Posts Tagged ‘ Jazz ’

Ali Ryerson Jazz Flute Big Band – Game Changer

Game Changer (Capri Records, 2013) is as its name implies. The debut release of the Ali Ryerson Jazz Flute Big Band defies convention with a collection of 10 songs by a cross-section of jazz composers but in a different setting.

Ryerson, who plays C and alto flutes, heads a 16-piece section that’s backed by a rhythm trio. In addition to Ryerson, the flutists are Marc Adler, Jamie Baum, Andrea Brachfield, Fernando Brandao, Bob Chadwick, Richard Ford, Kris Keith, Zachary Kellogg, Billy Kerr, Paul Lieberman, Rachel Rodgers, Jonathan Royce, Donna Sevcovic, Stan Slotter and Keith Underwood.

With the following exceptions, all play the C and alto flutes. Brandao and Lieberman, C, alto and bass; Chadwick and Sevcovic, bass; Kellogg, piccolo and C; Rodgers, C; and Underwood, bass and contrabass. The rhythm section are Mark Levin, piano; Rufus Reid, bass; and Akira Tana, drums and percussion.

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Earl MacDonald – Mirror of the Mind

Award-winning jazz educator Earl MacDonald rearranges the concept of a jazz quartet. Where one normally would have piano, drums, bass and another instrument, MacDonald’s ensemble deviates slightly for Mirror of the Mind (Death Defying Records, 2013).

MacDonald plays piano. He is accompanied by the Creative Opportunities Workshop: Kris Allen, saxophones; Christopher Hoffman, cello; and Rogerio Broccato, percussion.

The title song opens the set. It starts with soft piano, cello and light cymbals. Then, the groove kicks in with the full quartet. Allen leads. The mood is bright and charming. With MacDonald and Boccato mixing it up in the background, the saxophone continues to point the way. Meanwhile, Hoffman plays the cello at times like a rhythm guitar, but later plucks the strings like a piccolo bass.

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Mark Masters Ensemble – Everything You Did (The Music of Walter Becker & Donald Fagen)

“Where did the bastard run / is he still around?” Donald Fagen asks in the opening verse of Steely Dan’s “Everything You Did,” a track from The Royal Scam (1976). Interestingly, that song is not included in the Steely Dan-inspired Everything You Did (The Music of Walter Becker & Donald Fagen) (Capri Records, 2013) by the Mark Masters Ensemble.

Masters, president of the American Jazz Institute which presents this project, handled all the arrangements. Featured musicians are Billy Harper, tenor saxophone; Tim Hagans, trumpet; Anna Mjoll, voice; Hamilton Price, bass; and Peter Erskine, drums. The ensemble consists of Louis Fasman and Les Lovitt, trumpet; Stephanie O’Keefe, French horn; Les Benedict, Dave Ryan and Ryan Dragon, trombone; Don Shelton, alto and soprano saxophones and alto flute; John Mitchell, tenor saxophone and bassoon; Gene Cipriano, tenor saxophone and English horn; Gary Smulyan, baritone saxophone; Brian Williams, bass clarinet; and Brad Dutz, vibes and percussion.

Mjoll offers a haunting chant to begin “Charlie Freak” (Pretzel Logic, 1974). The story of a homeless man who sold his one valuable possession, a ring, for cash to buy liquor takes on a new meaning with this bluesy rendition. Harper’s tenor takes lead. When the full band gets engaged, the music has a vibe akin to variations of the “Pink Panther Theme” used in the animated cartoon. However, the song shifts to a more somber, melancholy mood, anchored by the chant.

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Marnix Busstra – Sync Dreams

Marnix Busstra debuted in the United States with 2009’s Twelve Piece and the following year’s Trinary Motion, both of which he co-led with vibist Mike Mainieri of Steps Ahead. Now, the Dutch guitarist steps out with Sync Dreams (Buzz Music Records, 2013).

With Busstra are Rembrandt Frerichs on piano, Arnold Dooyeweerd on double bass and Pieter Bast on drums.

Busstra plays electric sitar on the placid “Earth Tone” to open the set. Busstra says of the instrument that he studied Indian music and played the sitar for a few year but had to stop because it’s a tough, physically demanding instrument. “You really have to play it every day because it’s hard on your fingers.” The song has a slight, Pat Metheny edge to it with just a hint of Santana when Busstra shifts to electric guitar. His accompanists are fully involved throughout the piece.

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Outer Bridge Ensemble – Determined

The Outer Bridge Ensemble has spent more than a decade performing at jazz venues and festivals in North America and Europe. With a reputation for drive and excitement, the group captures those elements with Determined (2013).

