Archive for the ‘ Jazz ’ Category

Tom Kennedy – Just Play

Take vintage compositions, mix with a few stars of today, and you’ll get a delicacy for the ears. Bassist Tom Kennedy accomplishes this with Just Play (Capri Records, 2013).

Kennedy delivers fresh interpretations of songs composed by Sonny Rollins, Victor Young, Lee Morgan (the review copy incorrectly credits Freddie Hubbard with “Ceora”), Duke Ellington, Cedar Walton, Dave Brubeck and Cole Porter.

For this outing, Kennedy calls upon the talents of Dave Weckl, drums; Renee Rosnes, piano; George Garzone, tenor sax; Mike Stern, guitar; Tim Hagans, trumpet; Lee Ritenour, guitar; John Allred, trombone; and Steve Wirts, tenor sax. Kennedy plays acoustic bass.

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Pete Mills – Sweet Shadow

No disrespect for other instruments in the family, but there’s really nothing like a tenor sax as lead instrument in jazz. Its flavor is rich, its range exceptional. And in the hands of Pete Mills, it can make many a listener happy. And it’s fresh with 11 original songs on Mills’ Sweet Shadow (Cellar Live Records, 2014).

The project features Mills, Pete McCann on acoustic and electric guitars, Erik Augis on piano, Martin Wind on bass and Matt Wilson on drums.

The set begins with vigor. “Shiner” opens with a bouncy lead by Mills with the accompaniment fully locked in. Mills says the song is based on the standard, “My Shining Hour.” One can almost feel the charm of a jazz diva, such as Kitty Margolis or Sara Gazarek crooning this one in front of a big band or small ensemble. Mills steps aside Augis and McCann to have a moment to shine. And they do, with plenty of action underneath by Wind and Wilson.

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Rudy Royston – 303

Just a few minutes into 303 (Greenleaf Music, 2014), it’s easy to see why Rudy Royston is an in-demand drummer. His play may bring to mind any of several masters on the sticks – a list that includes but is not limited to Lenny White, Steve Gadd, Vinnie Colaiuta, Peter Erskine and Harvey Mason.

From Denver, Royston has served as sideman for an array of talent such as Tia Fuller, Bill Frisell and others. His debut is named for Denver’s area code. Sidemen on this date are Sam Harris, piano; Yasushi Nakamura and Mimi Jones, bass; Jon Irabagon, saxophones; Nadje Noorhuis, trumpet; and Nir Felder, guitar.

“Mimi Sunrise” has the sound of daybreak with Royston accompanying a variety of sounds with subtle drum taps and plenty of cymbal splash. The piano adds to the mood. Ultimately, a rhythm begins to take shape, setting up the haunting guitar, trumpet and saxophone play.

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Lauren Kinhan – Circle In A Square

She’s one of four. And now she’s on her own. Lauren Kinhan of the New York Voices steps out with Circle in a Square (Dotted i Records, 2014). It’s her third solo album.

Kinhan has been with New York Voices for two decades. Following up on her acclaimed 2010 release, Avalon, she presents a set of 12 original songs that are as much about the instruments as they are about her voice.

Andy Ezrin provides piano or Hammond B3 organ on all but one track. David Finck and Will Lee split bass duties. Ben Wittman has drums on all tracks and percussion on most. Among the other contributors are trumpeter Randy Brecker, saxophonists Joel Frahm and Donny McCaslin, and guitarists Romero Lubambo and Chuck Loeb.

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Matt Wilson Quartet + John Medeski – Gathering Call

Drummer Matt Wilson has at least one Grammy nomination to his name. A feat possible only through creating wonderful music. His 11th release as a leader is Gathering call (Palmetto Records, 2014), featuring the Matt Wilson Quartet and keyboard artist John Medeski.

Born in 1964 in Knoxville, Illionois, Wilson has been featured on the covers of both DownBeat and JazzTimes magazines. His associations include Joe Lovano, Charlie Haden, Herbie Hancock, Elvis Costello, Bobby Hutcherson, Kenny Barron, Cedar Walton, Michael Brecker, Wynton Marsalis, Pat Metheny and others.

The lineup for Gathering Call consists of Wilson, drums; Jeff Lederer, tenor and soprano saxophones, clarinet; Kirk Knuffke, cornet; Chris Lightcap, bass; and Medeski, piano.

