Archive for the ‘ Woodrow Wilkins ’ Category

Ron Helman – It Never Entered My Mind

The music is billed as autobiographical, but it’s something Ron Helman hopes everyone would be able to apply to life. The flugelhorn player remakes some standards, accompanied by an all-star cast of luminaries, on It Never Entered My Mind (Ron Helman Music, 2016).

Mike Mainieri produced the record and plays vibraphone, as well as contributes some arrangements. Grammy winner Rachel Z Hakim is on piano, bringing with her touring experience with Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock. James Genus, whose discography and concert appearances includes stints with Bob James and Terri Lyne Carrington, is the bassist for the television series “Saturday Night Live.” Joel Rosenblatt, formerly of Spyro Gyra, is the drummer. Guitarist David Spinozza has played with three of the four Beatles and has a share in most arrangements. Steve Wilson plays soprano and alto saxophone. Vocalist Ann Hampton Calloway is special guest for “Born to Be Blue.”

“Just Friends” is a finger-popping, head-bopping, toe-tapping groove. Its bright mood is sure to make you smile. Anchored by Rosenblatt’s deft stick work and Genus’ fingering, Helman sets the stage for this audio delight. Then he steps aside while Hakim and Wilson on alto offer engaging interludes.

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Scott Tixier – Cosmic Adventure

It’s not often that the world of jazz welcomes a violinist. Although many have played the instrument in this genre, it still seems a rare event, relative to artists who play saxophone, trumpet, guitar, piano, drums or trombone. A few names that stand out over history are Stepane Grappelli, Jean-Luc Ponty, Ornette Coleman, Regina Carter and Mads Tolling. Scott Tixier joins that crowd, furthering his imprint with his second release, Cosmic Adventure (Sunnyside Records, 2016).

Performing with Tixier are Yvonnick Prene, harmonica; Glenn Zaleski, piano; Luques Curtis, bass; and Justin Brown, drums. Pedtrito Martinez adds congas on two tracks, and Chris Potter plays tenor saxophone on “Beam Me to Mars.”

Tixer and the gang come right out of the gate, sizzling. “Maze Walker” is a hard-charging piece, driven heavily by the congas. After a dynamic opening, Tixier takes the violin on a free-spirited jaunt, augmented superbly by the rhythm section. Prene steps up next, giving more to enjoy. The scene shifts a bit when Zaleski changes the mood, and Martinez stretches out for the next series. The song ends with the main theme repeated.

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Dino Massa Kansas City Quintet – Echoes of Europe

From a military-related encounter comes Echoes of Europe (Artists Recording Collective, 2017) by the Dino Massa Kansas City Quintet.

The quintet consists of Massa, piano; Christopher Burnett, alto saxophone and clarinet; Charles Gatshet, guitar; Andrew W. Stinson, bass; and Clarence Smith, drums. Additional musicians are Terri Anderson Burnett and Freda Proctor, flute; Marcus Hampton, flugelhorn; and Stanton Kessler, flugelhorn and trumpet.

“Alone” betrays its title with a powerful sense of togetherness, highlighted by the blended sounds of guitar, piano and flute that respond to the calls of the sax. After the call and response introduction comes a series of phrases in which all players hit the same notes. All of the core quintet, except Stinson, take turns in solo. Christopher Burnett starts the sequence, followed by Massa, Gatschet and Smith. During Massa’s turn, bass and drums are intense. They lighten up behind the guitar, but inject a hint of a Latin rhythm. The sax resumes its initial call, this time answered only by Smith. The piece reverts to the multi-instrument series, ending with a short riff from Massa.

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Andrew Van Tassel – It’s Where You Are

Traditional and contemporary jazz form the base from which saxophonist and composer Andrew Van Tassel builds his sound. He also leans on classical, indie-rock and folk music. Listeners hear more of the contemporary side on It’s Where You Are (Tone Rogue Records, 2016).

Van Tassel plays alto and soprano saxophones. He is accompanied by Julian Shore, piano and Rhodes; Edward Perez, bass; and Colin Stranahan, drums. Special guests on selected tracks are guitarist Ben Eunson and Michael Thomas, who plays clarinet and bass clarinet.

The set begins with “High Holborn,” an upbeat, electric tune with guitar and alto sax melding for the lead. Bass and drum kit carry a trotting beat, while the piano offers placid fills. Van Tassel then stretches out, taking off on a free-spirited jaunt. Eunson then comes in, deftly picking those strings in a series of single-note riffs, some of them in complex, rapid-fire strings. The mood and pace slow when Van Tassel rejoins. The alto leads while the guitar offers some haunting, ethereal fills as the song comes to a close.

