Archive for the ‘ Jazz Fusion ’ Category

Thomas Heflin – Morning Star

Thomas-Heflin-Morning-StarMorning Star is presented as a late-night radio show (complete with station IDs, and a radio DJ) and features songs that flow effortlessly from one to the next. The music on “Morning Star” features a traditional jazz group underpinned by layers of Fender Rhodes, Hammond organ and strings, as well as percussion and additional woodwinds to create a warm, soulful sound reminiscent of the CTI recordings of the 1970s. The music also fuses elements of modern jazz with R&B, gospel, and neo-soul.

The album was conceived around the title track “Morning Star,” and listeners may notice reworked snippets of the bassline and melody from the title track in other songs on the album. The music was recorded at the beginning of the CoVid outbreak, and the “morning star” – the last star seen at night before the new day arrives – also serves as a musical symbol of hope and optimism through these dark times. The radio DJ (Brandon Robertson) presents the tracks through poetic words of encouragement, creating the feeling of listening to an inspirational radio host during a late-night car ride.

The album features several notable musicians including world-renowned tenor saxophonist Gregory Tardy (Elvin Jones), Mavis “Swan” Poole (Lauryn Hill, Prince) on vocals, Peter Stoltzman (Steve Gadd/Eddie Gomez) on piano, Steve Haines on bass, Aaron Matson on guitar, Ariel Pocock on vocals, Xavier Ware on drums, Dan Hitchcock on woodwinds and Jorge Luis Torres “Papiosco” (¡Cubanismo!) on percussion.
According to Heflin, “The music for the album is inspired things that bring me joy and hope. “Morning Star” is the Slavic translation of my wife’s first name. ‘Anna Breschine’ is my daughter’s name and ‘The Moon Singer’ is inspired by a book by Clyde Robert Bulla that I like to read to her at night. In the story, a lonely child sings beautiful, wordless melodies to himself out in the forest. Evensong, which means ‘a service of evening prayers’ is meant to evoke a late-night musical meditation. Haiku is a quirky song based on the chord changes of one of my favorite jazz standards, Benny Golson’s ‘Stablemates.'” Continue reading

Robert Christa / Tom Reif – Free As A Bird

freeasabirdGerman pianist and composer Robert Christa is best known in the smooth jazz genre by his solo projects Nightflight To Rio (2015), City Lights (2017) and Smooth World (2019). His new album is a collaboration with the multi-instrumentalist Tom Reif entitled Free As A Bird (2021).

Robert Christa has written all tracks and plays Rhodes, piano and keys. Tom Reif has arranged, mixed and produced the tracks and performs guitars, guitar synth, fretless bass, keyboards, loops, percussion, programming and was co-composer on three tracks. Additional artists are Herb Berger (harp) and Tommy Eberhardt (drums).

The album opens with the sun-drenched Sunset Boulevard, from which Christa and Reif can definitely derive romantic aspects. Christa follows with the opening track to the familiar smooth jazz style of his previous album.

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Christoph Spendel Group – Avenue E

avenueeJazz piano virtuoso Christoph Spendel has developed a multitude of projects in his remarkable decades-long creative period, which would require a professional biographer to document. Despite his now advanced age, his creative energy is still brimming with new ideas, which are reflected in numerous releases and formations.

Among these countless projects, the Christoph Spendel Group stands out. It consists of the musicians Peter Klohmann (flute, saxes), Thomas Heidepriem (bass), Martin Standke (drums) as well as founder and name-giver Christoph Spendel (piano, keyboards). The formation as such already exists since the 80s in changing line-ups. Christoph has a long-standing friendship with the bassist Thomas Heidepriem, who comes from Freiburg. The other two musicians, presenting the young generation, recommended themselves through different projects.

The album starts with the title song, which brings all the tonal power of the well-tempered piano into the melodic harmony. Peter Klohman shares the melody accompanying on soprano saxophone. Behind the title  Avenue E lies the “Eschersheimer Landstraße”, Frankfurt’s lifeline, a vivid street in Christoph Spendel’s adopted home city.

