Archive for the ‘ Jazz ’ Category

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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Michael Mayo – Bones

BonesThe singer Michael Mayo has an interesting vita. Michael’s dad Scott Mayo was a saxophonist for Earth, Wind & Fire, his mother Valerie Pinkston, now a back-up vocalist for Diana Ross, also sang with Beyoncé, Luther Vandross, Ray Charles, and Whitney Houston. Among his teachers at the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz was Herbie himself.

Michael considers his voice to be a musical instrument like Bobby McFerrin, whom Michael counts among his influences. Stylistically, his music is difficult to classify. This is primarily because Michael doesn’t want to be tied down to a particular genre. His range is between R&B, soul and jazz, although the term soul jazz does him the most justice.

Michael performs on his debut album Bones (2021) everything his body can give. Vocals, handclaps, beatboxing, vocal percussion and whistle. He is backed up by the musicians Andrew Freedman (keyboards, synthesizers, piano, electric guitar, handclaps), Nick Campbell (electric bass, synth bass, electric guitar, handclaps), Robin Baytas (drums, handclaps), Eli Wolf (programming) and his parents Scott Mayo and Valerie Pinkston (vocals).

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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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Gregg Karukas – Serenata

Great melodies; the essential quality that has defined Grammy winning keyboardist/composer/producer Gregg Karukas’ 12 solo CD’s over a three decade career, with many #1 radio hits, both sophisticated and accessible. Serenata, his first ever solo piano project, offers romantic impressions of classic songs from iconic Brazilian artists Milton Nascimento and Dori Caymmi as well as new and re-imagined Karukas originals.

Gregg looks back on his years touring with Brazilian artists Sergio Mendes, Dori Caymmi and Ricardo Silveira in the 1990’s as some of his favorite musical experiences. As producer, pianist, composer and arranger, Gregg won the New Age Grammy in 2013 (Echoes of Love), and has also worked with pianist David Lanz, arranging and producing two successful crossover CDs. A versatile, founding member of the Los Angeles smooth jazz community, Gregg contributed to many seminal projects (The Rippingtons, Dave Koz, Peter White, Boney James).

After a recent move, Gregg discovered a dusty box of cassettes of his live shows in the 1990’s with Dori Caymmi and Ricardo Silveira and was curious to check out one particular tape marked “Dori – Le Cafe” with a star! Gregg says, “Those Dori shows at that tiny Los Angeles music room were legendary, with everyone from Michel LeGrand, Dave Grusin, Quincy Jones to Wayne Shorter in the audience. I had to buy a used cassette deck to play it, and it was one of our magical nights. I sat down at the piano and recalled many of the Dori Caymmi songs as best as I could and got very emotional. That evening pulled me out of my comfort zone and set me on a surprising new adventure, a solo piano project that I hope will bring some peace and joy to all who are suffering during this challenging time.” Continue reading

Stefania Tallini – Matteo Bortone – Gregory Hutchinson – Uneven

Stefania Tallini was a teacher of jazz piano for several years at the Conservatory of Pesaro, and she is currently a professor at the Conservatory of Benevento. Her artistic activity spans collaborations with numerous musicians, film music, abundant performances in both jazz and classical music, creations for theater, television and radio.

Her creative power is also reflected in countless record releases. Uneven (2020) is her tenth album as a leader. Pianist Stefania Tallini works on her new album with drummer Gregory Hutchinson and double bass player Matteo Bortone. A formation that is not born of necessity, but an expression of her advanced experience and the result of a lengthy selection process.

The title of the album is the demand that Stefania makes on herself and her music, and at the same time the listeners can expect from her. In her own words: “The feeling of unpredictability and surprise at setting off upon new pathways together, the exploration of various different possible solutions through a total freedom in thinking about music, and the sense of play combined with lively fantasy”.

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Dino & Franco Piana Ensemble – Open Spaces

Dino and Franco Piana founded the formation Dino & Franco Piana Ensemble. Dino is the father of Franco, both are living and working in Rome. Since more than 10  years they are working with AlfaMusic and have already released three albums on this label. As Dino and Franco Piana Sextet they released Seven in 2012, followed by Seasons (2015) and Open Spaces (2020).

