Archive for the ‘ CD Reviews ’ Category

Zolbert – Inside Out

Hungarian saxophonist Zolbert has entered the smooth jazz stage with his debut album One in 2015. Now he returns with his sophomore album Inside Out (2017).

Zolbert performs on the new album soprano, alto, tenor, baritone sax, and percussion. Players on selected tracks are fresh from the famous Hungarian jazz scene Péter Ferencz aka Peet (keyboards, synth bass, guitar, vocals, violin, drums), Marcell Tóth (piano, Rhodes, Hammond, clavinet, synths), Tibor Riskó and Gábor Udvarhelyi (guitar), Martin Gudics, Gergő Kovács and Dávid Szedlár (bass), Laci Balog, Marcell Gudics and Zsolt Nagy (drums), Miklós Markos (percussion), Áron Koós-Hutás (trumpet, flugelhorn) and Nikolas Takács (vocals).

The album gets a furious start with the uplifting Be Cool. Zolbert shows an extraordinary smooth jazz muscle with fast and precise intonation and Peet gives the song with a spontaneous outburst of a demanding Be Cool a nice edgy flavor. Step By Step fuses elements of funk and contemporary jazz that effortlessly transcends strict categorization. An amazing hybrid of genres created in depth and harmonic richness.

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Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra – Basically Baker Vol. 2 – The Big Band Music of David Baker

The purpose behind the Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra’s Basically Baker Vol. 2 – The Big Band Music of David Baker (Patois Records, 2016) is trifold. To reintroduce the music of NEA Jazz Master and jazz educator David Baker. To benefit the David N. Baker Scholarship Fund. And, of course, to entertain the listener.

Brent Wallarab is conductor and music director. He also co-produced the album with Wayne Wallace, Mark Hood and Mark Buselli. On saxophones are Tom Walsh, Bill Sears, Rich Perry, Rob Dixon and Ned Boyd. Trombonists are Tim Coffman, Freddie Mendoza, Brennan Johns and Rich Dole. Celeste Holler-Seraphinoff plays bass trombone. On tuba is Dan Perantoni. Luke Gillespie is on piano; Jeremy Allen, bass; Steve Houghton, drums; Mitch Shiner, vibes; and Monika Herzig, celeste. The trumpet section consists of Tony Kadleck, Scott Belck, Graham Breedlove, Jeff Conrad, Mark Buselli and Pat Harbison. Guest soloists are Randy Brecker on trumpet, and Dave Stryker on guitar.

Some of the musicians were students of Baker, including the orchestra’s namesakes. The orchestra previously tapped in Baker’s musical genius with Basically Baker (2007). That recording made DownBeat’s top 100 of jazz CDs for the 21st century and is being reissued with the new release.

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Artur Bayramgalin – Let’s Talk

Russian guitarist Artur Bayramgalin has already created some gems of smooth jazz. To mention are Interro Island (2009), Electric Breezz (2010), Perfect Day (2014), and My Seasons (2015). His new album Let’s Talk (2017) is just released on the freshly founded German Lemongrassmusic sub-label Lemon Jazz Records.

Artur is supported on his new album by Artur Gimaev (trumpet), Anton Buzz (sax), Leysan Saripova and Elvina Mustafina (vocals), and Rustem Karimov (percussion). The album lifts off with Let’s Talk, an intimate conversation between Artur and the trumpeter Artur Gimaev, breathing the melancholy of a summer afternoon.

Embedded in a Latin-inspired rhythm Artur celebrates the sound of his guitar on Intero featuring Anton Buzz on sax. Bayramgalin’s inner relaxed attitude gets its expression in his smooth-running guitar performance. With a swaying Samba beat he approaches the Tangerine Coast. The tangerine is an orange-colored citrus fruit that is closely related to, or possibly a type of, mandarin orange. The sweet fruitiness morphs into a rich harmonic declaration of lyrical independence.

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Tom Cohen – Joyride

Drummer Tom Cohen mixes old with new in his fourth release, Joyride (2016).

Accompanying Cohen are Benito Gonzales, piano; Kris Funn, bass; Mike Boone, bass; and on selected tracks, Tom Ries, tenor and soprano saxophones.

After a brief introduction titled, “Desi/Lucy,” Cohen and the gang get busy with Wayne Shorter’s “Black Nile.” Gonzalez leads, with Cohen and Funn jamming it up in the background. It’s a high-energy, finger-snapping song. The piano rolls on a frenetic pace. At the midway point, the piano brings it way down, as the bass comes forward. After Funn’s solo, Cohen cranks up the heat, showing his dexterity in a back and forth with the others. The trio plays a sequence, then Cohen stretches out on his own. They do this several times before reverting to the theme.

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Justin Young – Blue Soul

His name is program. He looks young, he is Justin Young and very active. After his debut album Rendezvous (2005), he garnered success in 2007 with his sophomore album On The Way. In 2008 followed his next two albums, Nothin But Love and Home for the Holidays. Now he returns with his new album Blue Soul (2017).

The album kicks off with the promising Always There, a collaboration between Justin and saxophonist Jackiem Joyner. The tune fits nicely in the overall vibe of contemporary smooth jazz especially with the forward pressing beat. Nothing But Love runs with an armada of horn players to which East Bay Soul could be envious. Justin’s sax interpretation is well accompanied by a soothing choral group, which is however not mentioned in the liner notes.

Razzmajazz has the main emphasis on an almost orchestral aura of the recording and the Rhodes piano solo by Noel Hall is one of the finest things I’ve heard in a long time. Jazz Along The 101 has the flair of a night-time stroll through the big city scene. The tune excels with an excellent sax arrangement and with Alex Al on bass, the late Ricky Lawson on drums and Noel Hall on electric piano the composition achieves merciless perfection.

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Francisco Pais – Verde

The band is new, but the relationships have a history. And that history makes a recording like Verde (Product of Imagination, 2016) by Francisco Pais possible.

The musicians are Pais, voice and guitar; Myron Walden, tenor sax; Godwin Louis, alto sax; Julian Shore, piano; Connor Schultze, bass; and Fereno Nemeth, drums. Guest vocalists Genetta Kha and Jacklyn Chan appear on “Million Galaxies.” They have performed together in one configuration or another for about 10 years.

“The Painter” is an upbeat, gear-shifting song. Guitar and sax are in unison for the main theme. The tempo is constant, but the leads adjust their rate of notes per beat as the song progresses. Shore, Shultze and Nemeth stay quite busy behind the leads, especially Nemeth. Louis and Walden carry the middle passage in turns, each making his instrument sing, grind and wail for emphasis.

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Danny Kusz – Eruption

The smooth jazz genre is very well staffed with saxophonists. Younger “unfamiliar” successors are pushing to the market to get their place at the fire. One of these players is Danny Kusz, named one of the hippest jazz cats in Minneapolis.

Lost In The Groove (2007) with renowned Twin Cities keyboardist Ricky Peterson, best known as David Sanborns musical director for 30 years, was his debut album. His sophomore project Sexy.Funk :: Velvet.Jazz (2014) received high acclaims.

In 2016 he returned with his third album Eruption. In the past, Smooth Jazz was critically titled by jazz purists as “Elevator music”. With a little wink of the eye Danny calls the starting track Elev8tor Muzik. His song is the perfect answer. With his enraged sax he stamps every criticism into the ground.

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