Archive for November, 2013

Dillinger’s Hired Guns – Norcal: On the 8s

Norcal On the 8sDillinger’s Hired Guns plays music which can best be described as “Not Quite Jazz”. They blend jazzy tunes with elements of Funk, Rock, and other styles to create a style that is perfect to help you through your day. Dillinger’s Hired Guns blend Funk, Jazz, and Rock music for a smooth dose of ear candy.

You can buy this album at CDBaby.

Alex Bugnon – Harlem

ab_cd_coverMontreux, Switzerland born contemporary jazz pianist Alex Bugnon enthused the smooth jazz audience with albums such as Love Season (1989), Head Over Heels (1990), 107 Degrees in the Shade (1991), This Time Around (1993), Tales from the Bright Side (1995), As Promised (2000), Soul Purpose (2001), Southern Living (2003), Free (2005) and Going Home (2009).

The latter album was already released on Bugnon’s label Xela Records. Now he returns with the album Harlem. The album starts with the slow paced Bridging The Gap with Alex Bugnon on piano accompanied by Poogie Bells (drums), Jeremy McDonald (bass) and Keith Robinson (guitar). The melodious piece gives him enough approaches to put his dexterity on the piano to the test.

Curtis Mayfield’s album Super Fly was one of the pioneering soul concept albums. Alex presents from this album the track Pusherman and shines on piano and Wurlitzer organ. Preach Freedom’s percussion delivers an authentic rhythm background. Night In Tunisia by Dizzy Gillespie and Frank Paparelli, a popular jazz standard, is interpreted by Bugnon the acoustic way. He designed the original brass piece around a trio with Poogie Bells on drums and Jeremy McDonald on acoustic bass.

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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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Spyro Gyra – The Rhinebeck Sessions

TheRhinebeckSessionsThe patriarch of the famous aerialist family certainly knew what he was talking about after a lifetime of thrilling, edge-of-the-seat performances for his audiences. While the stakes might not be as high for a jazz band improvising in a recording studio or in front of a live audience, Spyro Gyra’s Jay Beckenstein understands the passion that drives a person and makes “life on the wire” so appealing. For more than three decades, the band has maintained a position at the forefront of modern jazz by successfully managing not just one, but several feats of creative dexterity. “That’s what has kept this band going,” says Beckenstein. “There are always balances to be found – between the individual player and the group, between the songwriter and the player. It’s about both satisfying yourself and satisfying your audience. And when you’re improvising in front of a crowd, you’re really walking down that wire. There are always surprises that way, but our openness to those surprises is what makes this band what it is. We just happen to be walking on a slightly more forgiving tightrope.”

Born in Brooklyn, Beckenstein grew up listening to the music of Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins and Dizzy Gillespie, and started playing the saxophone at age seven. Beckenstein attended the University at Buffalo, starting out as a biology major before changing to music performance. During summer breaks, he and an old high school friend, keyboardist Jeremy Wall, played gigs together back on Long Island. Wall attended college in California, and after both graduated, Beckenstein stayed in Buffalo’s thriving music scene, where Wall eventually joined him. This band, whose odd name has since become world famous, was first known simply as “Tuesday Night Jazz Jams,” a forum wherein Beckenstein and Wall were joined by a rotating cast of characters. Tuesday just happened to be the night when the two musicians weren’t playing other gigs that paid their bills. Around this time, a young keyboardist named Tom Schuman began sitting in when he was only sixteen years old, and remains a member to this day. The group’s increasing popularity – combined with the purchase of a new sign for the club – prompted the owner to insist that Beckenstein come up with a name for his band. “It began as a joke. I said ‘spirogyra,’ he misspelled it, and here we are thirty years later. In retrospect, it’s okay. In a way, it sounds like what we do. It sounds like motion and energy.”

In their earliest days, Spyro Gyra took their cues from Weather Report and Return to Forever – bands whose creative flights were fueled by a willingness to do things that had never been done before. “I believed that we were springing from what Weather Report did,” says Beckenstein. “I never thought in commercial terms. I just thought they were the next step in the evolution of jazz, and that we would be part of it.” Morning Dance, released thirty years ago in 1979, included the title track which became a Top 40 single and proved to be the band’s breakout song. To this day, the Calypso inspired track is still in heavy rotation on contemporary jazz stations. Meanwhile, the heavy touring that began around this same time has yet to stop, and a few new faces have entered the picture along the way: guitarist/vocalist Julio Fernandez joined the band in 1984, while Scott Ambush has been the bassist for 17 years. Continue reading

Reza Khan – Dreamwalker

DreamwalkerNot only did ‘A Simple Plan’ by guitarist Reza Khan prove to be a veritable treasure chest of riches it also garnered the radio singles ‘Language Of Love’ (that featured Andy Snitzer on sax) and the equally good ‘Blue Dreams In Rio’. Now he is back with the CD ‘Dreamwalker’.

Domiciled in New York, Reza was born in Bangladesh and has recorded with his own band, Painted Diaries, since 2001 when he released an album of the same name. Although on record as continuously reaching for a global sound, Kahn’s music is remarkably accessible. Indeed it’s a must for those who have a penchant for smooth jazz guitar in the style of Peter White or Ken Navarro. A case in point is the easy grooving title cut that is well worth looking out for.

New from guitarist Reza Khan comes Dreamwalker  featuring keyboardist Philippe Saisse and saxophonist Andy Snitzer on Reza’s exciting new collection of global grooves! Fans of Peter White and Ken Navarro will love this new CD now at CDBaby.

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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