Archive for the ‘ Chris Mann ’ Category

George Anderson – Body And Soul

If you have been a fan of British jazz-funk and soul music for more than twenty years, you’ll know Shakatak. And if you know Shakatak, you’ll know George Anderson – he’s been holding down the low end since the early 80’s.

His touring schedule, both with Shak and with his own band is very hectic – you only need to look at his Facebook page to see that.

Let’s talk about what came out of the sessions for his latest solo CD…

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George Anderson Band – From Cape Town to London Live!

George Anderson’s bass has underpinned the sound of the hugely successful British jazz-funk outfit Shakatak since 1981. His very satisfying solo albums “Positivity” (2009) and “Expressions” (2012) have secured his reputation as a solo artist – and an invitation to fulfill a dream of playing in front of South African fans in December 2014.

Those fans were treated to the cream of the songs from those first two studio albums, kicking off with the insanely groovy, horn-laden Herbie. For me, a song this good underlines the relevance that British jazz-funk continues to have – I’ve always believed in it. Fans of soul vocals will love the sultry Cool Operator, High and Mighty Love and the hypnotic Weakness. Vocalists Janine ‘Blaq Pearl’ and Mikhaela Faye Kruger really do a fine job on these songs.

I’d love to have been in the audience for the crowd-pleasing Into U and Back in the Day. George grooves like crazy on these songs and the Stevie Wonder homage in Back in the Day sees him really throwing down. Of course, when a bassman fronts his own band live, we hope for a juicy solo and, oh yes, low-end fans can go nuts for Babel, just before the band flies into the utterly sublime Latin Love. It has delicious echoes of what George Duke was doing in the late 1970’s – I really can’t compliment it more highly than that. Props to drummer Bjorn Petersen’s superb off-the beat playing here. Nathan Carolus on guitar totally blazes and trumpeter Ian Smith takes a short but splendid solo, as does saxman Don Vino.

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Kim Scott – Rite of Passage

Kim Scott is one of the most sought-after classical and jazz flutists in the United States. Born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, she burst onto the jazz scene in 2011 with her debut CD “Crossing Over“. The record made it to the Billboard and charts, bringing her worldwide visibility.

She is in demand for her high-energy performances, having been invited to play the Preserve Jazz Festival, Atlanta Smooth Music Festival, and Catalina Island Jazz Traxx Festival, among others. Kim is Chair of the Music Department at the Alabama School of Fine Arts and has been an educator for 13 years. She is proud to pass her musical knowledge onto her students. Classically trained, she is a member of the Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra and performs in solo recitals and concerts across the United States and abroad.

I’ve been a fan of flute, and jazz flute in particular, since the mid-70’s, with albums by Hubert Laws, Dave Valentin, Bobbi Humphrey and Kent Jordan on my shelves. I was intrigued to hear an album by a player I’d never heard before.

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Incognito – Amplified Soul

I’m a big fan of Incognito. You are too right? So you know that this CD, the band’s 16th studio album celebrates the band’s 35th anniversary. Who imagined that as they held their vinyl copy of “Jazz Funk” in their hands?

So come on, let’s see how things sound in 2014… ‘Amplify my Soul (Part 1)’ is a pleading vocal intro which sets the tone for the rest of the album and that tone is emotion – it’s a technically outstanding record but it’s about moods and feelings, as Incognito records (thank God) usually are.

‘I Couldn’t Love You More’ is a mid-tempo, horn-laden vocal which is a pure delight and Bluey’s guitar solo is an exercise in good taste. ‘Rapture’ treads that same path of great lyric and strong female vocal draped over that bubbly, uplifting rhythm section. If you’re feeling good now, another strong female vocal (with a serious dose of attitude) will make you feel even better on the anthemic ‘Hands Up if You Wanna be Loved’. I have tickets to see Incognito in July 2014 and please, please, let them play this.

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fo/mo/deep – The Groovy Goodness

I set out my stall when I reviewed fo/mo/deep’s previous record A Beautiful Bang and I’m glad to have been able to keep up with the band between the release of that record and 2014’s deliciously titled The Groovy Goodness.

As I type this, summer seems like it’s upon us and the burst of energy that is ‘1974’ just makes it feel all the more real. The passionate sax and electric piano solos reinforce what the rhythm section has told you from minute one – it’s on! I just went back and listened to this song after drafting this first paragraph – because I can’t get that sax hook out of my head, in fact this whole song has grabbed me and won’t let go. Funk lovers are in more familiar territory with ‘Block Party’, which is a sax-led head-nodding number. There is a lot of air in Ron Holmes’ fretless bass line and André Scott’s snare drum pattern – which I always love – this must be a great jam live.

Is it a Motown track, or a big band number creepin’ up on you? Neither – it’s ‘Groidology’. It has a real swagger, helped by the loping upright bass line. I loved this song the first time I heard it and it gets better all the time. The rhythmic figure on piano and *that* trombone solo bring it on home. Mighty, mighty. Blues? Is John Lee Hooker in the house? ‘Peach Cobbler’ has an old Crusaders sound – and I mean that this sounds like Wilton Felder and Joe Sample circa 1972. The break midway through has an almost carnival vibe – it sounds like someone is having a ball in the studio!

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Duncan Millar – Fresh Air

I had the pleasure of reviewing Duncan Millar’sGood to Go” as long ago as 2002 and it was good to catch up with 2012’s “Fresh Air“.