The group consists of Mark Dejong, saxophones; Steve Hudson, piano, organ and Rhodes; David Freeman, conga, djembe and percussion; and Jerome Jennings, drums and percussion. Guest musicians are bassist Soren Nissen, trumpeter James Zollar, trombonist Carsten Rubeling and guitarist Oren Neiman.

The title song is a moderate groove with a hint of funk. Dejong’s tenor leads the way with solid work from his bandmates. Hudson’s organ solo is reminiscent of some of the classic rock solos of the 1970s, like “Green Eyed Lady” and “Hold Your Head Up.” Neiman contributes with rhythm guitar.

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Scott Neumann Neu3 Trio – Blessed

Each musician has experience playing in trios. For Blessed (Origin Records, 2013), the leader wanted to distinguish this lineup from others. Thus the name Scott Neumann Neu3 Trio.

The trio consists of Scott Neumann, drums; Michael Blake, tenor and soprano saxophones and melodica; and Mark Helias, bass.

The title song is an upbeat, snappy tune. After an introductory sequence that mostly features bass and sax, the trio engage in a series of tightly syncopated phrases. Neumann is largely content to play subtly underneath the sax, with Blake being out front much of the way. He puts the tenor through some spirited lines. Helias is firmly engaged throughout. And Neumann, though mostly in the background, still manages to show off his dexterity on the kit, especially during the peak of the tenor solo.

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Nancy Harms – Dreams in Apartments

Earthy, rich, charming. Those words are the first things that come to mind upon hearing the voice of Nancy Harms. Dreams in Apartments (Gazelle Records, 2013) presents Harms with limited accompaniment, counterbalanced by original songs and fresh arrangements of classics.

Born in Clara City, Minnesota, Harms didn’t have the gift of being born in a musical family. And she was further limited in that exposure to jazz didn’t occur until she went to college. At that point, her future was determined. Though she went into teaching immediately after college, she eventually gave that up in favor of a career in jazz.

Accompanying Harms on this date are pianist Aaron Parks, who also plays Rhodes and organ on “Something Real”; guitarist John Hart; bassist Danton Boller and drummer RJ Miller. Trombonist Wycliffe Gordon cameos on “And It’s Beautiful.”

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Patrick Cornelius – Infinite Blue

Saxophonist and composer Patrick Cornelius plays it straight with Infinite Blue (Whirlwind Records, 2013). Jazz without gimmicks or chasers.

Collectively, the ensemble has shared the stage or studio with such luminaries as Maria Schneider Orchestra, Chick Corea, Brad Meldhau, Pat Metheny, Kurt Rosenwinkel and Joshua Redman. Cornelius plays the alto sax. His core group consists of Frank Kimbrough, piano; Michael Janisch, bass; and Jeff Ballard, drums. Trombonist Nick Vayenas appears on five tracks, trumpeter Michael Rodriguez appears on three, and pianist John Chin appears on one.

“Infinite Blue” is an ambient piece. Sax and trumpet share the lead during the main melody, then harmonize for the next passage. The horns soon step aside for the piano, with bass and drums assisting. Rodriguez comes forward in a mellow tone but with lots of vigor. Cornelius then licks his chops. Things get a little intense as he puts the alto through some complex rolls, but keeping with the ambient theme.

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Najee – The Morning After

There are only a few saxophonists, who really spread magic. Najee is one of them. A legend for a whole generation, but still a vital artist in the music industry, especially in smooth jazz!

The Morning After (A Musical Love Journey) is his second album for Shanachie Entertainment and was released in October, 2013. With the starting Rendezvous Najee immediately creates an atmosphere of familiar elegance, which makes the song so easily acceptable and catchy. The song is supported by musicians such as Demonte Posey (keyboards), Bill Sharpe (bass), Ray Fuller (guitar) and Daniel Powell (drums).

The album also focuses on songs about charming places in the world. San Tropez, the sophisticated city on the French Rivera, exerts a special attraction to Najee. Najee processes his impression with strong jazz integrations.

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John Funkhouser – Still

Music has long been considered the universal language. It can influence moods. It can calm savage beasts. It can also tell a story or provide imagery for a story that’s being told. Still (Jazsyzygy Records, 2013) by pianist John Funkhouser is the latter type.

The core trio consists of Funkhouser, Greg Loughman on bass and Mike Connors on drums. Guitarist Phil Sargent appears on three tracks, and vocalist Aubrey Johnson on two.

“Indigo Montoya’s Great Escape” starts with a piano roll, then quickly kicks in the accompaniment. The trio goes through several gear-shifting moments, from fast and dramatic to peaceful – like an interlude between action scenes in a movie. One can almost visualize Indigo’s adventure from a hard-charging, open-field run to a stealthy, “let’s make sure there are no booby traps” approach. Interspersed are a few moments of planning and waiting for the sentries to move on.

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