Archive for the ‘ CD Reviews ’ Category

Kenny Shanker – The Witching Hour

It’s straight-ahead jazz, but with enough melodic influences to work for the masses who tend to shy away from things that aren’t catchy. Saxophonist and composer Kenny Shanker releases The Witching Hour (Wise Cat Records, 2017).

Shanker plays alto and soprano saxophones. His accompanists are Mike Eckroth, piano; Daisuke Abe, guitar; Yoshi Waki, guitar; and Brian Fishler, drums.

Shanker plays the alto on the opener, “Kottinger Park.” It’s a high-energy, fun romp. The leader plays with passion, exploring the range of his instrument, with powerful cohesion among his accompanists. Middle solos by Eckroth and Abe keep things going, but it’s the play of Waki and Fishler that keeps it all together. The two really get busy behind the guitar.

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Preston Smith – On The Surface

Sometimes you only need seconds to recognize that you listen to good music. Houston based trumpet player Preston Smith makes it easier for you. On The Surface (2017) has all ingredients making music to a fantastic experience.

Equipped with a bachelor of arts in music performance and masters of music he performed in different states, bands and genres. His solo career started with One Night Stand (2002), followed by In The Cool (2003), Beneath The Surface (2015) and finally his debut album on Innervision Records On The Surface.

Preston performs on his new album trumpet, trombone and flugelhorn. The impressive army of supporting musicians consists of Danny Kusz, Kyle Turner, Dean James, Will Fortune, Tony Exum Jr., John Lyons, Phillip “Doc” Martin, Theresa Greyson (sax), Ernie Wells, Darryl McCoy Jr., David P Stevens, Lucious Hoskins (guitar), Cory James, Roderick Allen (piano and bass), John Fontenot (drums), Andre Hayward (trombone), Althea Rene (flute), Shonnie Murrell (percussion), Frank McComb (various instruments), and Kiland (piano, Rhodes, organ, strings, percussion).

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Tal Cohen – Gentle Giants

Pianist Tal Cohen bridges jazz with classical on Gentle Giants (Inner Circle Music, 2017).

In session with Cohen are Greg Osby, alto saxophone; Jamie Oehlers, tenor saxophone; Robert Hurst, bass; and Nate Winn, drums.

Often when paired horns lead a jazz song, it’s two instruments from different families, such as a trumpet or trombone (brass) and a saxophone or clarinet (woodwind or reed). Two saxes bring a different dynamic, as Osby and Oehlers blend or overlap. That pairing launches “Great PK (for Shuli),” an upbeat jaunt. With Hurst and Winn digging it in the background, the middle section features a series of solos by Cohen, Oehlers and Osby. Each goes to town by a different path, enjoying all the scenery. In the liner, Cohen explains that the song is dedicated to his sister, Aviv, whom he calls “Shuli.” The “PK” refers to their friend, PK the Dog, an odd mix of Dachshund and golden retriever.

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Ronny Smith – Shake It Up

Baltimore based jazz guitarist Ronny Smith is certainly one of the most underrated guitarist in music history. Often compared with George Benson, Wes Montgomery and Joe Pass he has since long time developed his own significant style.

That this unique style appeals the audience, shows the huge amount of releases like Long Time Comin (2001), Laid Back (2002), Got Groove (2006), Simply Stated (2007), Just Groovin (2009) and Can’t Stop Now (2013). Shake It Up (2017) is his essential return with a special twist.

Ronny performs on his new album guitars and keys programming. Musical supporters are Conley Whitfield, Jr., Reggie Wilson (bass), Scott Martin (sax), Will Allen (drums), Stan Martin (trumpet), Andy Martin (trombone), Eddy Botts, Jeff Knoetter (keyboards), and Gerald Chavis (muted trumpet). Ronny has written all tracks, which gives a clear hint about his subtle creativity.

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Thelonius Monk – Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960

It’s 15 tracks, split over two discs and just over an hour long. And it’s a first-time release of some vintage music. Thelonious Monk: Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960 (Sam Records/Saga, 2017).

This collection captures Monk’s 1959 all-star band of Charlie Rouse, Sam Jones and Art Taylor, with special guest Barney Wilen. It marks the first time Monk’s music was used in a film, in this case the French film of the same title, about a couple who enjoy fun, excitement – and sex. They agree to see other people, with one caveat: Don’t fall in love.

The release comes about after producer Zev Feldman visited Paris in December of 2014. He received an e-mail from the head of Sam Records, Fred Thomas, explaining that Thomas and an associate had located master tapes of a previously unissued studio session. After a meeting of the three partners, they spent two years working with the Thelonious Monk estate to gather the voices, words and photos to tell the story. Marcel Romano, described in some publications as “hipster,” was active on the jazz scene in France during the 1950s. He served as the liaison between filmmakers and jazz artists, which ultimately led to Roger Vadim’s selecting Monk to score Les Liaisons Dangereuses.

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Will Donato – Supersonic

Popularity can be measured by the acceptance of the audience or the frequency of participation in music recordings. Saxophonist Will Donato can take advantage of both.

His stellar list of recordings includes musicians like Steve Oliver, Steve Reid, Blake Aaron, Al McKay, Greg Karukas, Danny Kusz, Rob Tardik, Alan Hewitt, Todd Ashley, Toni Childs, Gerald Levert and Richard Marx.

He can count to his solo albums Will Power (2004), Will Call (2006), Laws of Attraction (2009), What It Takes (2010), Best Of The Season (2011), Universal Groove (2014) and this year Supersonic.

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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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