Archive for the ‘ CD Reviews ’ Category

Maria Schneider Orchestra – The Thompson Fields

If you take a jazz big band and ease back off the throttle, then have a symphony orchestra that plays modern music, combine the two, you might get an idea of the Maria Schneider Orchestra. Schneider’s The Thompson Fields (2015) is the first recording she’s done with this ensemble in eight years.

A Grammy-winning composer, Schnieder has worked with many of the musicians for more than 25 years. With Schneider as conductor, the musicians are Steve Wilson, alto and soprano saxophones, clarinet, flute and alto flute; Dave Pietro, alto and soprano saxophones, clarinet, flute, alto flute, bass flute and piccolo; Rich Perry, tenor sax; Donny McCaslin, tenor sax, clarinet and flute; Scott Robinson, baritone sax, bass clarinet, alto clarinet and clarinet; the quartet of Tony Kadleck, Greg Gisbert, Augie Haas and Mike Rodriguez, trumpets and flugelhorns; Keith O’Quinn, Ryan Keberle and Marshall Gilkes, trombones; George Flynn, bass trombone; Gary Versace, accordion; Lage Lund, guitar; Frank Kimbrough, piano; Jay Anderson, bass; Clarence Penn, drums; and Rogerio Boccato, percussion on “Lembranca.”

“The Monarch and the Milkweed” was inspired both by the monarch butterfly and the scenic beauty of the prairie in Minnesota. The track features solos by Gilkes and Gisbert. It’s a tranquil, majestic piece.

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Najee – You, Me and Forever

Saxophonist Najee is one of the greats of his genre. On the competitive music market, this means a constant struggle for the favor of music buyers. Due to his high profile, the interest in his music is consistently great.

Accordingly costly and involving a huge variety of musicians were these recordings. You, Me, and Forever is Najee’s 16th studio-album and third release on Shanachie Entertainment.

On the starting Air Najee unfolds pure magic with the flute. Everything is directed forward and to full speed. Rod Bonner on piano, Kenny Hawkins’ guitar staccato, Daniel Powell on fast paced drums, there is no time to wind down.

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Deborah Latz – sur l’instant

That’s been done before, so let’s try a different approach. One can imagine vocalist Deborah Latz having that thought on her mind as she culled material for sur l’instant (June Moon Productions, 2015).

The set was recorded in Paris with French musicians Alain Jean-Marie, piano; and Gilles Naturel, bass. There are a few standards among the nine songs, but mostly, Latz took songs that are often overlooked by singers.

Latz delivers an earthy rendition of “Weep No More.” The music was composed by Dave Brubeck, with lyrics by his wife, Iola Brubeck. Latz sings in a conversational style, with some lines delivered more like rhythmic dialogue, peppered with inflections for emphasis. The crooning is saved for the chorus.

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Brian Landrus – The Deep Below

Low-end instruments don’t get much exposure. Brian Landrus aims to bring them some with The Deep Below (Blueland Records, 2015).

Landrus plays baritone saxophone, bass clarinet, bass saxophone and bass flute. He’s accompanied by Lonnie Plaxico, acoustic bass; and Billy Hart, drums.

“Fly” opens the set. It’s a heady, steady piece. Landrus plays without boundaries, no desire to conform. He pushes the baritone to some low-end buzz and then to the extreme upper range. Plaxico and Hart mix up their rhythm lines, stretching out just a tad while providing the foundation upon which Landrus builds.

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Four80East – Positraction

Toronto based musicians Rob DeBoer and Tony Grace are Four80East. They started with The Album in 1997, followed by Nocturnal (2001), Round Three (2002), En Route (2007), Roll On (2009), Off Duty (2012) and Biblotheca (2013). Their newest album Positraction will be released July 17th, 2015.

From the musical style the formation offers many possibilities of assignment. Soul music, acid jazz, smooth jazz, electro-jazz. There are diverse elements of style in a large mixer. Originally a studio project the band already presents since some years a high-energy live show with supporting stage musicians.

On the new album both musicians are joined by Jon Stewart (sax), Bill McBirnie (flute), Alexis Baro (trumpet) and a horn section with Bob Rice (trumpet), Gene Hardy (tenor sax) and Gord Myers (trombone). All songs are written, recorded and produced by Rob DeBoer and Tony Grace.

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Oleg Frish – Duets with My American Idols

One way to stand out when doing vocal renditions of songs that have been sung six ways ’til Sunday is to add another voice. Or in the case of Oleg Frish, several voices. Duets with My American Idols (Time Out Media, 2015) features Frish with 10 crooners.

Each song is accompanied by a variable lineup of musicians. Frish sings a few tracks without a partner, but the duets make his renditions of these classics unique.

After an introduction by Connie Francis, Frish begins the set, joined by Gary U.S. Bonds for “You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You.” The pair are a throwback to the Rat Pack duets of Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr., or Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. The band is solid behind the two leads.

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The B. Christopher Band – High Tide

Guitarist and composer B. Christopher has written more than 8000 placements on various TV channels. He describes his debut album High Tide (2015)꞉ “With one foot in modern jazz, the other in the blues and an innate sense of melody, this instrumental offering is sure to please even the most discerning pallet.″

Musicians like Nathan East, Anton Fig and Kenny Aronoff have all lent their talents to this debut. Other artists are Steve Carter (drums), Lucas Wolk (percussion), Eric Collier, Nick Douglas and Frankie Gibson (bass).

The starter Best Laid Plans offers mellow guitar harmonies with a splash of country touch. The focus is on a catchy melody that reveals itself through perfect playing.

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