Archive for the ‘ CD Reviews ’ Category

Andrew Rathbun Quartet – Numbers and Letters

Sometimes, a jazz listener needs a wake-up call. Step away from the mainstream. Shut down the catchy tunes. Turn toward something a bit more abstract – the spirit of improvisation. The Andrew Rathbun Quartet delivers the latter with Numbers and Letters (SteepleChase Music, 2014).

The group consists or Rathbun, saxophones and voice; Phil Markowitz, piano; Jay Anderson, bass; and Bill Stewart, drums. Trumpeter Taylor Haskins visits for one track.

The set starts with the brooding “Bad Call.” Markowitz lays down an ominous piano groove. Rathbun brings in the sax. The pair engages in some rapid-fire combinations. At times, it’s as if each of the four players is in his own zone, only occasionally locking in as a unit. Group play is more evident when the theme, if one can be discerned, ends and the fun begins. Bass and drums are fully in support of the piano and sax during their middle solos.

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Bennett B – Groove Time

Berklee graduated guitarist Bennett Brandeis has performed in the past with the Japanese group Shonentai, and the reunited Original 5th Dimension. He started his solo career with the album Jazz Guitar (1995), followed by The View From Above (2001), Storytelling (2006) and this year Groove Time.

The new album is produced by guitarist Paul Brown, who also performs on selected tracks. Bennett is joined in addition by Greg Adams, Elan Trotman, Ricky Lawson, Darren Rahn and many more. The mid tempo Tell Me About It opens up the dance. Bennett’s affinity for guitar chords reminds me of George Benson’s Ibanez style.

The guitar jam stretches out to Slipstream, where the guitar meets flute in a lovely musical surrounding. Sax and guitar is a popular combination. On Show Your Love Elan Trotman gives the right answers on tenor sax.

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Billy Porter – Billy’s Back on Broadway

Impressive. Billy’s Back on Broadway by vocalist Billy Porter (Concord Records, 2014) delivers with style and lots of happiness.

Backed by a variable ensemble of horns, strings and rhythm instruments, Porter scores with 10 classics from Broadway musicals. Pianist Rob Mounsey handled most of the arrangements. Other notables in the session include trumpeter Barry Danielian, and saxophonists Scott Krietzer and Andy Snitzer.

One can’t help but feel the joy in Porter’s voice as he croons “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.” Porter clearly owns the Sondheim-Styne classic, aided not so subtly by the orchestra. He sings with a flair similar to that of the late Sammy Davis Jr.

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Rick Braun – Can You Feel It

We all like Rick Braun as crooner of jazz standards on Sings With Strings (2011) and Swingin’ In The Snow (2012). But what we really love is Rick Braun, the funky trumpet player known by Night Walk and Beat Street. Rick Braun has heard our request and returns with Can You Feel It (2014).

Rick comments꞉ “It’s a return to the sound and style of Beat Street, which essentially was a tribute to my years playing in War. I took out all of the sequencing with one exception and made the record like a garage band using great live players. It was a lot of fun making the record. It’s energetic and earthy. We hit it hard—kind of like Tower of Power—capturing the energetic, funky horn band sound. I wanted lots of horn section parts on the album.”

Below you find the list of 21 (!) musicians joining Rick on this new project. Much prominence mingles with the young lions who want to impress with their skills. Take the funk of the Commodores and the Gap Band and you get the right sense for Can You Feel It. There is a huge package of horns by Rick Braun (trumpet, valve trombone) and Brandon Fields (sax) and Randy Jacobs inserts his sooo funky guitar.

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Eden Brent – Jigsaw Heart

She’s known as Little Boogaloo. And in her home area, the Mississippi Delta, just say her first name and people will know. Eden Brent releases Jigsaw Heart (Yellow Dog Records, 2014).

Personnel on this date are Colin Linden, guitars and mandolin on “Panther Burn”; John Dymond, basses (except “Locomotive” and “Panther Burn”); Gary Craig, drums (except “Locomotive” and “Panther Burn”); Dan Dugmore, pedal steel guitar; Kenzie Wetz, fiddle; Chris Carmichael, violin, viola and cello; Ann McCrary, background vocals; Regina McCrary, background vocals and tambourine; Stephen Mackey, electric bass on “Locomotive” and “Panther Burn”; and Bryan Owings, drums on “Locomotive” and “Panther Burn.”

Brent’s boogie-woogie side comes out with the upbeat “Everybody Already Knows.” She sings, “The rumor mill is grinding / whether we like it or not.” It’s about an adulterous relationship that’s become the talk of the town. Why bother trying to keep a secret that’s already out? The musicians behind Brent are firmly in the groove, and her piano sizzles.

