Archive for August, 2015

Groove LTD. – First Class

GrooveLTD-FirstClassWhen two musical elemental forces come together, something extraordinary is created. Guitarist U-NAM is known by his solo projects The Past Builds The Future (2005), Back From the 80’s (2007), Unanimity (2009), Weekend in L.A. (A Tribute To George Benson) (2012) and C’est Le Funk (2014). Saxophonist Shannon Kennedy received attention with Angel Eyes (2005) and in 2007 with Steppin Up and Never My Love.

Now both reveal their collective debut under the group name Groove LTD. releasing the album First Class. The duo is joined by keyboardist Jonathan Fritzen, vocalist Maysa Leak, percussionist Paulinho DaCosta, drummer Michael White, bassist Dwayne “Smitty” Smith , Neo-Soul singer Myron Davis, steel drums master Andy Narell, as well as many more.

Groove LTD. opens the album with First Class and covers its name with glory. The song shimmers in Benson like guitar style with Shannon’s extra sax appeal fully equipped with a string orchestra. Uprising turns up the volume with a disco beat with Shannon completely unleashed and an exceptionally disposed Jonathan Fritzen on piano.

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Nick Finzer – The Chase

The trombone is a vital part of any big band or orchestra. And often with smaller ensembles, it is an excellent background or solo instrument. However, in recent decades, it has faded as a lead instrument. Nick Finzer aims to change that culture with The Chase (Origin Records, 2015).

With Finzer are Lucas Pino, saxophone; Alex Wintz, guitar; Glenn Zaleski, piano; Dave Baron, bass; and Jimmy MacBride, drums.

“Life Happens” is a moderate, sunny piece. Trombone and sax harmonize for the lead, delivering a warm, celebratory melody. Then, each takes a turn in the spotlight, followed by the guitar, while the other players remain engaged. Then a brief interlude with only piano, bass and drums sets up a return to the main theme. Through it all, MacBride has a little fun, doing far more than simply maintaining the beat.
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Moon Base – High

German keyboardist and songwriter Thomas Motter has already released four albums. In the center of this review is his third album entitled High (2012) launched under the project name Moon Base. Thomas comments: “On a more abstract level a “moon base” is so similar to a train station, an extraterrestrial connection station. And a meeting – in this case for musicians and lovers of jazz, funk & soul!”

Motter opens the set with Fine Tuning. With spoken words by LyricL aka Lillian Mgbado the tune gets an underground character. More in the soul realm is to find the title song featuring the lovely voice of late Helen Taylor. The ideal addition is Bill Evans on sax who completes the vocal line on his instrument with great empathy.

On Apollo Interlude Motter interferes with spacey sounds on his Roland V-Synth. Moon Cookies offers some vocal sweets with Karl Frierson served the funky way. Do Me Like A Lion featuring Menoosha Susungi must be understood as sonic piece of art. The emergence of a love relationship is outlined in catchy words, accompanied with a grippy slap bass. The refrain is placeholder for the unspoken sexual act.

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Baltazanis – End of Seas

Jazz may be an American adventure, but its appeal is worldwide. Musicians of many nationalities have adopted this art form. From Greece, we have Costas Baltazanis. His group, Baltazanis, presents all-original material with End of Seas (2015).

The group consists of Baltazanis, guitar; Dan Brantigan, trumpet; Isamu McGregor, keyboards and piano; Panagiotis Andreou, bass; and Engin Gunaydin, drums. Guest musicians are Alex Foster, saxophone; Rich Stein, percussion; Camila Meza, voice and guitar; Justin Tyson, drums; and Brice Wassy, percussion.

The music might best be described as ambient with an abstract twist. On “The Other Day,” Baltazanis plays in a Matheny-like style. The song is tranquil, right up to the moment Brantigan gets engaged. The trumpet adds a brief flare of intensity before the mood reverts to its softer side.

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Thomas Motter – Lost & Loved

German keyboardist and songwriter Thomas Motter has already released four albums. The debut No Return (2005) and the second album Nite Angel (2006) are published under the project name “t-mc”. The abbreviation “t-MC” stands for “Thomas, Master of Ceremony”. His third album High (2012) is released under the project name “moon base”.

Thomas comments: “On a more abstract level a “moon base” is so similar to a train station, an extraterrestrial connection station. And a meeting – in this case for musicians and lovers of jazz, funk & soul!” His recent album Lost & Loved (2013) is released under his own name Thomas Motter and mastered by Eric Zobler.

Stylistically remains Thomas faithfully to jazz, funk and soul compared to his previous projects. The album opens with Star featuring soul singer LeNora Jaye. A hip ballad about one’s willpower, which is able to prevail over the life adversities and makes you a star.

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Davide Tammaro – Ghosts

Think back to some of the CTI Records releases of the 1960s and ’70s, and you’ll get an idea of Davide Tammaro’s Ghosts (2015).

