Archive for July, 2017

Thelonius Monk – Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960

It’s 15 tracks, split over two discs and just over an hour long. And it’s a first-time release of some vintage music. Thelonious Monk: Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960 (Sam Records/Saga, 2017).

This collection captures Monk’s 1959 all-star band of Charlie Rouse, Sam Jones and Art Taylor, with special guest Barney Wilen. It marks the first time Monk’s music was used in a film, in this case the French film of the same title, about a couple who enjoy fun, excitement – and sex. They agree to see other people, with one caveat: Don’t fall in love.

The release comes about after producer Zev Feldman visited Paris in December of 2014. He received an e-mail from the head of Sam Records, Fred Thomas, explaining that Thomas and an associate had located master tapes of a previously unissued studio session. After a meeting of the three partners, they spent two years working with the Thelonious Monk estate to gather the voices, words and photos to tell the story. Marcel Romano, described in some publications as “hipster,” was active on the jazz scene in France during the 1950s. He served as the liaison between filmmakers and jazz artists, which ultimately led to Roger Vadim’s selecting Monk to score Les Liaisons Dangereuses.

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Ronny Smith – Shake It Up

Guitarist Ronny Smith is back with Shake It Up. As writer, producer, arranger and programmer, with ten well-chosen original tracks, this is a superb example of the tight melodic style that categorizes Ronny’s playing. Mellow tones, subtle creativity, and his ability to groove over catchy rhythms leaves you breathless. Touches of each of his influences, Wes Montgomery, George Benson and Pat Martino, just to name a few.

Ronny grooves, caresses and works his way through a song with maturity. Take for instance the grooving, mellifluous “Coast To Coast”, featuring Scott Martin on sax, Tone Whitfield on bass and Will Allen on drums, that he uses to get the album started or the wonderfully easy grooving “Chasing Your Love” featuring Eddy Botts on keyboards. Both are fine examples of Ronny at his very best and much the same can be said of the foot tapping title cut, Shake It Up. Later, when Quincy Jones’ horn players, The Martin Brothers, joins the line-up he adds some spice to the decidedly funky “Bettin It All On Black” and although “Back It Up” starts out in tranquil fashion it quickly develops into a tune with attitude.

“Chasing Your Love” is one of several cuts where Reggie Wilson on bass and Will Allen on drums lay a rock solid foundation from which Smith’s playing really shines and despite “Feel For You” being another number that re-enforces the mid-tempo groove that permeates much of the collection, the Latin driven intensity of “When The Sun Goes Down”, featuring Jeff Knoettner on piano, proves to be a powerful way in which to bring the CD to a close.

The album will be released on August 4, 2017 (Pacific Coast Jazz) and is available for pre-order at Amazon.com.

Najee – Poetry In Motion

“As a musician, there is always something new that I want to share with my audience,” admits Najee, the multi-Platinum selling contemporary jazz pioneer who has made a career of reinventing himself, sparking trends and never resting on his laurels. “The ability to collaborate with different musicians and to continually find fresh approaches to my music is what keeps me inspired.” The multiple Grammy-Award nominated instrumentalist, composer and quadruple threat who is equally adept on soprano, tenor and alto saxophones and flute, recently celebrated his 30th anniversary as a recording artist. Najee, who has collaborated with iconic figures Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock and George Duke, will release his seventeenth album as a leader, Poetry In Motion, August 25, 2017. The anticipated CD is dedicated to two ground-breaking musicians who Najee has had the distinction of working with – Prince and Al Jarreau. “Both artists in their own way have changed the culture of music forever,” shares the saxophonist. “Whenever I have worked with people of their caliber of artistry, I have always walked away with something that helps to shape my musical conversation.” Poetry In Motion finds Najee nothing short of inspiration, as he calls upon a few all-star friends to create a dialogue well worth remembering. Najee’s fourth recording for Shanachie unites him with such dynamic musicians as Will Downing, Maysa, Eric Roberson, Bluey of Incognito, Barry Eastmond, Bobby Lyle, Blake Aaron and Randy Bowland.

Najee is a master storyteller. Whether the debonair multi-instrumentalist is engaged in a verbal or musical conversation, his alluring charisma has a way of seducing you into his world. His technical agility, grace, compositional prowess, unbridled passion and fearless genre bending have made him one of the most sought after musicians of his generation. Poetry In Motion is a riveting sonic journey that finds the saxman doing what he does best – shape-shifting through diverse musical terrain and fusing the best elements of all the music that is close to his heart. “As a youngster growing up in New York City I was exposed to a multi-cultural musical environment,” reflects the saxophonist. “It was through these interactions that I was able to benefit from playing with people who played Latin music, Jazz but mostly R&B. This has become a part of my musical personality. I must admit at times I struggle to stay focused with one genre!” Lucky for us Najee does not have to choose and the result on Poetry In Motion is a beautiful expression of his musical curiosity and identity.

