Till Brönner – Christmas

ChistmasWith his new album “Christmas” trumpeter Till Brönner in trio with pianist Frank Chastenier and bassist Christian von Kaphengst creates a puristic album full of chamber music intensity and refreshing breadth. Songs from different decades and genres like “Jesus to Child”, “Ich steh an deiner Krippe hier” or “Jingle Bells” combine them to an intimate listening experience. Relevant art is always a mirror of its time and the circumstances under which it is created.

On “Christmas”, Till Brönner succeeds in creating a unique melange of topicality and timelessness. “The past few months have made us all realize,” explains Brönner, “what is really important in life. We wanted to implement this realization within the music as well. So slowly, life is returning to a certain normality, where small celebrations in the closest circle are finally possible again. After this special year, we have deliberately decided against an album with bombastic-overloaded cover versions for lavish celebrations, but instead try to create a special, an almost intimate Christmas mood with a small ensemble. “Christmas” features Till Brönners stylistic range from German Christmas classics like “Ich steh an deiner Krippen hier” to thoughtful pop moments like the touching cover of George Michaels “Jesus To A Child” to elegant, laid-back late-night remakes of American evergreens like “Jingle Bells” or “Christmas Time Is Here”.

The latter is given a very special melancholic touch by none other than Max Mutzke with his soulful vocals. “In the mid-1960s, the Vietnam War was in full swing. At the time of the civil rights movement, this piece was created, in which, despite its brittleness, there is a certain melancholy. I had a long talk with Max about the track. He, too, is an intuitive guy who is comfortable in different genres. He immediately hit the right note,” sums up Till Brönner.

“Christmas” is released in the Studio Edition on Pure Audio Blu-ray. In addition to a Hi-Res Stereo and Surround Sound, the Pure Audio Blu-ray also includes an immersive mix in AURO-3D and Dolby Atmos.

Buy the album and its audio alternatives here.

Prez – Family Portrait

FamilyPortraitPrez is a multi instrumentalist singer/songwriter who embraces a wide variety of influences. From the Earth, Wind & Fire inspired “I Wanna Be With You” to the Sly Stone vibe of “Sing My Song” or the psychedelic sound of Just 4 You that has a hint of Prince to it, Prez packs a lot of history into his music. He explains” As musicians, we are really just a product of the music that we listen to and grew up on. I happen to love the older stuff. Music that some of the older cats turned me onto.” There was so much feeling and soul in those tunes that I would spend my career just trying to write and produce music that made me feel the same way.” Prez goes on to say, “There are two things that I would like my music to do to people. I want to make them smile and give them something positive to think about.” To do this he had to do things his own way. “I wasn’t really interested in singing about what everyone else was singing about. I was writing about “Bluebirds and Butterflies” and how “Everybody wants to Be Free” instead of going out to the club and hooking up with someone.”

Prez’s quest to measure up to those that came before him (Sly, Stevie, EW&F, Prince, The Beatles, Lenny Kravitz) has taken him on a fantastic journey through the music industry. “My first recording session was for reggae artists that would come up to NY and record in a studio that my bass player owned. Then I would get calls to do some Freestyle music for artists that were coming out of the Bronx. Next I started getting calls  for hip hop sessions. I was still in high school and attending the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music to study jazz and classical music. I had decided that I wanted to work with famous people so I started networking and auditioning as much as I could and playing as many gigs as possible.”

Little by little things started to pay off. Soon Prez found himself attending open call for musicians to go out on tour with well known recording artists. “To me, it just felt as if it were just a matter of time before someone said yes and I got the gig.” Finally someone did say yes and Prez’s career as a side musician began. “It was cool travelling all over the place and meeting new people, but the biggest blast was getting up on that stage in front of all of those people to play some music!” Continue reading

Paul Messina – Blue Fire

BlueFireMulti Instrumentalist (Flutes, Saxophones, Keyboards, Synth Sequencing), Composer, Arranger and Producer Paul Messina is an accomplished musician who has experienced the full spectrum of the musical realm, from playing with a variety of bands and working with a wide range of musicians, in both the recording and producing capacity, to composing and arranging music, as well as playing an assortment of instruments. Paul’s quest for musical knowledge has lead him to study under the tutelage of some jazz greats in addition to his worldly experience. He is presently the lead arranger for producer Gary M. Vandy, and the bandleader for the Contemporary Jazz group “Flashpoint”.

After nearly 40 years as a Flautist, Paul began playing the saxophone as his main instrument in 2005. He has released two albums as a solo artist (Musical Bridges 2014 and Gratitude 2018). Gary M. Vandy co-produced and mixed/mastered the albums. His next release was a collaboration with Bassist Mark R. Harris “The Bigger Picture, released in June 2019. His newest project is Blue Fire (2021).

Buy this album on Paul’s website.