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Jacam Manricks – Chamber Jazz

Classical music composed for a small ensemble, mixed with the improvisation of jazz might sound something like Chamber Jazz (2016) by saxophonist Jacam Manricks.

Manricks plays alto, soprano and tenor saxophones, flute, alto flute and clarinet. His accompanists are Kevin Hays, piano and Fender Rhodes; Gianluca Renzi, acoustic bass; and Ari Hoenig, drums.

Manricks unloads his arsenal on the haunting “Ecmish.” He uses the soprano for the lead, but later adds the tenor in a counter-melody, and layers the alto sax and the flute for harmony. Hays sets the tone with an ascending, four-note piano phrase that’s repeated throughout the main theme. He switches to the Rhodes for a middle solo, which is accented strongly by Renzi and Hoenig. After the trio builds to a stunning crescendo, the song downshifts to tranquility. Manricks then takes the soprano on an easygoing jaunt.

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Felix Peikli & Joe Doubleday – It’s Showtime

A duet backed by an adept rhythm section makes the past the present, and with vigor. Clarinetist Felix Peikli and vibist Joe Doubleday present It’s Showtime! (2016).

They are accompanied by Rossano Sportiello, piano; Russell Hall, acoustic bass; and Ralph Peterson Jr., drums. Vocalist Charles Turner appears on the ballad, “La vie en Rose.”

“After You’ve Gone” opens the set. It’s a sunny, delightful take on the Turner Layton composition. Peikli leads the melody, with Doubleday offering a subtle undertone. Sportiello gets to stretch out a bit during one middle break. Then after the clarinet, the vibraphone takes a turn, rolling through an impressive, rapid fire interlude. Peikli and Doubleday then lead a sequence of unison riffs, accented with solos by Hall and Peterson. The musicians pack a lot into a piece that’s just short of five minutes running time.

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Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra – Make America Great Again!

It may sound like a slogan uttered by a person who may the most unpopular person ever elected to the United States of America’s highest office, and echoed by hordes of angry people, longing for vision of the nation that faded with progress. But a member of the First Family of jazz uses the phrase to deliver a positive social and political message. Make America Great Again! (Troubador Jass Records, 2016), by Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra, presents that message with wonderful music.

Marsalis plays trombone. The orchestra consists of Khari Allen Lee, alto and soprano sax; Jeronne Ansari, alto sax; Roderick Paulin, tenor and alto sax; Gregory Agid, clarinet and tenor sax; Scott Johnson, tenor and baritone sax; Roger Lewis, baritone sax; Terrance Taplin, Charles Williams, Jeffery Miller, T.J. Norris and Maurice Trosclair, trombones; Andrew Baham, Scott Frock, Dr. Brice Miller, John Gray and Jamelle Williams, trumpets; Kyle Roussell and Meghan Swartz, pianos; David Pulphus, bass; Herlin Riley and Peter Varnado, drums; and Joseph Dyson Jr., drums and percussion. Special guests appearing on selected tracks are Dee-1, rap; Cynthia Liggins Thomas, vocal; actor Wendell Pierce, narration of the title song; and brother Branford Marsalis, tenor sax. The Uptown Music Theatre Choir, which appears on two tracks with lyrics, consists of Cynthia Liggins Thomas, Tara Alexander, Ebon George, Jazmine Piper Marsalis, Kiya Henderson, Justice Smith, Celeste Metoyer and Hillary Vaucresson. Additional players sitting in are Victor Goines, tenor sax; Oliver Bonie, baritone sax; John Culbreth, trumpet; and Jeff Albert, bass trombone.

The set opens with a saxophone-led rendition of “Star Spangled Banner,” sans percussion. After two horn-driven instrumentals, the Uptown Music Theatre Choir and Dee-1 join for “Back to Africa.” The voices and horns blend seamlessly in chanting the song’s title. The first verse lyrics are a snapshot of the attitudes expressed by many who, decades after the end of state-sponsored segregation, would love to see brown-skinned people leave the United States. “Go back where you came from,” begins one line. Dee-1 responds, rapping that Africa isn’t just a place, but a state of mind, and many positive things about humanity. Musical highlights include the dueling saxophones during part of the instrumental break and the emphatic percussion of Alexey Marti.

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