Poetry In Motion opens with the buoyant and luminescent “Stratosphere,” showcasing Najee’s soaring, warm and supple soprano saxophone. Najee penned the intoxicating and inviting original with Barry Eastmond who lends his piano and compositional skills to several tracks on the CD. Eastmond has produced and collaborated with everyone from Al Jarreau and Anita Baker to Freddie Jackson and Brandy. “I’ve known Barry for a very long time and working with him was one of the greatest joys of recording this album,” shares Najee. The irresistible and fun loving “Is It The Way,” features singer Eric Roberson. “Eric is one of the brightest young R&B vocalists, producer, songwriter and performer in our industry and it was an absolute pleasure to have him contribute his gift on this record,” shares Najee. Roberson’s soulful vocals gel perfectly with Najee’s bluesy soprano and Eastmond’s buttery keys. Poetry In Motion also finds Najee collaborating with the brilliant producer, multi-instrumentalist and Incognito mastermind Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick. “Bluey is one of the greatest people to work with in the studio,” shares Najee. “He is unique in his approach to getting the work done.” Indeed Najee, Bluey and Incognito get the work done on the tour-de-force dance-floor number “Let’s Take It Back.” Najee changes the pace with the seductive and Latin-tinged “Noche Romantica,” the perfect platform for the saxophonist to shine a spotlight on his gorgeous tone and impeccable phrasing. The syncopated intro with Najee on his flute calls to mind Chick Corea’s “Spain,” while his passionate and emotive tenor saxophone at times is reminiscent of the longing tenor of Gato Barbieri. Najee enlists the “Prince Of Sophisticated Soul,” Will Downing for the moving “We’ll Be Missing You.” He shares, “Over the years we have worked together on several records and have performed around the world. I could not have made a better choice to write and perform a song that honors Al Jarreau and Prince.” Continue reading

Will Donato – Supersonic

Popularity can be measured by the acceptance of the audience or the frequency of participation in music recordings. Saxophonist Will Donato can take advantage of both.

His stellar list of recordings includes musicians like Steve Oliver, Steve Reid, Blake Aaron, Al McKay, Greg Karukas, Danny Kusz, Rob Tardik, Alan Hewitt, Todd Ashley, Toni Childs, Gerald Levert and Richard Marx.

He can count to his solo albums Will Power (2004), Will Call (2006), Laws of Attraction (2009), What It Takes (2010), Best Of The Season (2011), Universal Groove (2014) and this year Supersonic.

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Bill Cunliffe – BACHanalia

A play on words and the melding of two genres of music is the result when pianist Bill Cunliffe put his creative energy toward two passions. His effort comes through with BACHanalia (Metre Records, 2017).

The ensemble consists of varying combinations of players. On trumpet are Wayne Bergeron, John Daversa, Dan Fornero, Jamie Hovorka, Kyle Martinez, Kyle Palmer, Terell Stafford and Bob Summers; trombone: Ryan Dragon, Erik Hughes, Alex Iles, Andy Martin, Bob McChesney, Ido Meshulam, Ira Nepus and Francisco Torres; bass trombone: Ben Devitt, Cody Kleinhans and Bill Reichenbach; alto and soprano saxophone, clarinet and flute: Jeff Driskill, Nathan King, Brian Scanlon and Bob Sheppard; tenor saxophone, clarinet and flute: Jeff Ellwood and Rob Lockart; baritone saxophone and bass clarinet: Tom Peterson and Adam Schroeder; guitar, John Chiondini and Larry Koonse; bass: Alex Frank and Jonathan Richards; drums: Joe La Barbera; and vocals: Denise Donatelli. Cunliffe also provides background vocals on “Sleepers Wake.”

Donatelli’s delightful scat sets the tone for the opening track, “Sleepers Wake.” With a muted trumpet and the trombone offering countermelodies, she flits and dances to this upbeat arrangement of the Bach classic. After a vocal and horn section swell, the music softens for the leader’s solo. Accompanied only by bass and drums, Cunliffe expresses freely, licking his improvisational chops, occasionally giving hints of the main theme. McChesney also stretches out. Donatelli’s voice takes on a haunting mood as the song downshifts to its closing.

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Preston Smith – On the Surface

After brief stint as co-owner of SugaCane’s Jazz ‘n Blues restaurant and club in Hammond, Louisiana, Preston Smith moved to Houston to become a high school administrator. In 2012, Smith again turned to his horn and music in earnest. He recorded a 3 song CD called In the Pocket, and started performing throughout the Houston area. In 2015, Preston released his newest album. On the Surface is selling on all major markets including itunes, amazon, Spotify, cdbaby, and many more. It has been showcased on radio across the US and internationally in over 15 countries, as well as Sirius XM Radio.

The album is now available at Amazon.com.

Riley Richard – Evolving

Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Riley Richard is an inspired jazz saxophonist who has plans on making his contribution to the jazz genre. Having studied at Cleveland School of The Arts, Cuyahoga community college and Cleveland state University, Riley was trained in the traditional sense of jazz analyzing the styles of John Coltrane, Charlie Parker and Sonny Sttit. Although having a heavy interest in sports at a early age, Riley was encouraged by his parents to take piano lessons in which led him to learn the flute and eventually the Alto Saxophone. His first professional gig was at the age of 14, playing with Cleveland’s legendary organist Eddie Baccus SR. From then on Riley has shared the stage with the likes of Najee, Brian Simpson, Kim waters and Boney James and the list continues.

Now he presents his debut album Evolving, which is available at iTunes since June 26, 2017. Riley is supported by keyboardists Darren Rahn, Vandell Andrew and Leon Turner, guitarists Allen Hinds, Tony Pulizzi and Matt Godina, bassists Mel Brown and Walter Barnes, and drummer Tarell Martin.