Millar has retained his ear for strong hooks and addictive rhythms and this is abundantly clear on the breezy title track, where piano takes the lead role. He’s also comfortable with his Latin side and ‘Buenas’ is delightful – an elegant production which evokes warm sunshine, the beach, a cocktail, need I go on? The lovely samba ‘Ilhabela’ keeps that vibe going, and the trading of solos between electric piano, soprano sax and acoustic guitar certainly keeps me smiling.

The waltz ‘As Lovers Do’ is as pretty as it is moving. I hope that Mr Millar was not offended when I asked him did he write this – it has a nostalgic feel that made me believe it had been written 40, 50 or even 60 years ago, but no. It’s an original piece which has won a place in my heart. It’s just too good to analyze in detail – I just hope you hear it soon.

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Dean Grech – We Got Lost

More than four years have passed since the release of guitarist/vocalist Dean Grech’s first album “Look Out”.

Looking at the covers of that album and the new record “We Got Lost” should have given me a clue to how much the spotlight has switched from guitar to voice.

The opening song “Shake it Around” with its irresistible groove, snazzy horns and 70’s style chants would not have given me a clue, nor would the blissful samba “Playa Rosa”. Not only is the acoustic guitar to the fore in the latter song, the flute and percussion are a jazz fans’ delight. I’m personally in familiar territory listening (and grooving) to the instrumental “Let’s Go” and I defy any jazz fan not to be drawn in by Hans Zermuehlen’s gorgeous Hammond B3 and by Greg Vail’s gutsy alto sax solo.

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I Happened To Hear 09/2013

I’m almost embarrassed to tell you how long I’ve been listening – and enjoying – music from the Jeff Lorber Fusion in its various lineups. It’s always sounded different and distinctive to my ears. When Kenny G went off to do something altogether smoother, Jeff kept the groove alive. On this latest record – which is in some measure a shout out to the legendary dance club of the same name in Manchester, England, the funk is still much in evidence.

The band’s name is ‘Fusion’ though and you jazz lovers will enjoy how Jeff stretches out on the opener “Corinaldo”. Eric Marienthal, unusually on tenor sax, sounds fantastic. Guitarist Larry Koonse will similarly delight fans of precise finger work on the busy “Solar Wind”. Did you expect to hear a Frank Zappa song on here? Well, “King Kong” is the album’s only cover and the record’s fusion credentials go up a notch with the involvement of violinist Jean-Luc Ponty. In my head, I made a note ‘sounds like Return to Forever on great form’. What else can I say?

There are mellower moments on “The Steppe”, which features a lovely acoustic piano sound and a sound very reminiscent of Yellowjackets – with Jimmy Haslip on bass it’s not such a surprise. “Playa del Falco” cleverly switches time signatures and the interplay between electric piano and soprano sax is particularly enjoyable.

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BWB – Human Nature

In the contemporary jazz firmament, do stars get bigger than Rick Braun, Kirk Whalum and Norman Brown? And in the rock and pop world, do stars get bigger than Michael Jackson? Is it really 11 years since “Groovin’”?

If you’re going to make a tribute to the King of Pop, it better be funky right off the bat – and it is! “Another Part of Me” has an irrestible groove and some killer horn work. That groove still leaves space for solos and the guys all weigh in with some short, sweet spots that give a great taster of what’s to come. No way was “Billie Jean” going to be left off this playlist and the dancefloor rumble is replaced with a crisp rhythm that again allows some nice blowing and horn ensemble work. Loving the flute touches that creep in here. Norman Brown scats gorgeously on this song. The instant I first heard him in 1994, I loved his sound – nothing’s changed.

Muted trumpet and brushes are absolutely the way to introduce the scintillating title track. Sheléa’s lead vocal winds effortlessly around the classiest of musical backings. Liberties are taken with some chord progressions and I love it. A great song like this has a number of building blocks which talented guys like this can move around to suit themselves while remaining true to the original vibe. It sounds like the Police are playing funk when you hear the reggae skip of “Beat It”. This is done with such panache and wit that you’ll smile, I hope, just as much as I’m doing as I type this. You won’t hear Eddie Van Halen but Mr. Brown burns more on this number than you’re maybe used to.

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George Duke – Dreamweaver

OK, let’s pretend that we don’t know about the recent tragedy in George Duke’s life and let’s pretend that I haven’t been a crazy fan for over 35 years – it’s going to be hard! Also, I’ll try to stay away from comparisons with other artists’ music – I’ll tell you how these songs make me feel.

I love the way that George conjures up a mood with a short intro – or outro. The one at the start of “Reach for It” has always grabbed my attention, and the synth-heavy title track here has the same effect. It’s spacey, slightly threatening and over headphones you are completely absorbed, despite its brevity. The scene is perfectly set for “Stones of Orion”, which finds George at the piano and Stanley Clarke (of course – you cry!) on upright bass providing a wash of cinematic sound, filled out with flute and some gorgeous brass. It is – and I mean this in the most complimentary way – 70’s big-city cop show writ large. Or at least it is until the rimshots mark a different tempo and George’s love of Latin music reveals itself. You’d expect Stanley to step forward with a solo and it’s a tasteful one. The whole song feels like an embrace for me and far from transporting me to another world, it makes me long for the warm sunshine of California.

Dukey funk meets the best of clipped urban beats on “Trippin’” and the sparse production here is sublime. There are whispers of muted trumpet, acoustic guitar, that squelchy Dukey synth and George’s vocal, which – let me tell you – sounds as good as ever. Hypnotic stuff. On “AshTray”, Dukey funk (or should that be ‘fonk’?) meets more Dukey funk. Crisp drumming, filthy slapped bass, some crazy guitar licks and some tasty electric piano make this a funk jam that you’ll be playing for days!! That’s before you dig out all your other Dukey treats…

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