Archive for the ‘ CD Reviews ’ Category

Marvin Thompson Jr. – Kind Words

Detroit based keyboardist, songwriter, producer Marvin Thompson Jr. is a musician with a field of activity that extends far beyond the range of the usual jazz keyboard player.

He is writer of musicals and film scores, performed as musical director for several stage plays and has already released two albums, In Focus (2007) and this year Kind Words. Marvin has written all songs with the exception of Just The Two Of Us.

The album takes a start with From There to Here, a compact and dynamic piece of mastery on piano. The term multi-instrumentalist is completely filled by Marvin, perfection on all instruments. On Kind Words he conjures a tonal image of delicate fragility with equal allocation on piano and keyboards.

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Steve Sandberg Quartet – Alaya

Pianist Steve Sandberg taps into music history, spirituality and a slight touch of Brazil. The Steve Sandberg Quartet presents Alaya (2017).

Sandberg’s accompanists are Zach Brock, violin; Michael O’Brien, bass; and Mauricio Zottarelli, drums.

“Maurice” is a nod to classical composer Maurice Ravel’s “Prelude to Le Tombeau de Couperin.” It’s a tranquil, easygoing piece that largely features the violin out front, with the piano painting a haunting background scene.

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Jonathan Fritzén – Ballads

Hailing from Stockholm, Sweden’s finest export of smooth jazz, piano magician Jonathan Fritzén spreads his wings over the States. With his 6th album Ballads (2017) he demonstrates the rightness of his compositional concept.

Guest musicians on his new project are Alex Crown and Andreas Rydman (guitars), Katarina Fritzén (flute) and Peter “Peet” Ferencz (violin). All other instruments are played by Jonathan, who also composed, produced and mixed all songs.

The Journey is remarkable in its quiet, unobtrusive song structure, which fits so wonderfully to the Swedish natural landscape. The piano is the main carrier of the sonic sequence and is gently accompanied by a violin arrangement.

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B.J. Jansen – Common Ground

With one foot rooted in jazz tradition, the other explores the present with an eye on the future. Saxophonist B.J. Jansen brings in five associates whose diverse backgrounds and musical styles culminate in the artist’s 10th recording as a leader, Common Ground (2017).

Jansen plays baritone sax. His accompanists are Delfeayor Marsalis, trombone; Ralph Peterson, drums; Duane Eubanks, trumpet; Dezron Douglas, bass; and Zaccai Curtis, piano.

“Street Walk,” composed by Frank Stagnitta, was inspired by the writer’s experience in New York City. The song has a beat the draws from African rhythms. The horn players are the driving force behind this piece, harmonizing for the main theme, then splitting into a series of solos. Douglas also gets a moment to stretch out, accompanied only by Peterson, who tears it up on the kit.

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The New Orleans Swamp Donkeys Traditional Jass Band – Slightly Concussed – Live at De Melkbus

The name alone is enough to get your attention: The New Orleans Swamp Donkeys Traditional Jass Band. And they’re out in full force with the two-disc Slightly Concussed – Live at De Melkbus (2017).

This versatile group of musicians play traditional jazz, blues and New Orleans style, or Dixieland. Formed in 2012, they began touring nationally in 2013 and sold out the Blue Note in New York City in February of 2014. Word got around after the group performed their version of the “Game of Thrones” theme at B.B. King’s in New York City. A video of the performance went viral, scoring more than a million views.

Personnel are James Williams, vocals and trumpet; Sam Friend, banjo and vocals; Miles Lyons, sousaphone; Nick Garrison, trombone; Josh Marotta, percussion; and Connor Stewart, clarinet and saxophone.

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U-Nam – The Essential Collection

Paris born guitarist U-Nam makes his fans a generous gift. His very personal Best Of-album comprises a total of 16 selected pieces from his current career path, there of two brand-new releases.

The starting track Street Life, taken from the album Back from the 80’s was a huge hit of Randy Crawford and the Crusaders. “Some covers were better suited to the album since I wanted to shine the melody on guitar,” U-Nam says. “I’ve been a fan of ‘Street Life’ for many years and the keyboard solo by Joe Sample.” If you are familiar with the original you certainly remarks the identity with the original. But U-Nam’s version excels with Jeff Lorber’s fine keyboard art and U-Nam’s superior guitar performance serving the instrumental substitute of the vocals. A landmark of smooth jazz.

Going For Miles from the album Surface Level spreads fun with a Nile Rodgers (Chic) inspired tune. Rhythm, guitar riffs and even the electric drums are in full effect. Groove Paradise from the same album copies dangerously well the spirit of the 80’s with flutes, strings and much percussion and detached from all U-Nam’s performing a Benson like guitar.

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Berta Moreno – Little Steps

A debut album with all-original music. Add a couple of Grammy winners and nominees to the mix, and you have the stunning introduction to saxophonist Berta Moreno, Little Steps.

Moreno plays tenor sax and composed all eight songs. Her accompanists are Steve Wilson, alto and soprano sax; Troy Roberts, tenor and soprano sax; Manuel Valera, piano; Maksim Perepelica, double bass; and David Hardy, drums.

The set opens with the cool “J.G. Power.” The blended saxes carry the melody after the finger-snapping pace is set by the rhythm section. Moreno then goes on an extended jaunt, delivering with a happy-go-lucky attitude. The sax trio engages in a brief, but tightly syncopated series of rolls before the next soloist. The cool mood continues until the next round, when the sax cranks up the intensity. After another rolls in which the saxes call, with a response first by the drums and then by the bass, the song reverts to the main theme.

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