Archive for the ‘ Jazz ’ Category

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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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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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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The Pete McGuinness Jazz Orchestra – Strength in Numbers

Following up his brilliant Voice Like a Horn, trombonist, vocalist and band leader Pete McGuinness is back, leading a full orchestra with Strength in Numbers (Summit Records, 2014).

McGuinness arranged all 10 tracks and composed six. The orchestra is comprised of a five-piece saxophone section with some players doubling on flute and others on clarinet, a four-piece trombone section, a four-piece trumpet section and three-piece rhythm section.

The horns, with emphasis on the woodwinds, flutter like birds flitting about the landscape during “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?” It’s a tranquil, charming piece, accented by an easygoing pace and overlapping phrases by the different sections.

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Leslie Pintchik – In the Nature of Things

Ambient, clean and, to a degree, hypnotic. Those are the immediate thoughts that come to mind with Leslie Pintchik’s In the Nature of Things (Pintch Hard Records, 2014).

A pianist and composer, Pintchik says she chose the title to reflect the feeling she had that all the musicians honored the fundamental intent and nature of the music as she conceived it. Those musicians are Steve Wilson, alto and soprano saxophones; Ron Horton, trumpet and flugelhorn; Scott Hardy, bass; Michael Sarin, drums; and Satoshi Takeishi, percussion.

Either they’re warning you of an immediate threat, or they’re hiding something. More likely the former as Pintchik and her companions play “I’d Turn Back If I Were You.” The threat is if you keep listening, you’re going to find yourself knee deep in delight. The horns contribute a little here and there, but it’s mostly about the piano, bass, drums and percussion. Sarin and Takeishi play well off the leader, each seemingly doing his own thing while staying connected.

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Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra – The L.A. Treasures Project

Big band music with a few vocal highlights. That’s the essence of The L.A. Treasures Project by the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra (Capri Records, 2014).

Led by John Clayton, Jeff Clayton and Jeff Hamilton, this ensemble keeps the hits coming. The trumpets are Bijon Watson, Gilbert Castellanos, James Ford, Brian Swartz and Jamie Hovorka. The trombones are Isa Nepus, George Bohanon, Ryan Porter and Maurice Spears. The saxes and woodwinds are Jeff Clayton, Keith Fiddmont, Rickey Woodard, Charles Owens and Lee Callet. The rest of the band are Jeff Hamilton, drums; Tamir Hendelman, piano; Christoph Luty, bass; Graham Dechter, guitar; and John Clayton, bass.

Early in 2013, vocalists Barbara Morrison and Ernie Andrews were asked to sing during a few rehearsals. That led to a September 15th performance at in the showroom of Alvas Music Store in San Pedro, California, with a live audience. Morrison and Andrew lead four songs apiece.

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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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