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Tsuyoshi Niwa – At The End Of The Day

Give them a taste of something familiar, then surprise them with the unknown. That seems to be the approach saxophonist Tsuyoshi Niwa takes with At the End of the Day (2013).

The supporting cast for this effort are Randy Brecker, trumpet and flugelhorn; Yuichi Inoue, piano; Phil Palombi, acoustic and electric bass; and Billy Kilson, drums. Niwa plays soprano saxophone and flute.

The classic “My Favorite Things” begins with a moody, off-the-beaten path take on the melody. That’s just to give the song a somewhat familiar foundation. Niwa and Brecker then lick their chops as each takes off on a riveting adventure. Not to be outdone, Inoue also scores. Though Kilson doesn’t have a solo, his workout on the kit cannot go unnoticed.

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Slawek Dudar Quartet – Inside City

In 2003 saxophonist, teacher Slawek Dudar founded the Slawek Dudar Quartet, which is currently together with Robert Jarmużek (piano), Adam Kabaciński (bass), and Wojciech Buliński (drums). Their new album Inside City (2013) was the result of over two years exploring.

The album features beside the quartet Wroclaw singer and composer Jacek Zamecki and guitarist Arthur Lesicki. All members of the band are graduated musicians with the impetus to expand their music to the world outside Poland.

Their music can described as contemporary jazz with a strong tendency to atmospheric jazz. Inside City starts with a dynamic bass run, on which Slawek expands his wide and wild saxophone solo followed by Robert on keys.

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Justin Morell Dectet – Subjects and Compliments

Normally, an ensemble of this size is referred to as a band, group or even orchestra. The term “dectet,” which is to 10 what quartet is to four, is not mainstream. That hardly matters, as the Justin Morell Dectet delivers with Subjects and Compliments (Sonic Frenzy Records, 2013).

This set of all-original music features guitarist Justin Morell with 10 other players. They are Bob Sheppard, alto and soprano saxophones; Ben Wendel, tenor saxophone and bassoon; Matt Otto, tenor saxophone; Phil O’Connor, bass clarinet, tenor and soprano saxophones; John Daversa, trumpet and flugelhorn; Alan Ferber, trombone; George Thatcher, bass trombone; Leonard Thompson, piano; Damian Erskine, bass; and Mark Ferber, drums.

“The Wobbler” is underscored by a nearly monotonous but playful piano beat. The horns blend for the quirky melody, punctuated by clever stick work by Mark Ferber. As things settle down, Erskine takes the bass out for a “let’s see where the wind takes us” jaunt, followed by Daversa’s own excursion. After the solos, bass and trombone unit for an alternate take on the melody. The piano reintroduces its original beat, setting up the song’s ending.

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Ken Peplowski – Maybe September

Some jazz artists revisit the American Songbook for a thematic cover album. Some adapt pop or R&B songs into instrumentals. Ken Peplowski takes a different approach. Maybe September (Capri Records, 2013) features new arrangements of 10 songs that come from an array of artists – songs that aren’t commonly covered.

Among those composers whose songs are arranged here are Irving Berlin, Artie Shaw, Brian Wilson, Duke Ellington, Percy Faith and Harry Nilsson.

Peplowski plays clarinet and tenor saxophone. His sidemen are Ted Rosenthal, piano; Martin Wind, bass; and Matt Wilson, drums.

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Pete McGuinness – Voice Like a Horn

Some vocalists, whether with wordless chants or scats, successfully emulate an instrument, be it a trumpet or flute. Names like Janis Siegel and Tierney Sutton come to mind. But when a trombonist who also sings can blow the brass or croon, and make either interchangeable with the other, it’s pretty impressive.

Pete McGuinness accomplishes that with his new release, Voice Like a Horn (Summit Records, 2013). With him are Jon Gordon, alto sax and flute on two songs; Bill Mobley, trumpet on two songs; Ted Kooshian, piano; Andy Eulau, bass; and Scott Neumann, drums.

“Yesterdays” gets things started. McGuinness opens the entire kit, inflections, scats and of course singing. His middle scat could easily transcribe into a trumpet or trombone solo. That’s a trait that encapsulates the theme of the entire album.

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