Archive for April, 2017

Bob Holz – Visions & Friends

After scoring some success with A Vision Forward (2015), Bob Holz releases his sophomore effort, this time with some extra help. Visions & Friends (MVD Records, 2017) is a set of all-original music.

The players are Holz, drums and percussion; Larry Coryell and Alex Machacek, guitars; Ralphe Armstrong and Mike Schoeffter, bass; Randy Brecker, trumpet on “Flat Out” and “For the One”; Billy Steinway, keyboards; David Goldberg, saxophones; Tori Higley, vocals on selected tracks; Rob Stathis, accompanying piano on “Eleven High”; Zoe Stathis-Sandor, vocals on “Take It From Maurice”; and Scott Gerling, percussion on “Take It From Maurice.”

“Flat Out” sets the tone for this set. This lively groove crosses the bridge between funk, fusion and instrumental rock. Brecker and Machacek are the stars, fronting the main theme and enjoying invigorating solos. Steinway and Schoeffter get their licks in as well. Holz keeps it all together, adding just the right touch to whatever is happening in the moment.

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Marcus Anderson – Limited Edition

What has Marcus Anderson in common with Candy Dulfer and Maceo Parker? He was like the previous mentioned artists one of late Prince’s saxophonists. His fully packed tour schedule confirms his enduring popularity.

On his new album Limited Edition (2017) he teams up with some of the best talents in smooth jazz such as pianists and keyboardists Brian Culbertson and Nicholas Cole, bass guitarist Ashley A Luv Doe, and guitarists Adam Hawley and Darnell Showcase Taylor.

The album kicks off with the powered-up title song enhanced by producer Steven J. Collins with energizing auto-tuned vocals. Backseat Drivers continues the hype with vital energy and a big dose of overdubbed sax featuring guitarist Adam Hawley.

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Ragan Whiteside – Treblemaker

Ragan Whiteside, the flautist-singer who catches the ear like few in the world of contemporary jazz can, is getting ready to make waves this May 12th with her fourth studio album, Treblemaker. A favorite of well-known stages such as Capital Jazz, Whiteside’s sound brings to mind the stylings of Najee and Dave Valentin. The preceding album, Quantum Drive, has received major airplay and acclaim by publications. As its successor, Treblemaker promises a further expanse of Whiteside’s variety and style. Frank McComb, Kim Waters, Marion Meadows, and Tom Browne make their appearances on the album to lend their touch to a well-seasoned musical mix.

Whiteside is not one to shy away from shaking up expectations. In contemporary jazz, where there is always a thirst for fresh material, she steps up and delivers, both in studio recording and on live stage. “Her tenacity makes her a force to be reckoned with. Mark my words!” said Bob Baldwin of her once, and this tenacity is obvious at every show and in every track. “We need new music!” the fans say, and Ragan Whiteside is always up to deliver exactly what they ask for. Still a New Yorker at her core and in her every note, Ragan Whiteside brings no shortage of sound to shake up some perceptions of what a flute – and a jazz artist – can do.

Scheduled for release May 12th, 2017.

 

Maysa – Love Is A Battlefield

Stevie Wonder declares “Maysa is WONDER-ful!” The Grammy-nominated vocalist Maysa has remained one of the most instantly identifiable voices in R&B and Jazz over the past 25 years by staying true to her musical vision. “I look for soul in a song,” explains Maysa, who launched her musical career as a member of Stevie’s Wonderlove and who has been a long-time vocalist with the explosive UK Jazz/Funk sensation Incognito. The down to earth singer adds, “I sing mostly positive, uplifting and loving music and lyrics.”

LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD  is Maysa’s 13th recording as a leader and ninth for Shanachie Entertainment, and joins her with producers Chris “Big Dog” Davis, The Heavyweights and Jason Miles, as she  re-imagines a handful of R&B gems like  BabyFace’s Top 10 Tevin Campbell hit, “Can We Talk,” The Isley Brothers’ 1970s slow jam “Footsteps In the Dark,” Natalie Cole’s 1975 #1 hit single “Inseparable” and Luther Vandross’ timeless “Because It’s Really Love.” Maysa also delivers surprises like the album’s title track and Pat Benatar’s Gold-selling 80s cult classic and Justin Bieber’s hit single featuring Big Sean “As Long As You Love Me.”

Maysa Leak was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and knew by the time she was six that she would be a musician. “I was six years old when my mom took me to see Purlie,” she recalls. “When Melba Moore came on stage and sang her heart out, I knew at that moment I wanted to make people feel the way she made me feel.” Maysa graduated from Morgan State University with a degree in classical performance, meeting Stevie Wonder while a student. Upon graduating she moved to North Hollywood to join Wonder’s Wonderlove group, with whom she performed for a year, appearing on the Jungle Fever soundtrack and such television shows as Oprah and The Tonight Show. In the early Nineties, Maysa auditioned over the phone to become the new lead singer of the acclaimed British Jazz/Funk/R&B band Incognito, moving to London for four-and-a-half years. Continue reading

Charles Greene – 10 Easy Pieces

Detroit born keyboardist, pianist, composer and producer Charles Greene learned his profession in bars and lounges of the Motor City from the masters of jazz.

He toured with several Motown acts like the Spinners, the Four Tops, and Jimmy Ruffin, and has also worked with Vic Damone, Richard “Groove” Holmes, Ernestine Anderson, Laura Lee, Marcus Belgrave, Jerald Daemyon, and many other artists.

His solo project is entitled 10 Easy Pieces and was released this year. Charles has composed and produced all songs. He performs piano, organ, synthesizers & programming and is joined on selected tracks by Albert Martin III, Carl Robinson (guitar), Dwight Adams (trumpet/flugelhorn), Jason Gaddis, Ron Otis, and Bill Ray (drums).

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Mark Whitfield – Grace

In the tradition of George Benson, Wes Montgomery, Lee Ritenour and many more, Mark Whitfield exhibits superb finger dexterity with Grace (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 is unwavering in his committed to wave the flag high for Caribbean music, but after releasing six soul-jazz albums and more than ten chart-topping singles that made him a permanent fixture on radio playlists, the Barbados native is “shaking it up” by going electronic on Electro Sax, his seventh outing which was released last Friday (April 21) by Island Muzik Productions.

Seeking a “hip radio sound that will reach beyond the masses,” Trotman assembled a creative team of up-and-coming producers – Spardakis, P-Nut, Dr. O and Da Troof – who he met at Boston’s esteemed Berklee College of Music and tasked them with putting a fresh, modern twist on the eleven new tracks that he wrote for the collection. With electronic elements evident in the production of Trotman’s tenor and soprano sax and the adventurous EDM sonicscapes, the result is an energizing, dance-happy mix of impromptu jazz sax licks, kinetic dance beats and festive Caribbean rhythms. Adding nuances to the audacious alchemy are guitarists Wayne Jones, Freddie Fox and JJ Sansaverino, and steel pan player Kareem Thompson. The first single set to seduce radio is the reggae-infused “Island Gal’,” which spotlights Trotman on soprano sax on the cut he describes as having “a sexy vibe to it.” Prince fans will appreciate the balladic tribute “Purple Emotion” that closes the set. The session’s lone cover is a tropical, dance hall take of Walk The Moon’s infectious pop smash “Shut Up and Dance.”

“’Electro Sax’ is a true representation of where I am at in my career. It’s modern sounding with prominent hints of the island. It’s also about branching out, reaching out by making good music for the masses. It’ll definitely ruffle feathers, but that is part of being an artist – pushing boundaries and perhaps establishing new ones,” said Trotman. “The ‘tropicality’ elements are part of who I am and I’m sticking with it. It’ll always be part of my sound and I believe in it. It is part of my brand and it’s authentic to my (Barbadian) roots.” Continue reading