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Jocando Latina – Jocando Latina

jocandolatinaThe Latin Jazz formation Jocando Latina consists of Alessandro La Corte (piano), Angelo Carpentieri (guitar), Paolo Pelella (bass), Carlo Salentino (drums) and Davide Cantarella (percussion). There style ranges from Latin and Contemporary Jazz to Brazilian songs. Their debut album Jocando Latina (2021) shares the title with the name of the group.

Paolo Pelella is from Naples, the other three band members are from Salerno, Italy. All of them can look back on a rich musical activity with different formations. This album is the result of their common live history over several years. The pandemic gave a chance to realize finally this project.

The opening track E.M. is dedicated to the great Italian film composer Ennio Morricone. The music is characterized by a special sinuous elegance, as we know it for example in smooth jazz from the group Fourplay. This is especially due to the dreamlike harmonic interplay of the band and the special flow of percussionist Davide Cantarella and drummer Carlo Salentino.

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Jayl Band – When The Light Comes

whenthelightcomesThe psychedelic-tinged design of the record cover illustrates the claim that the Jayl Band makes for itself. Unconventional and unbound contemporary jazz music with that certain fusion factor. The band has dedicated the album When The Light Comes (2021) to their role model and doyen Jeff Lorber.

The Jayl Band are Alberto Giraldi (piano, keyboards), Andrea Verlingieri (alto sax), Andrea Gentili (guitar), Flavio Calogero (bass) and Cristiano Micalizzi (drums). All of them are seasoned jazz musicians with numerous connections to other formations and their own projects. Together with the aforementioned musicians, Alberto Giraldi has realized his own compositions in his spirit.

As can be seen from the liner notes, the band makes a point of stating that the recordings were made after the outbreak of the pandemic. The restrictions regarding public appearances also gave this group enough time to realize the project in their own home studios. The album’s starter is the track Purple Energy, a powerful run through the scale in which Andrea Gentili edges with his distorted guitar, while Alberto Giraldi also allows harmonic sequences on the keyboard.

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Jules Leyhe – Your First Rodeo

YourFirstRodeoThis ain’t your granddaddy’s blues. Heck, it ain’t even your daddy’s blues. Guitarist Jules Leyhe is on an entirely different trip. His forthcoming “Your First Rodeo” is a whimsical mashup of blues, hip hop, funk, fusion, jazz, rock and Latin music dropping September 17 on Monkey Finger Records. Producing the set with Protist, the Oakland, Calif.-based slide guitar slinger wrote the bucking bronco of an album that obstinately refuses to be categorized.

An audacious collection evading lasso, “Your First Rodeo” brilliantly juxtaposes futuristic elements with downhome “comfort” sounds. Leyhe paired inventive sonicscapes with soulful blues guitar play. Conceived and constructed using vivid fantasy, the guitarman wondered what it would sound like to pair diametrically opposed artists – or, in this case, use signature elements of the imagined artists’ unique style – on one recording. Picture Cardi B sitting in with the Buena Vista Social Club. Or Jimi Hendrix playing in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Or Duane Allan jamming with jazz pianist Gil Evans.

“I wanted to create music based off of collaborations that I’ve pictured of many of my favorite artists who never actually worked together. The clearest example is picturing Jimi Hendrix playing with the psychedelic Beatles era, a wild pairing that never actually happened but sure is fun to imagine and try to create with my own flavor. My bandmates’ fantastic playing and imaginations helped me reach for this sort of potential for pairing abstract, disparate musical ideas and getting away with it, or at least creating something unique to us. This album encapsulates so many musical idioms with a gritty, urban, fun feel of an old-soul Oakland band,” said Leyhe who was empowered by his Family Jules Band – keyboardist Ian McArdle, saxophonist Nancy Wright, bassist Murph Murphy and drummer Isaac Schwartz.

