starts with Jeff Lorber’s known chords in the style of Rain Dance. But then the piece develops a life of its own, as if the inner fire of the involved musicians awakens.

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Libby York – Memoir

Jazz Vocals can be dreamy. Jazz vocals can be sassy. Jazz vocals can be trite. Jazz vocals can be just plain delightful. The last one is where Libby York comes in. The acclaimed vocalist offers her personal touch on standards with Memoir (Libby York Music, 2014).

Accompanists are John Dimartino, piano; Martin Wind, bass; Greg Sergo, drums; and Warren Vache, cornet. Guitarist Russell Malone sits in on three tracks. And Warren Vache also adds vocals to two songs.

The delight is evident from the first track, “Give Me the Simple Life.” No gimmicks here. York’s joy of singing comes through in her rendition of this standard. She’s aided by happy-go-lucky solos by Vache and Dimartino. Toward the end of the interlude, Vache and Sergo engage in a playful call-and-response sequence.

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Cindy Bradley – Bliss

As a female trumpeter Cindy Bradley takes an exceptional position in the smooth jazz genre. With a Bachelor degree in jazz studies and a Master degree in jazz performance she has a solid foundation. While influenced by jazz greats like Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan and Blue Mitchell she never stepped into the jazz realm. Smooth jazz is her favorite.

After her self-produced debut album Just A Little Bit (2007) she found connection with the label Trippin’n’Rhythm. Bloom (2009), Unscripted (2011) and this year Bliss are the results of a fruitful collaboration. All tracks were written, performed, mixed, produced and engineered by Grammy award winning producer Michael Broening, who has also significantly supported Cindy on the previous recordings.

The album starts with Button Legs, an up-tempo horn-driven arrangement, on which Cindy and her muted trumpet shine in glory. Bliss means perfect happiness. While this is the overall mood of the tune with a little dose of melancholy, Cindy concentrates on the accurate intonation of her trumpet.

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Felix Peikli – Royal Flush

After Pete Fountain and Benny Goodman, you don’t hear a lot about the clarinet in jazz. Sure, the instrument is there but mainly as an ensemble piece and for solos. Felix Peikli reminds us that this horn is also good as a lead instrument. Royal Flush (2014) presents fresh sounds that are creative and contemporary.

Piekli plays clarinet and bass clarinet. He’s joined by Michael Bono, acoustic and electric guitar; Takeshi Ohbayashi, piano; Alexander L.J. Toth, acoustic bass; and Anthony A. Toth, drums. Other contributors are Kim Wigaard Johansen and Sara Lade, vocals; Sarpay Ozcagatay, flute; and Eric Kwong, sound design and effects.

“Heat” features guest trumpeter Lee Hoganes. Trumpet and clarinet pair up for a bit, but mostly it’s Hoganes who leads the main body of this tune. After a transition followed by a piano interlude, Peikli comes in with verve. His play is worthy of Fountain and Goodman.

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Kim Waters – Silver Soul

The music business is fast paced. For years, Kim Waters was a fixture on the label Shanachie Entertainment. His 19th solo album My Loves was however released on Red River Entertainment in 2013. Now he returns on the same label with Silver Soul, scheduled for release on September 2, 2014.

25 years since his first release Sweet & Saxy Kim Waters celebrates his silver anniversary. He has remained faithful to his music style. No reason to change the horse, when you are successful. As usual Waters performs on the new album all instruments, saxophone and background vocals. Allen Hinds supports him with guitars. There are also some guest musicians such as his daughter Kayla Waters on piano and additional lead and background singers Dana Pope, Zendaya and Eric Roberson.

“Silver Soul is really a thank you to my audience that has been with me thus far throughout my 25-year musical journey as a recording artist. I took my time writing the material because I wanted it to be an album of hits with every song sounding like a single,” comments Waters.

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Manuel Valera – Self Portrait

Reviewing instrumental music is always a challenge. Finding a way to express in words what a song or album concept sounds like, and doing it in a manner that helps the reader make a decision on whether to buy a recording, all without being redundant or using clichés is not an easy task.

The challenge is even greater when it comes to solo piano. So you can rest assured that if a writer does review such a work, the recording more than warrants it. Such is the case with Manuel Valera’s Self Portrait (Mavo Records, 2014).

Valera decided to focus on four elements in creating this work. He wanted to present his jazz influence, covering songs by Bill Evans, Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk; his Cuban roots with two Latin jazz pieces; his classical influence, with the “Impromptu” selections; and his own compositions. For this date, Valera plays a restored 1918 Steinway D.

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