Archive for August, 2015

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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Eric Marienthal and Chuck Loeb – Bridges

Saxophonist Eric Marienthal and guitarist Chuck Loeb are both veteran musicians of the smooth jazz and contemporary jazz world. Who should do the extra work to count their albums, will have a Sisyphean task. Both have performed or written on more than 50 singles in the top ten smooth jazz charts.

Although both have shared stage on many events and also played on albums together, Bridges is their first joint venture. The album starts with the dreamy Westward. With pizzicato guitar strings and soprano sax Eric and Chuck create a sound atmosphere in soft shades.

The romantic Crossing features Byron Landham, John Patitucci & David Charles. This tune will be the first single of the album. Chuck Loeb has long been a soft spot for the Spanish music. This he lives entirely on Puentes.

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Terell Stafford – BrotherLee Love

One could call it a musical love letter, brother to brother. Trumpeter Terell Stafford presents BrotherLee Love (Capri Records, 2015), a tribute to Lee Morgan.

On this date, Stafford is joined by Tim Warfield, saxophone; Bruce Barth, piano; Peter Washington, bass; and Dana Hall, drums.

The set begins with the jaunty, swinging “Hocus Pocus.” Trumpet and sax blend for the delightful melody. Stafford then takes point for an extended run. He mixes some rapid-fire phrases with quick stops and turns. Warfield follows with a series of high-speed, notes-per-beat lines. Barth and Washington get to lick their chops as well. Throughout, Hall remains firmly engaged, throwing in some dexterity on the toms as Stafford and Warfield go back and forth.

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John Dillard – Let’s Ride

Hailing from Rochester, NY bassist John Dillard counts to his influences famous names such as Jaco Pastorius, Marcus Miller or Nathan East. He currently performs with Stephanie Mills, LeJuene Thompson, Brian Simpson, Matt Marshak, Jeff Kashiwa, The Sax Pack, Nick Colionne, and Four80East. Now he starts his own career with the debut album Let’s Ride

While John plays on his album bass and keys, he is supported by Quantavius Dillard and Richard Jenkins (drums), Lovell Bradford and Oli Silk (Rhodes), Lin Rountree (trumpet), Buff Dillard (trombone), Joe Lindsay, Reggie Graves, Matt Marshak and Marc Antoine (guitars), Marcus Anderson (sax, EWI), Gabriel Bello (synth), Ard Sherrod Jr. (sax), Paul Whitley (keys and organ), Chad Lawson (keys) on selected tracks.

Mix deep funk with with spoken words of Quentin Tailey and heavy slides on bass and you get Funk This – The Intro. A glooming business card with what could be. Playing funk is probably the most fun thing to do with a bass guitar. This wisdom heeded John and presents the funky Let’s Ride.

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Allegra Levy – Lonely City

Allegra Levy is a refreshing talent to enter the jazz scene. Her debut release, Lonely City (Steeple Chase Productions, 2014), departs from the usual fare offered by up and coming vocalists. Rather than revisit standards from the American Songbook category of oldies that have been remade to infinity, Levy composed music and lyrics to all 11 tracks.

The core band consists of Adam Kolker, tenor sax; John Bailey, trumpet; Carmen Staaf, piano; Jorge Roeder, bass; and Richie Barshay, drums and percussion. Guest musicians are Steve Cardenas, guitar on “Anxiety”; Lolly Bienenfield, trombone on “I Don’t Want to Be in Love”; Mark Feldman, violin on “Everything Green” and “Clear-Eyed Tango”; Andy Green, guitar, and Aubrey Johnson, vocal, on “Lonely City”; and Fung Chern Hwei, violin, Victor Lowrie, viola, and Mariel Roberts, cello, on “The Duet.”

“Anxiety” opens the set. It has a moderate, low-swing groove. Levy sings of an emotion she wishes would leave her, make her stop worrying about a relationship. Her voice is soothing, despite the lyrics of unease. All the musicians on this track have significant impact, even those who are mostly background. Kolker, Staaf and Cardenas stand out.

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