Raul Midón – The Mirror

6162Ld6AQWL._SX522_Singer/songwriter and guitarist Raul Midón is on an undeniable roll. After GRAMMY® Award nominations for his two previous Artistry Music/Mack Avenue Music Group releases – Bad Ass & Blind and If You Really Want, each for Best Jazz Vocal Album – he returns with his 11th studio album and fourth for the label: The Mirror, to be released March 13, 2020. The Mirror finds Midón breaking new ground for himself, including two entrancing solo spoken-word pieces (“If I Could See” and “One Day Without War”). The album also features studio meetings with such veteran jazz colorists as vibraphonist Joe Locke (“A Certain Café”), as well as a songwriting collaboration with top pianist Gerald Clayton, “Deep Dry Ocean.” Another highlight is the road-weary jazz ballad “Cold Cuts and Coffee,” while title track “The Mirror” beguiles with its easy tropical groove, lyrical sophistication and Midón’s flowing electric guitar. As National Public Radio set the stage before his captivating edition of its “Tiny Desk Concert” broadcast: “Raul Midón lives in a world of sound. Blind since birth, Midón’s interpretation of his surroundings is borderless. He sings with the passion of the best classic soul singers, and his instrumental chops stand alongside the most accomplished jazz musicians.”

About The Mirror, Midón says: “I produced and pored over this album like I do all my records – they really are me in that sense. So it’s important that I surprise myself and my listeners. Take the spoken-word pieces, for instance. I grew up listening to artists who were rappers before rap, like Gil Scott-Heron, so I’ve always wanted to take that sort of approach to something. I think hearing me speak the words over the music makes it especially personal – which is particularly true with ‘If I Could See,’ where I’m talking about something very intimate for me.” On that lyrical theme, one of the album’s vocal gems is “Disguise,” a cleverly romantic number that finds Midón singing about his powers of perception: “I know you see things a different way / But for me it’s not the way you look / But what you have to say… Don’t stare at my eyes / There’s nothing there to surmise / You know that I’m wise / Because I can hear through you.”

About the ace musicians who join him on The Mirror, Midón says: “The song ‘A Certain Café’ is about how time can seem to stop in certain moments and you never forget it. Because I’ve worked with Joe Locke live and in the studio a few times, I knew his vibes would be ideal for giving the track that nostalgic shimmer. I’ve loved Joe’s sound since I first heard him in the 1970s. I also loved the virtuoso Manhattan Transfer since I was a kid and having that group’s Janis Siegel add her backing vocals to ‘I Love the Afternoon’ – along with Lauren Kinhan, another one of the world’s great harmony singers, who’s from New York Voices – was a real treat for me.” Midón discovered the talents of trumpeter Gary Alesbrook via Instagram, when the young English musician posted his transcription of one of the singer’s trademark virtual “mouth trumpet” solos. “When I heard Gary do that on Instagram, I thought it was cool – but I also realized that he is a wonderful trumpet player,” Midón says. “I’m so glad that I could get his horn for this record, on ‘Disguise’.” Continue reading

Edison Herbert – Time For Love

a1179371636_16Edison Herbert is a gifted and melodic guitarist. Born in Leeds, he started playing the piano as a young boy encouraged by his parents. While studying classical piano at Yorkshire College of Music, he began teaching himself to play guitar. He gained valuable experience performing at church with small gospel groups and choirs.

This passion for the guitar resulted in further studies at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama where he performed with The Guildhall Big Band featuring Randy Brecker at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club.​ Musician, composer, arranger and bandleader. Edison was musical arranger for the West End musical “Unforgettable and was musical director on the international tour. He has composed music for BBC Radio 4 and performed with The Jazz Warriors, Rose Royce and Kim Burrell and various other artists.

Edison heads up a trio featuring Neville Malcom on double bass and drummer Winston Clifford. In 2015 Edison was sponsored by the Arts Council to tour with their first album “My Favourite Tunes”. A second album “All I Need” was recorded in 2019 and release dates are still to be finalized.

Edison has been hard at work throughout 2020. His new album project “Time for Love” was funded by The Arts Council. It’s a change of direction with an exciting new band line up and an eclectic mix of original compositions and popular covers. After much uncertainty and many twists and turns “Time for Love” is recorded and ready to go. 2021 is here and things are going in the right direction. Edison will be posting regular updates over the coming weeks. As winter turns to spring, come with him on a journey of joy, hope and togetherness.  Now is the time for love.

Get this album on bandcamp.

Nate Najar – Under Paris Skies

Under Paris SkiesGuitarist Nate Najar is emerging as one of this decade’s finest modern jazz exponents. He is a player who uses a distinctive technique to convey his artistic prowess- not many artists play acoustic classical guitar with right hand classical technique, yet it is the perfect choice for Najar’s comprehensive approach. Not restricted to single notes or chords, Nate seamlessly weaves melody, harmony and rhythmic freedom. The result is music that is swinging, emotional, inventive and interesting.

