Posts Tagged ‘ Jazz ’

Brenda Earle Stokes – Right About Now

Newlywed Brenda Earle Stokes has undergone some changes over the past few years. But now that she’s somewhat settled, she’s back in business as a pianist, composer and vocalist. Right About Now (2014) captures seven original songs and a few remakes.

Stokes also plays Rhodes and triangle. Accompanists are Matt Aronoff, bass; Jordan Perlson, drums; Steve Cardenas, guitar; and Joel Frahm, saxophone.

“It’s High Time,” one of Stokes’ original compositions, has an upbeat, 3/4 tempo. Stokes’ inflections add emphasis on key beats. The band solidly supports the voice. One gets the sense the singer has reached the limits of patience and is ready for the object of her affections to act. This song is right at home in a smoky jazz club where most of the patrons opt for hard liquor on the rocks rather than wine, beer or cocktails. The way Frahm and Stokes play their instruments contributes to that vision. As if the song weren’t enjoyable enough already, Stokes injects some Fitzgeraldesque scatting toward the end.

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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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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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