Archive for the ‘ Jazz ’ Category

Jim Stranahan Little Big Band – Migration to Higher Ground

A big band and a smaller ensemble that sounds like a big band are the backdrops for Migration to Higher Ground (Tapestry Records, 2014) by the Jim Stranahan Little Big Band. The versatile reed instrument player and composer surrounds himself with top Colorado musicians.

Two ensembles are used in this set, recorded in two sessions. For five songs, Stranahan plays alto and soprano saxes, saxophone cadenza, and on “Mambo Facil,” soprano and tenor saxes. Other players are Caleb Starbuck, alto sax; Joe Anderies, alto flute and tenor sax; Chuck Schneider, tenor sax; Brad Goode, lead and jazz trumpet; Hugh Ragin, jazz trumpet; Wade Sander, trombone; Ben Faust, sousaphone on “Bayou Bounce”; Justin Adams, piano; Bijoux Barbosa, bass; and Todd Reid, drums. That session was recorded live in the performance studio of KUVO (Colorado Public Radio) during a broadcast.

On the four tracks, Stranahan plays soprano, alto and tenor saxophones. This group consists of Good, trumpets; Sander, trombones; Glen Zaleski, piano; Rick Rosato, bass; and Jim’s son, Colin Stranahan, drums.

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Kiki Ebsen – Scarecrow Sessions

As a jazz vocalist you are faced with the decision to present your own compositions or songs from the American Songbook. The first testifies to creativity, the latter is more popular but also more challenging. However it exposes you to the comparison and competition with a wide variety of other artists.

Singer Kiki Ebsen has chosen the American Songbook, to honor the memory of her father, the great actor Buddy Ebsen. Scarecrow Sessions stands out because of its cultural diversity and professionalism of the musicians involved. John Patitucci (bass), Henry Hey (piano and organ), Chuck Loeb (electric and acoustic guitars), Clint de Ganon (drums) and David Mann on saxophone and flute.

Kiki comments꞉ “The songs included are taken from my father’s career in movies and musicals, songs he loved, and his original works″. The album opens with You Don’t Know What Love Is, originally sung by Carol Bruce for the Abbott and Costello picture Keep ‘Em Flying. You learn to appreciate the value of a treasure only when it is lost. The bittersweet of this knowledge is internalized by Kiki with sensuous voice.

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Itamar Borochov – Outset

Debuts for jazz artists can be challenging. Some play it safe, reinventing standards or covering pop tunes. Others are more adventurous, delivering not only original material but going beyond the cookie-cutter, radio format-friendly tunes but testing the listener: Do you want your jazz to be quick, catchy, familiar? Or do you want something more complex, something you haven’t heard before?

It’s the latter that’s targeted by trumpeter/composer Itamar Borochov. Outset (RealBird Records, 2014) features seven original songs, totaling approximately 55 minutes. Accompanying him are Hagai Amir, alto sax; Avri Borochov, bass; and Aviv Cohen, drums.

“Pain Song” is an epic piece. At nearly 13 minutes, it offers the artist plenty of space to express. The mood is dark, brooding. The trumpet begins softly but rises when joined by the sax. All this is part of the setup. Then, Borochov goes exploring, with bass and drums representing the rugged terrain he must cross. After a few minutes journey, Amir takes point, going in a different direction but with the same sense of wonder. The pair rejoin and gradually wind down, accented by Cohen’s cymbal splashes.

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Steve Khan – Subtext

I’ve said on occasion that Steve Khan can do no wrong. Having heard his solos in performances with some of my old favorites, Maynard Ferguson and Steely Dan, I’ve come to know a different side of him as a solo artist. He never disappoints. Subtext (Tone Center Records, 2014) further validates the point.

The lineup is Khan; Ruben Rodriguez, electric bass and baby bass; Dennis Chambers, drums; Marc Quinones, timbale, bongo and percussion; and Bobby Allende, conga and bongo. Keyboardist Rob Mounsey performs on a few tracks and handles orchestrations for several others.

Special guest Randy Brecker plays flugelhorn on the first track, “Bird Food (Comida para Pajaros),” an Ornette Coleman remake. Quinones and Allende get quite busy beneath the leads as Khan and Brecker carry the melody. After the opening sequence, Brecker delivers a bright, sunny solo. When it’s his turn, Khan moves seamlessly between single notes and chords. Guitar and flugelhorn blend for tightly syncopated phrases several times during this piece. “Blue Subtext,” one of three original songs on this date, has a placid, tropical vibe. Mounsey comes through a bit more. Khan puts the guitar through a few high-speed passes, yet he does it in such a way as not to sound like he’s speeding up the song. That mellow, easygoing feel is present throughout.

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Allison Adams Tucker – April in Paris

“April in Paris” is a tried-and-true song that has proven popular among singers and musicians. However, it takes on a different feel when the singer is actually in the city of love. That’s the approach taken by Allison Adams Tucker for her second release, April in Paris (Allegato Music, 2014).

The album was recorded at a Paris studio on April 30, 2012, the first UNESCO International Jazz Day, at the end of Tucker’s European tour. The album presents a mix of vocal jazz, Brazilian, French and other styles. Accompanying Tucker are Emmanuel Massarotti, piano and Fender Rhodes; Evona Wascinski, contrabass; and Julie Saury, drums. Appearing on selected tracks are Ze Luis Nascimento, percussion; Mirko Guerrini, saxophones and Peruvian flute; and Peter Sprague, guitar.

Tucker’s voice is rich, soothing, as she croons the delightful, “It Might as Well Be Spring.” The guitar, Rhodes and percussion complement her, along with the other instruments. Massorotti goes on a jaunt not unlike some early Bob James. The bass and drums are in tight syncopation.

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Paul Marinaro – Without a Song

Let’s face it. There aren’t a lot of people writing jazz lyrics nowadays. So what’s a singer to do? Options are basically limited to remaking standards or covering popular music (include rock, soul, R&B, country). So what sets one new release apart from others are two factors: selection and delivery.

For Without a Song (Myrtle Records, 2014), Paul Marinaro handles the selection by giving us 14 songs, with only a few of them among those that have been recorded ad nauseam. And he handles the delivery by being himself and not trying to emulate a particular artist, like Sinatra or Torme.

Chris Sargent, Chris White, Judy Roberts and Tom Vaitsas split piano duties. Guitarist Andy Brown sits in on a few. Bassist Joe Policastro and drummer Jon Deitemyer appear on all but four tracks – two of those being previously recorded material featuring Joseph Marinaro. And guest violinist Marielle De Rocca-Serra contributes to “May the Music Never End.”

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Elias Haslanger – Live at the Gallery

Play loose. Play happy. Have fun. And the audience will appreciate you. That seems to be the message Elias Haslanger gave his sidemen for Live at the Gallery (Cherrywood Records, 2014), which refers to the Continental Club Gallery, where the saxophonist and his band play regularly on Mondays.

Haslanger plays tenor sax. With him are Dr. James Polk, Hammond B3 organ; Jake Langley, guitar; Scott Laningham, drums; and Daniel Durham, bass.

“One for Daddy O” starts the set. It’s gritty, soulful, no-nonsense. The tenor growls at its lowest depths, then wails at some of its highest heights. The audience responds accordingly. Langley stretches out during the middle, playing like an old-school blues artist. Polk gets his chance to shine as well.

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