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Scott Wilkie – All In

Keyboardist Scott Wilkie started his solo career after his move from Detroit to Southern California with his album Boundless (1999). His sophomore album More Than You Know followed in 2000. After a long hiatus he released Home Again: The Solo Piano Sessions in 2008 and returned with The Wonder of Christmas in 2013. On July 8, 2014 his new album All In will arrive.

Beside his own band he is joined by guest musicians Jay Beckenstein, Jimmy Haslip, Jeff Lorber, Jay Graydon, Paul Jackson Jr., Vinnie Colaiuta, Peter Sprague and Jeff Kashiwa. His band includes bassist Nathan Brown, guitarist Dave Hill, drummers David Anderson and Jeff Olson, and percussionist Ramon Yslas.

Wilkie comments꞉ “It was fun to feel like a star-struck kid again, working with all these amazing musicians, and musical heroes of mine, who are also now great friends. They helped me rediscover the enthusiasm that drove me to become a musician and artist in the first place. It was a blast to work with them not only as a fellow musician, but also as a composer and producer.”

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Greg Chambers – Can’t Help Myself

After he recorded his debut album City Lights in 2006 and his self-titled album in 2011 some years passed by. Now sax player Greg Chambers returns with Can’t Help Myself (2014). Guest musicians on this album are Julian Vaughn, Nils, Nate Harasim, Paul Brown, Kevin Lewis and Matt Godina. Quality is guaranteed.

The title song is a collaboration with producer Nate Harasim, who also delivers keyboards, bass, synth and drum programming. Greg takes the lead on alto sax, while Nate adds the groovy things. A hooking song from the start.

In The Moment features Julian Vaughn on bass playing with Greg in a double. The attractive melody is filled with funky stuff by Matt Godina. So Into You shows not only Greg as intuitive performer but also as great composer and arranger.

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Jazz Funk Soul – Jazz Funk Soul

Three heavyweights of contemporary jazz joined to form the supergroup Jazz Funk Soul, keyboardist Jeff Lorber, guitarist Chuck Loeb and sax player Everette Harp. Chuck Loeb has an affinity for collaborations such as Metro and Fourplay. He comments this new formation꞉ “Making this album seemed like a natural extension of the fun and high level of creativity that was taking place on stage each night.” We will see concerts of this group in September, 2014.

On selected tracks the group is joined by Gary Nowak, Lionel Cordew and Brian Dunne (drums), Dave Mann (horns), Lenny Castro (percussion), James Genus and John Patitucci (bass), A. Ray Fuller (rhythm guitar), Till Brönner (trumpet), and Mark Hollingsworth (flutes).

The album starts with Speed Of Light designed by Jeff Lorber to bring the skills of the trio in the foreground. Jeff Lorber gives his Rhodes a lead, while Harp adds the alto sax accentuated horn segment, finally Choeb decorates it with quick chords in the style of Benson. If it ain’t got that swing, it don’t mean a thing. That’s the simple reason, why Chuck serves Swingette. A piece with that jazzy extra꞉ Combine that heart swinging groove with a sophisticated harmonic palette (Loeb).

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Catherine Grace – Marshmallow Man

Some people assert that Jazz is an “out-of-date model”, because there wouldn’t be enough young talented musicians, who engage themselves in that musical genre.

Australian Saxophonist and singer Catherine Grace is the best proof that this is not true. She started her young career, as so many others, playing on weddings, in cafes and restaurants.

She has already won competitions including the 2013 Sing For your Supper and 2013 Starquest. Having a huge repertoire from Jazz to Pop, she now presents her first professionally produced collection of five tracks on iTunes, which already shows the outstanding talent of this young lady.

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Artur Bayramgalin – Perfect Day

Multi instrumentalist Artur Bayramgalin is rather unknown in the American smooth jazz scene. It isn’t up to the music, his performance and style is brilliant. His debut album Interro Island came out in 2009, his sophomore album Electric Breezz followed in 2010. Perhaps something changes with his third album Perfect Day (2014).

I was somewhat surprised, because I did not receive a CD but an album in MP3 format. Anyway, the music is excellent and somehow it comes to the listener. Hopefully on a legal way. But this is another story.

Chris Peak writes in the Huff Post “Most bands will now give their music away for free in the hope that you’ll like them enough to see them live.” With Ufa in Russia as hometown and as an independent artist it is difficult for Artur to tour in USA in support of his own music. Furthermore with no liner notes inside it’s impossible to give the reader additional information.

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