Archive for May, 2013

BWB – Human Nature

Michael Jackson throws after his death still a powerful shadow. After Bob Baldwin’s tribute album Never Can Say Goodbye three further giants of smooth jazz present their very own homage Human Nature (2013). BWB is named after the musicians Rick Braun, Kirk Whalum and Norman Brown. Their first co-operation Groovin’ was released in 2002 on Warner Brothers. With their sophomore effort they reunited to do a Michael Jackson songbook.

The formation is joined by John Stoddart (keyboards), Braylon Lacey (bass), Khari Parker (drums), Lenny Castro (percussion) and Ralph Lofton (organ). To do an album of just covers carries some risk, especially when the original is so often played. On the other hand good jazz musicians have to overcome such obstacles.

That said the trio improvise on Another Part Of Me presenting their special skills and perfect written arrangement, thus transforming a well-known tune to a jazzy element. With Billie Jean they showcase brilliantly created harmonies. The concept is illustrated anew with the song Human Nature. A simple designed melody develops to a well thought out piece.

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Rock Candy Funk Party – We Want Groove

A glance at the cover, and a jazz listener may go, “What the what?” It’s a photo of a young woman in burlesque apparel squatting over an old – think 1960s era – amplifier. That’s how Rock Candy Funk Party presents their debut album, We Want Groove (J&R Adventures, 2013). Instead of revisiting something like “Groove Is in the Heart,” this jazz-funk effort throws in some rock and a ’60s-early ’70s psychedelic attitude.

The group is comprised of some experienced jazz artists who have also played other styles. They are Tal Bergman, drums and percussion; Ron DeJesus, guitar; Michael Merritt, bass guitar; Renato Neto, keyboards; and Joe Bonamassa, guitar.

The set begins with “Octopus-e,” a hard rock piece fueled by the groove. Think of what might happen if you threw songs by Herbie Hancock, Aerosmith and early Commodores into a blender. Merritt’s bass line and Bergman’s stick work carry the piece no matter what’s going on out front. And what’s out front is that psychedelic vibe provided by the guitars and keys.

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Saxlo – Eclectic Duality

Eclectic DualityIn Amiri Baraka’s Blues People, he speaks of the connection between history, culture, a people and the evolution of rhythm and sounds. It is through Blues and its evolution into jazz that a people were and are able to express themselves and transform those around them. This connection is no more evident than in the sounds that resonate from the alto and soprano saxophones of Mr. Larry “SaxLO” Owens, also simply known as “SaxLO”.

It was no surprise that “SaxLO” would become one of the most sought after saxophonist in the D.C./Maryland/V.A. area and beyond. For over 30 years “SaxLO” has perfected his craft.

His mastery of the alto saxophone heightened his curiosity, as he would put forth the same effort in his mastery of other saxophones including the baritone, tenor and soprano. ”SaxLO’s” music repertoire includes a plethora of music genres including but not limited to Classical, Gospel, Big Band, and Contemporary Jazz. His ability to invoke emotion through his music is a testament of his ability to fuse his own life experience and knowledge of music as an art form that can transfix and transform.

Currently you can catch “SaxLO” playing at various local spoken word venues, weddings, church functions, open mics, or simple intimate affairs. Whether it’s in a jam session with other musicians, in his church, or in the middle of the family room on Thanksgiving playing for family and friends, “SaxLO’s” gift to touch the soul through melodious sounds positions him a cut above many. ”I simply love to soothe those that hear me play. If I can make someone forget about all of their troubles and relax through my playing then I know my playing is not in vain.”

Eclectic Duality is now on sale at CDBaby.

Jay Hodges – Solitude

SolitudeSolitude is a collection of smooth gospel inspirational jazz grooves. Perfect for reflecting, an evening drive or that afternoon gathering. Music to help release the stress of the day. Easy listening melodies with strong hooks and sweet vocals that will promote an atmosphere of calm and meditation.The songs are comprised of musically satisfying piano melodies and tantalizing saxophone solos. When you want to withdraw from the mental and emotional strain of the day, Solitude is the perfect melodious break.

If you like Ben Tankard, Kirk Whalum, Wayman Tisdale. You will love Solitude. Listen to this album at CDBaby.

George Duke – Dreamweaver

The true greatness of a man shows up in hard times in managing personal problems. George Duke created DreamWeaver after his beloved wife, Corine, passed away. In light of this event, he found his inner balance during the recordings. The epic Onomatopoeia of the introductory piece is reminiscent of the legendary Genesis on Illusions.

Stanley Clarke’s intimate playing style on the upright bass harmonizes excellently with Duke’s piano improvisation on Stones of Orion. The gentleness with which both masters of jazz outline the notes of the melodious episode, unparalleled. With Trippin’ George Duke takes a look back into his own youth, when he had the first contact to jazz, especially to Julian Cannonball Adderley.

With a strong horn section, a funky guitar and the well-known keyboard George Duke succeeds the great appearance on the impressive AshTray. Of course, George Duke is also a master of the ballad, as he shows with Missing You. A piece that seems to be recorded with such ease and yet in view of the tragic event receives a bitter aftertaste.

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Ilia Skibinsky – The Passage

A little contemporary jazz, a little classical are some Middle Eastern seasoning are among the ingredients to The Passage (Mythology Records, 2013) by Ilia Skibinsky.