Continuing to perform at major venues and festivals across the entire globe, Nate’s latest album, Under Paris Skies was released in 2018 on Woodward Avenue Records. Rick Andersen of the All Music Guide called Nate “one of the most consistently interesting and stylish young guitarists on the jazz scene….” Becky Byrd, wife of the late guitarist Charlie Byrd says it best: “There is no doubt that there is a piece of Charlie’s soul in Nate’s mind, heart and fingers.

Get this album at Apple Music.

Palomino Duck – Smooth Flight

SmoothFlightWhat an interesting name! Where did it come from? What is a Palomino Duck?

The musical idea was conceived by Atlanta composer and producer Tim McCabe. With over 25 years of music production experience, McCabe put out the word to other composer/ producers that he had a new concept. His parameters were quite clear “Give me the best song you’ve ever written …strong melody … well structured . .. one with radio, TV & film potential as well as something the everyday person would enjoy listening to. McCabe coined the phrase “cinemusic” as the one word that best describes the compositions he has assembled.

He, and his engineer/ co-producer Ron Cristopher, listened to over a hundred original songs before settling on the final selections. “First Flight” focuses on the songs. “There is a tremendous void in the music of today” says McCabe. “Where are the great and lasting songs going to come from?” The initial acceptance of Palomino Duck would indicate that McCabe has found the answer. He has already begun work on follow-up albums “Classical Flight”, “Jazz Flight” and “Free Flight.” Meanwhile, McCabe and the rest of the performing group are currently rehearsing for their forthcoming concert tour.
Continue reading

Robert Christa / Tom Reif – Free As A Bird

freeasabirdGerman pianist and composer Robert Christa is best known in the smooth jazz genre by his solo projects Nightflight To Rio (2015), City Lights (2017) and Smooth World (2019). His new album is a collaboration with the multi-instrumentalist Tom Reif entitled Free As A Bird (2021).

Robert Christa has written all tracks and plays Rhodes, piano and keys. Tom Reif has arranged, mixed and produced the tracks and performs guitars, guitar synth, fretless bass, keyboards, loops, percussion, programming and was co-composer on three tracks. Additional artists are Herb Berger (harp) and Tommy Eberhardt (drums).

The album opens with the sun-drenched Sunset Boulevard, from which Christa and Reif can definitely derive romantic aspects. Christa follows with the opening track to the familiar smooth jazz style of his previous album.

Read more …

Brian Culbertson – Blue

BlueJazz/R&B keyboardist Brian Culbertson is not only successful in the area of smooth jazz. But he unfolds his primordial power when he pushes into the fields of Funk. With Bringing Back The Funk, released in 2008 on GRP Records, and Funk! on his own label in 2016 he has already set two milestones. His next album XX, so named because it’s his twentieth album, extended the spectrum in the spirit of his diversity.

Further releases are Music From The Hang (2020) and Soundscapes (2021). His newest project is The Trilogy, Part 1 – Red (2021). The Trilogy consists of Part 1: red = passion (coming 9.24.21), Part 2: blue = melancholy (coming 1.14.22), and Part 3: white = hope (coming 5.6.22). All songs are written, arranged, and produced by Brian Culbertson.

The second album Blue will be released January 14, 2022. However Brian sells the first badge of signed pre-ordered copies now! Get your copy here.

Jeff Oster – Next

Jeff Oster Next FAWith his newest album, Next (2015), Jeff Oster brings his horn front and center – you’ll hear his unmistakable tone floating over these 12 new tracks like never before. For Jeff, this album is about rebirth and change, and tells the story of what’s next for him, both as a musician and in his life.

“next is about claiming who I am, and who I’ve always wanted to be,” says Jeff. “It’s why I live. It takes strength and power to step out into the unknown. Not everyone opens the door and takes the risk to try something new, something you’ve dreamed of for years. And with uncertainty comes the joy of freedom. This album represents my moment to truly make a statement…to claim my place as a musician with something important to share.”

With “next”, Jeff creates a new genre – New Age Ambient Funk – and along for the ride are guitarist Nile Rodgers (Chic, Daft Punk, David Bowie, Madonna) on the title track, and five songs created during a legendary session with the duo of drummer Bernard “Pretty” Purdie and bassist Chuck Rainey – musicians that he has respected and admired for his entire musical career.

Jeff Oster has always amazed me. Anyone who sounds like no one else amazes me, but a guy who grows so stunningly as a composer and player in the space of a few years inspires nothing but awe. NEXT is a step in musical evolution from where we last heard from Jeff… rather like the apes harnessing fire and inventing French cuisine. It’s a joy as his friend and co-producer to watch someone you love and respect grow into an artist of true importance and significance in a world of background noise.

Listen to this. It matters. Available here.