Tammaro plays electric guitar. His band consists of Panagiotis Andreou, bass and vocals; Alex Han, alto sax; Pasquale Strizzi, Wurlitzer, Fender Rhodes and piano; Jake Sherman, Hammond B3 organ; and Andrew Atkinson, drums.

“Jungle” opens the set. It’s an upbeat piece. Tammaro plays like a 1970s rock star bent on improvising. Electric sound effects give it a space fiction feel. The other players are solid, but it’s the leader who shines here. Atkinson does step out a little during the closing sequence.

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Nicholas Cole – Night Sessions

Keyboardist Nicholas Cole has surprised the smooth jazz community with his solo albums A Journey of One (2010) and Endless Possibilities (2012).

Meanwhile this wunderkind can be found on albums of well-known musicians such as Brian Simpson (Just What You Need), Steve Cole (Pulse), Julian Vaughn (Breakthrough, Limitless), Lebron (Shades), Elisabeth Mis (Breakaway), Lin Rountree (Serendipitous, Soulfunky), Jeff Kashiwa (Let It Ride) or Marcus Anderson (Style Meets Substance).

While his reputation as a studio musician is already phenomenal, the insiders are waiting for the breakthrough as a live musician. His fame is likely to rise by his new album Night Sessions (2015). On the cover of the album Nicholas holds the album by Stevie Wonder Songs In The Key of Life in hand. But many combine Stevie with his super hit Superstition, the song that really put the Hohner Clavinet on the map in funk and soul music. This brings us to Nicolas’ starter Mary Ann, on which he extensively plays this instrument and also keeps faithful to the rhythm.

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Claire Ritter – Soho Solo

It’s not often that a solo piano offering comes along that holds my attention. But when the songs are mostly original, and the music is more about the joy of playing than technique, it can be a fun and engaging experience. So it is with Claire Ritter’s Soho Solo (Zoning Recordings, 2015).

“Intergrity” opens the set. It’s a delightfully charming piece, one of 18 Ritter originals. It has a playful, walking through the neighborhood vibe. “Tar” delivers much of that same kind of vibe, though a bit more subtly. “The Brook & The Bird” is a softer, more placid piece. One can visualize a shallow, clear-running stream where a jay or mockingbird takes a drink. Ritter closes the set with her personal take on Harold Arlen’s “I’ve Got the World on a String.”

Seven of Ritter’s 18 compositions were previously recorded. In all, Soho Solo has 20 tracks, meaning the songs are short and to the point. Ritter plays for the joy of playing and sharing her different moods, stories and artistry.

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Nils – Alley Cat

German born guitarist Nils has impressed the audience with smooth jazz albums like Pacific Coast Highway (2005), Ready To Play (2007), Up Close And Personal (2009) and City Groove (2012). After one year in the making he is now releasing his new project Alley Cat.

On his new CD he is joined by late Ricky Lawson (drums), Darryl Williams, Reggie McBride and Carsten Schmelzer (bass), Clydene Jackson and Nate Harasim (keys), Oliver Brown (percussion), Johnny Britt (keyboards, trumpet and flugelhorn), Eddie Brown and Kathryn Bostic (vocals), Reggie Codrington, Eric Marienthal (sax), DOV (strings, violas), Malcom Pearson (cello) and more. Many of his established companions.

With Two of a Kind Nils starts a fresh and uplifting guitar tune, a captivating burner with a straight melody. Alley Cat is a song like a full-bodied wine, topped off with strings and a horn arrangement. Don’t Hold Back shines with Nils’ typical hooking guitar play, one can hear on all of his previous albums. Johnny Britt and The JayBeez Hornz deliver some icing on the top with an easy going horn arrangement.

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Steve Smith and Vital Information – Viewpoint

Modern Drummer Hall of Fame inductee Steve Smith says of his 2015 rendering of Vital Information that it’s the “best of all worlds.” His extensive experience and culling of New York-area jazz musicians bring us Viewpoint (BFM Jazz, 2015) by Steve Smith and Vital Information NYC Edition.

Vital Information NYC Edition are Mark Soskin, piano and Fender Rhodes; Baron Browne, bass; Andy Fusco, alto sax; and Vinny Valentino, guitar. Walt Weiskopf, tenor sax, appears on two tracks.

“Time Check” is one of two songs from the Buddy Rich playbook. One can almost see Buddy during Smith’s solo introduction. Soskin cuts loose on the Fender Rhodes, while Browne and Valentino get their licks in. Things heat up when Fusco and Weiskopf get busy for some rapid-fire phrasing. While the alto stretches out, the others do plenty to make sure listeners remain aware of their presence. Just before the end of the piece, Smith pays homage to Rich with a “stop what you’re doing and take notice” solo.

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