The players on this date are Skibinsky, alto saxophone; Glenn Zaleski, piano; Edward Perez, bass; and Colin Stranahan, drums. A few guest musicians also contribute. And Skibinsky plays soprano sax on two tracks and piano on one.

“The Passage, Pt. 1” launches the journey. It’s an energetic, yet tranquil piece that features the leader with two more horns, trumpeter Matt Jodrell and tenor saxophonist Matthew Silberman. The three mix and match for the melodic portions, then turn things over to guitarist Mike Moreno. Underneath it all, Zaleski, Perez and Stranahan get their grooves on.

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Kamal Abdul-Alim – Kani Mambo

Kani MamboAfro Beat, Jazz, Smooth World and Cool: This music presents an approach which touches on all of the Major Genres. Raggae Latin, Afro, Funk, Blues, and Straight Ahead Swing.

Listen to Kani Mambo at CDBaby.

Carol Duboc – Smile

SmileThinking that everything had fallen apart, the tears streamed down Carol Duboc’s face as she wrote the lyrics to “Smile,” the title track to the soulful jazz vocalist’s stunning sixth album that was released Tuesday (May 21) by Gold Note Music. She gazed at her young daughter’s smile and found hope. Hope infuses the painfully honest and courageously candid collection Duboc penned and produced with fusion pioneer Jeff Lorber about coming to terms with the end of her marriage. The shuffling beats of the funky first single, “Elephant,” one of Billboard BDSradio’s most added tracks this week, elusively dances around the realization that she and her husband faced: the amassed problems in the marriage were the elephant that could no longer be ignored.

Duboc and Lorber have a history of writing songs together that spans more than a decade yet became more frequent a few years ago when the chanteuse with the candied voice moved into a Los Angeles, Calif. neighborhood near Lorber’s home studio. They complement each other’s strengths as songwriters organically with Duboc coming up with catchy melodies and compelling storytelling lyrics for Lorber’s jazz-funk rhythms and grooves. Naturally turning to her own life for lyrical themes, Duboc delved into the flood of feelings that she was experiencing at the time in the troubled relationship. She intimately chronicled utilizing the process as a form of therapy allowing her to work through the morass. Despite the difficult subject matter, the songs are not bitter as Duboc instills a sense of hope into her melodies – perhaps because of her daughter’s presence. She remains poised throughout her cathartic emotional exploration.

“Smile” was recorded in the studio live with Duboc accompanied by a stellar ensemble consisting of Lorber (keyboards, Moog & guitar), Vinnie Colaiuta (drums), Grammy-nominee Brian Bromberg (acoustic bass), Jimmy Haslip (electric bass), 3-time Grammy nominee Hubert Laws (flute), Michael Thompson (guitars), Luis Conte (percussion) and Tim Carmon (piano). Her graceful, caressing and expressive voice nestles into the plush contemporary jazz rhythm beds, rides the R&B grooves, and adds depth to the urbane pop confections. Continue reading

George Duke – Dreamweaver

OK, let’s pretend that we don’t know about the recent tragedy in George Duke’s life and let’s pretend that I haven’t been a crazy fan for over 35 years – it’s going to be hard! Also, I’ll try to stay away from comparisons with other artists’ music – I’ll tell you how these songs make me feel.

I love the way that George conjures up a mood with a short intro – or outro. The one at the start of “Reach for It” has always grabbed my attention, and the synth-heavy title track here has the same effect. It’s spacey, slightly threatening and over headphones you are completely absorbed, despite its brevity. The scene is perfectly set for “Stones of Orion”, which finds George at the piano and Stanley Clarke (of course – you cry!) on upright bass providing a wash of cinematic sound, filled out with flute and some gorgeous brass. It is – and I mean this in the most complimentary way – 70’s big-city cop show writ large. Or at least it is until the rimshots mark a different tempo and George’s love of Latin music reveals itself. You’d expect Stanley to step forward with a solo and it’s a tasteful one. The whole song feels like an embrace for me and far from transporting me to another world, it makes me long for the warm sunshine of California.

Dukey funk meets the best of clipped urban beats on “Trippin’” and the sparse production here is sublime. There are whispers of muted trumpet, acoustic guitar, that squelchy Dukey synth and George’s vocal, which – let me tell you – sounds as good as ever. Hypnotic stuff. On “AshTray”, Dukey funk (or should that be ‘fonk’?) meets more Dukey funk. Crisp drumming, filthy slapped bass, some crazy guitar licks and some tasty electric piano make this a funk jam that you’ll be playing for days!! That’s before you dig out all your other Dukey treats…

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Liz Mandeville – Clarksdale

She’s got a style that makes you notice. And she sings for the pure joy of it. Liz Mandeville, a product of the Chicago blues scene, visits the Mississippi Delta with Clarksdale (Blue Kitty Music, 2013).

The 2011 Chicago Blues Society’s Blues Challenge Solo/Duo winner enlists some Delta region stars and a few other friends for the project. Among them are Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, who is from Helena, Arkansas, home of the King Biscuit Blues Festival. Saxophonist Eddie Shaw, who hails from the Stringtown community, near Greenville, Mississippi, also contributes. Darryl Wright plays bass and arranged several tracks. Several other players also make appearances.

“Roadside Produce Stand” is a lively piece. Mandeville sings with spirit and sass. Smith provides drums and blues harp (harmonica). It’s the kind of song that makes those in the audience want to get up and dance.

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