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Jeff Lorber Fusion – Space-Time

space-timeKeyboard wizard Jeff Lorber has already pressed his idea of fusion jazz into the black grooves with his group Jeff Lorber Fusion in various lineups. With albums like the self-titled debut album (1977), followed by Soft Space (1978), Water Sign (1979), Wizard Island (1980), and Galaxian (1981) he has served the spirit of contemporary jazz for decades..

He continued this glorious period with albums such as Now Is The Time (2010), Galaxy (2011), Hacienda (2013), Step It Up (2015), the GRAMMY awarded Prototype (2017), and Impact (2018). On the new album Space-Time (2021) Jeff Lorber is joined by his longtime friends drummer Gary Novak and bassist Jimmy Haslip.

Further supporting musicians are flutist Hubert Laws, guitarists Paul Jackson, Jr., Michael Landau and Robben Ford, saxophonists Bob Mintzer, Dave Mann, Gary Meek and Gerald Albright (on bass). Bob Mintzer is thus back as on the previous albums, just not on all the tracks. The album opens with the title song, a sparkling up-tempo tune showcasing Lorber’s elegant keyboard play to the fullest. Lovers of Jeff’s Rhodes performance will be enchanted. Bob Mintzer on tenor sax takes over the melody line to a perfect finish.

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Chuck Loeb – Life Colors

lifecolorsIt’s been five years since I wrote the review of Chuck Loeb‘s album Unspoken (2016). Even though Chuck was marked by his illness, we all still had hope that he could continue his life’s work. It was to be his last solo album.

At the age of 61, just one year later, guitarist Chuck Loeb succumbed to cancer. We have lost a great guitarist and a truly exceptional human being. The way to review a new album by Chuck is denied us for the future.

That’s why I’m looking back, because he left us an extensive body of work. So it was very convenient for me that the German company in-akustik has reissued an album of Chuck’s from his glorious DMP period as an Ultimate High Quality CD. His album Life Colors was released in 1990.

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Jeff Lorber Fusion – Space-Time

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“I’m incredibly lucky to spend my time doing something that I love. When you are doing things that you enjoy, it is easy to spread those good vibes around,” shares Jeff Lorber. The down to earth and humble trailblazing Grammy-winning pianist, composer and producer has built an impressive four-decade career, transcending musical boundaries and honing his own uniquely identifiable sound.

A groundbreaking Fender Rhodes pioneer along with Herbie Hancock, Joe Sample and Bob James, Lorber is also one of the most in-demand producers in Contemporary Jazz. Maintaining a busy schedule during the pandemic this past year, Lorber worked on projects with Herb Alpert, Richard Elliot, Norman Brown and Alexander Zonjic, just to name a few.

“While working on all of these projects,” explains Jeff, “I was sending my manager Bud Harner stuff that I was writing and he was particularly enthusiastic when I sent him my now new single “Back Room” in demo form. His reaction really inspired me to want to focus on making my own record.” Continue reading

Steve Hunt – Connections

connectionsJazz pianist Steve Hunt has linked his musical agenda to jazz. Steve attended Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he is still an instructor. He studied with concert pianist Albert Hirsh, jazz pianist Sid Davis and Lyle Mays. He performed and toured with Billy Cobham, Stanley Clarke, Angela Bofill, Tom Brown, and Allan Holdsworth.

He recorded with Allan Holdsworth, Stanley Clarke, Lucas Pickford, Gregg Bandian, Bruce Bartlett, Randy Roos and Pam Pryo. His debut solo album was From Your Heart and Soul (1997). Connections (2021) is his sophomore album. Musicians of distinction in the field of jazz have gathered on his album. More details can be found in the credits.

Starter of the album is Now’s The Time. The intense texture that percussionist Jorge Bezerra spreads out as the foundation of the piece is impressive. The structure and flow remind me strongly of the music of Joe Zawinul’s Weather Report. From the dense mesh that the musicians build together, the individual contributions are hardly to be equalized and that is obviously also intended.

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