Archive for the ‘ Woodrow Wilkins ’ Category

Isamu McGregor – Resonance

For something a little different, give a listen to pianist Isamu McGregor’s Resonance (Ghost Note Records, 2017). The music moves from breathtaking to symphonic to placid to hard-charging.

The players are Evan Marlen, bass; Gene Coye, drums; Bennie Maupin, bass clarinet on “The Drifter”; Seamus Blake, tenor sax on “Relentless”; and Dean Anbar, guitar on “Thor vs. James Brown.”

“Relentless” begins softly as if a sun slowly rising. Blake opens, with McGregor slowly building until the music warms up and the others join in. Coye injects some broken-time strikes. For the opening and much of the melody, the piano remains rooted in a static beat, changing up every so often. The music rises and softens, suggesting it may be over. But as the name suggests, the respite is temporary. On the next pass, things become intense with Blake out front, the leader doing his thing and Coye augmenting it all.

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SWR Big Band – A Cool Breeze

Led by Sammy Nestico, the SWR Big Band delivers big time with A Cool Breeze (SWR Music, 2017). Nestico brings elements of fusion, swing and orchestral sounds with a mix of original songs and classics.

The saxophones: Klaus Graf, Matthias Erlewein, Axel Kuhn, Andreas Maile and Pierre Paquette; trumpets: Nemanja Jovanovic, Felice Civitaraele, Karl Farrent, Claus Reichstaller and Rudolf Reindl; trombones: music director Marc Godfroid, Ernst Hutter, Ian Cumming and Georg Maus; Klaus Wagenleiter, piano and keys; Klaus-Peter Schopfer, guitar; Decebal Badila, bass; and Guido Joris, drums, percussion, mallets and Celtic dulcimer.

“Along Came Betty” is given a pop slash groove treatment, noted especially by the rhythm guitar, drums and laid-back mood of the entire piece. Soloists are Wagenleiter (keyboard), Godfroid and Maile (tenor). The beauty of big band music comes through on this and other tracks, and that’s when different sections of instruments carry the melody at one point with others as background or counter-melody, and then another family steps up. Here, all three groups – trumpets, trombones and saxophones – take a turn.

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Alex Hahn – Emerging

It’s fresh. It’s invigorating and at the same time calming. It’s Alex Hahn’s sophomore release, Emerging (2017). The title could be a testimony of the recording artist’s status. The sound culls elements of jazz, symphony, cinema and instrumental soul.

Hahn plays alto and soprano saxophones. Other musicians are Ramsey Castaneda, tenor saxophone; Jon Hatamiya, trombone; Simon Moullier, vibraphone and synth; Paul Cornish, piano; Logan Kane, acoustic bass; Colin McDaniel, drums; Connor Kent, percussion; and The Andrew Tholl Strings.

“Long Ago” opens softly with a moderate piano. The soprano comes, soon after joined by other instruments. With the trombone and sax blending, the mood quickly warms up, enhanced by the thunderous play of McDaniels. Things then settle down for a lively, yet tranquil theme. With Hahn out front on the alto, piano, bass and drum fill between phrases, resembling a call and response but with other voices whispering across the room. Hahn really stretches out on this piece, and as his mood becomes more intense, the supporting players become more of soundscape. Mouller then takes point on the vibes. The horns come back during the climax, setting up a return to the main theme and the fade.

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Langston Hughes – The Dream Keeper

Spoken word meets the ivory as Eric Mingus joins forces with David Amram, Larry Simon and an assortment of session musicians. Langston Hughes: The Dream Keeper (Mode Records, 2017) presents the American poet/novelist/activist/playwright’s words in musical form.

The players are Mingus, vocals; Amram, piano; and Simon, guitar and music director. Additional players on “The Dream Keeper” and “In Time of Silver Rain”: Don Davis, alto sax, contra-alto clarinet; Catherine Sikora, soprano sax; Cynthia Chatis, Native American flute; Scip Gallant, Hammond organ; Chris Stambaugh, bass; Mike Barron, drums; Shawn Russell and Frank Laurino, percussion. On “Daybreak in Alabama”: Sikora, soprano sax; Barron, drums; Russell and Laurino, percussion. Democracy has Davis again on contra-alto sax; Sikora on soprano; and Cynthia Chatis, flute. Simon’s only appearance is on “Border Line.” And Gallant comes back on Hammond organ for “Railroad Avenue.”

Mingus speaks briefly to start “The Dreamer.” The organ steps in, followed by other instruments, creating a haunting soundscape. After the instruments set the mood, Mingus recites again. “Bring me all your dreams,” he says. Davis’ contra-alto emerges for a meandering solo. Chatis follows and closes out the track.

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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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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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