Archive for July, 2017

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.

Marc Antoine and David Benoit – So Nice!

Guitarist Marc Antoine and pianist David Benoit are both intriguing personalities of the smooth jazz genre. Together they are the surprise packet of the year 2017. So Nice! is their fiery contagious portrait of Latin jazz.

David Benoit performs on this album piano and Rhodes, Marc Antoine acoustic and electric guitars, John “JR” Robinson drums, Ken Wild bass and Luis Conte percussion. Most of the tracks are composed by David Benoit or Marc Antoine, some by other composers.

Anyone who has visited a café in Paris, estimates the flair and the atmosphere of this environment, the view on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées with all its activities. French Café is in contrast to the title no tribute to this institution, but more a mirror of Antoine’s development and affinity for Spanish music. Inspired by the Bossa Nova rhythm Benoit and Antoine sink deeply into the magic of their interplay.

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Joe Policastro Trio – Screen Sounds

Take what is known and juice it up. The Joe Policastro Trio revisits some themes from popular television series and movies on Screen Sounds (JeruJazz Records, 2017).

The trio consists of Policastro, bass; Dave Miller, guitar; and Mikel Avery, drums.

An ambitious taking, Policastro melds two hit songs from a hit movie in one of the coolest tracks in the set. “Everybody’s Talkin’ – Midnight Cowboy” moves back and forth between the two. One is a slow, easy listening ballad. The other is an upbeat, pop/folk tune. And the trio weaves in and out of each, changing the pace, and mood, as it suits them. Policastro leads the first melody, but gives way to Miller, who takes off, mixing familiar phrases from the two songs, with improvisation. The signature, descending four-step phrase from “Midnight Cowboy” is worked in and out of numerous passages. As the piece starts to wind down, Policastro uses the bow on his bass to take one more shot at “Everybody’s Talkin’” before handing it back over to Miller.

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Boney James – Honestly

It’s been a full quarter-century since a young saxophonist and composer released his debut recording as a leader, Trust. Now, on September 1, 2017, Boney James will release his 16th album, this one titled Honestly. If you sense a direct line between those titles, you’ve already come a long way toward understanding what motivates the four-time GRAMMY nominee and multi-platinum-selling musician.

“I’m fighting the good fight to be my own artist and not be pigeonholed,” says the genre-blurring James. “With a record’s title I always try to find something that will communicate the feeling I get when I listen to it. The feeling I get with this music is a sense of sincerity and intimacy. The word ‘honestly’ really reflects how I aspire to live my life and create my music. One of the great things about music is how powerful it is. It can totally transport people. These are interesting times we are living in and the one thing I can do with the skills that I have is to make music that evokes a feeling and takes people somewhere… to do what I can to try and make the world a more pleasant place.”

Honestly follows futuresoul, James’ 2015 release which spent eleven weeks at #1 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Chart. The New York Times raved, “Boney James performs with panache…His arc as a soloist is emotional…he can paint a scene.” Honestly, says James, is quite different sounding than the previous record. “It’s more exposed,” he says of the 10-track collection. “Some of the arrangements are not as dense. A number of the songs have a more buoyant, cheerful, happy quality to them.” James produced the record and co-wrote all but one track, his interpretation of the Johnny Mercer-Hoagy Carmichael classic ‘Skylark.’ Continue reading

Jonathan Fritzén – Ballads

Over the past ten years, Smooth Jazz fans who like to get a groove on with infectious keyboard melodies have enjoyed being “Fritzenized,” that is, having their hearts, souls and dancing shoes infused with Jonathan Fritzén’s blend of lush ballads and all-out party jams.

The multi-faceted, Swedish American composer and keyboardist’s sixth album Ballads showcases the gentle, graceful side of his musical personality. On a mission to “bring calm, clarity and the rejuvenation of both mind and soul,” to a challenged world, he complements his gorgeous piano and keyboard melodies with artful touches of electric guitar, exotic percussion, sweeping synth textures and violin. Fritzen’s original Ballads will bring peace to your days and love to your nights!

This album is available at Amazon.com.