Archive for April, 2017

Mark Whitfield – Grace

In the tradition of George Benson, Wes Montgomery, Lee Ritenour and many more, Mark Whitfield exhibits superb finger dexterity with [i]Grace[/i] (Marksman Productions, 2017).

The players are Whitfield, guitar; sons Davis Whitfield, piano, and Mark Whitfield Jr., drums; Yasushi Nakamura, bass; and Sy Smith, vocals on “Grace.”

The music throughout is unfiltered jazz with tight syncopation and unit cohesion, augmented by individual expression. Smith lends her whispery voice to the title song, whose lyrics she wrote. Whitfield breezes through the songs, playing cleanly whether mixing chords with a string of single notes, or doing a high-speed riff. Davis, Mark Jr. and Nakamura deliver solid accompaniment, at times stretching out on their own.

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Elan Trotman – Electro Sax

Saxophonist Elan Trotman, has quickly become one of jazz’s most thrilling and emotive performers as he continues to stand out and push boundaries as a composer, performer, teacher and recording artist. Trotman’s playing, though inspired by Grover Washington, Jr., Kirk Whalum and Najee, displays his own fresh ideas and distinctive tone. So much so that the New England Urban Music Awards, and The Barbados Music Awards both named him Jazz Artist of The Year on multiple occasions.

His brand-new album Electro Sax features beats by Herman P-Nut Johnson, Coran L. Henley, and Evan Brice O’Neil Palmer. Responsible engineer (also mixing/editing) is Al Watkins. Artwork was created by Adam Bautista. Joining guitars are Wain Jonze, Freddie Fox and JJ Sansaverino. The album is already available for download at Amazon.com.

Pieces Of A Dream – Just Funkin’ Around

The legendary group Pieces Of A Dream is an original Philadelphian smooth jazz formation. Keyboardist James Lloyd, drummer Curtis Harmon and former bassist Cedric Napoleon, became popular under the patronage of Grover Washington Jr. Later Cedric left the group, what their success did not diminish. After Soul Intent, Pieces of a Dream’s latest effort on Heads Up, the group now sails under the flag of Shanachie Entertainment.

Just Funkin’ Around is a funky, joyful musical celebration, filled with melodic grooves that have made Pieces Of A Dream fan favorites. The ten brilliant originals that run the gamut from ‘in the pocket’ R&B to sensuous Smooth Jazz jams show Pieces Of A Dream are at the top of their game!! Lead producer and founding member James Lloyd, who has been a go-to hit maker and accompanist for such artists as Mary J. Blige, BB King, Najee, Wayman Tisdale and others, shines here with such highlights as the funky “Right Back Atcha’” and the romantic ballad “Sensuosity.” Additionally, co-founder Curtis Harmon’s composition, the hard grooving “Shaken, Not Stirred,” demonstrates why the ”Pieces” sound is a unique crowd pleaser!

Just Funkin’ Around is available for pre-order at Amazon.com.

Nick Finzer – Hear & Now

The year 2017 so far is shaping up to be one of statements. Delfeayo Marsalis and Noah Preminger have already released protest albums, inspired at least in part to the U.S. presidential election in 2016. Now comes trombonist Nick Finzer with Hear & Now.

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

“The Silent One” is moderately paced. The melody consists of overlapping phrases, with Finzer and Pino going one way, and Wintz another. After the opening sequence, Finzer steps out front while Wintz shifts into rock power chord mode in the background. About midway through the interlude, the guitar shifts back into jazz. Pino then takes the tenor on a jaunt, with some hardcore background play by Zaleski, Baron and MacBride. Finzer comes back in what for a moment seems like a competing solo, but he and Pino seamlessly weave back toward the main theme, setting up the placid finale.

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Norman Brown – Let It Go

Premium guitarist Norman Brown took his time since his previous solo album Sending My Love (2010). That was probably caused by his collaborations with Gerald Albright (24/7) and the group BWB (Rick Braun, Kirk Whalum, Norman Brown) releasing Human Nature (2013) and BWB (2016).

Let It Go (2017) is Norman’s debut at Shanachie Entertainment. What makes an instrumental guitar album to something very special? The arrangement? The performance? The talent? Musical enthusiasm? Certainly a bit of everything. But also important is the overall concept of the album.

Norman developed a coherent approach, a spiritual plan for the ultimate acoustic moment. The intro Lessons of the Spirit shows this intellectual style in musical implementation. Like George Benson is Norman one of the blessed guitarists always on the quest after the ideal melody. It Keeps Coming Back is the prove that he is often very close to the target.

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Kevin Eubanks – East West Time Line

Since his 18-year tenure as guitarist and music director of TV’s The Tonight Show Band ended in 2010, Philadelphia-born guitarist, composer Kevin Eubanks has been on a creative roll. On East West Time Line, Eubanks explores the chemistry he maintains with musicians on both coasts. And once again, his distinctive fingerstyle approach to the instrument is in the service of tunes that run the stylist gamut from urgent swingers to introspective ballads to Latin-tinged numbers and some get-down Philly funk.

Joining Eubanks on this stellar outing are longtime collaborator and former Berklee College of Music schoolmate, drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith, who fuels the West Coast outfit alongside seasoned session bassist Rene Camacho, percussionist Mino Cinelu and saxophonist Bill Pierce. Smith’s East Coast counterpart on this bi-coastal session is the irrepressibly swinging Jeff “Tain” Watts, a force of nature on the kit who combines with bassist Dave Holland, Philadelphia-based pianist Orrin Evans and New York trumpeter Nicholas Payton for a potent lineup. Together these great musicians bring out the best in Eubanks’ six-string prowess and ignite his searching instincts throughout the sessions in Los Angeles and New York.

“Of course, we all came up through New York,” says the Philly guitarist who broke in with Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers during the early ’80s. “But we also got the benefits of seeing the East Coast down and dirty and Hollywood down and dirty too. We combined both vibes on this recording-the kind of Latin vibe of Los Angeles and the straight-up swinging vibe of New York. Continue reading

Ty Causey – Tyangles

Singer Ty Causey is the vocal alternative to instrumental smooth jazz. Many smooth jazz fans know him by his cooperation with Najee on his album Morning Tenderness. Ty started his own career in 2004 with the album N-TYSING.

Love Notes (2005), Expressions (2007), Body Language (2008), True Love In Motion (2009), Down 2 Earth (2010), False Faces (2012), and Cool In My Skin (2013) were the follow-ups. Now he is back with his new album Tyangles (2017). The album was released April 15th. You can buy the album at Amazon.com.