One can classify their style as progressive Big Band sound and by reading the credits one quickly recognizes that the brass element plays a major role in their music. Spiritus rector of this formation is Franco Piana, who also wrote all the compositions for the new album.

The structure of the album is reminiscent of classical works, although musically there are no references to classical music. The title project splits into four sections, Opening and Variations I-III. The first intonation suggests an opening in the usual Big Band style. Dino’s trombone, Franco’s flugelhorn and Lorenzo Corsi’s flute alternate in small solo interludes before the full harmonic unison of all instruments spreads pleasant goose bumps.

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Romano Zuffi & Stefano Cocco Cantini – Stress Da Brass

Hailing from Follonica, Italy Stefano Cocco Cantini is a saxophonist, who has collaborated with jazz musicians including Michel Petrucciani, Chet Baker, Dave Holland, Enrico Rava, Billy Cobham, Kenny Wheeler, Dave Liebman, Ares Tavolazzi, Stefano Bollani and Paolo Fresu. As a soloist he has released the albums Niccolina al mare (2001), The circus (2003), L’amico del vento (2005), Errante (2010) and Living Coltrane (2011).

Romano Zuffi is an Italian pianist and keyboardist. Together they already have released on AlfaMusic three albums, Attuttogass (2015), Attuttallaria (2017) and Stress da Brass (2018). The album appears as an elaborately designed booklet, with lyrics and many graphics. The album is dedicated to the great late painter Giampaolo Talani, creator of all the paintings that characterize the covers of the record series.

Contributors to the album include Stefano Cantini (sax, piano, electric piano), Alfredo Golino (drums), Ares Tavalozzi (contrabass), Giulio Stracciati (electric guitar), Francesco Marcucci (bass, electric guitar, acoustic guitar), Andrea Lagi (trumpet, flugelhorn), Giulia Bernardini (viola), Valentina Garofoli (violin, violincello), and Romano Zuffi (keyboards, piano, electric piano, synth). Vocalists on selected tracks are Alex Ligertwood, Giulia Fasolino, Jole Canelli, background singers are Alice Bertoncini, Valentina Toni, and Gianni Nepi.

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Eddie Daniels – Night Kisses: A Tribute to Ivan Lins

“It’s jazz, it’s beauty and it opens the heart.” That is how six-time GRAMMY-nominated horn player Eddie Daniels describes his forthcoming album, “Night Kisses: A Tribute to Ivan Lins.” Slated to drop July 31 on Resonance Records, the new collection is the second chapter in a trilogy devoted to iconic Brazilian composers and the follow up to the 2018 GRAMMY-nominated “Heart of Brazil: A Tribute to Egberto Gismonti.” Both albums were produced by the series’ conceptualizer George Klabin.

Daniels, who is best known as a clarinetist and tenor saxophonist accomplished in both jazz and classical music, has a long history of playing Brazilian and Latin music. However, he admitted to “being kind of a dummy about the specific great Brazilian composers that I was about to tackle when George approached me with the idea for the trilogy, but I have this clave (Afro-Cuban groove) in my body as much as anyone because I just love this music so much.”

Klabin selected a dozen tunes from Lins’ songbook for “Night Kisses,” which closes with an original composition by GRAMMY and Emmy winner Bob James, “Ivante,” inspired by and named for Lins. When Klabin sent the music to Daniels, the multi-hornplayer only knew one song, “Amor,” and the material itself presented a challenge. Continue reading

U-Nam – U-Nam Goes Big Band The Remixes

In conjunction with Skytown Records, and with all profits going to the fight against COVID-19, and to COVID-19 relief charities, jazz guitarist and Billboard chart-topper U-Nam is creating a four track ‘EP’ of remixes from his ‘U-Nam Goes Big Band’ recording. ‘U-Nam Goes Big Band’ is a sumptuous eleven track rendering of sophisticated mood jazz and since its release on March 27 has made a fabulous start in both the Jazz and Smooth Jazz Radio Charts. On its first week it became most added on Jazzweek while the first single, ‘Dance’ was most added on the US Billboard Smooth Jazz National Airplay chart.
A second single, ‘Each Day A Gift’ featuring vocalist and UK X-Factor first winner Steve Brookstein is slated for imminent release while the remix project shines a dazzling spotlight on the creativity that has long been U-Nam’s calling card.

Take for example his ‘Nu-Orleans’ remix of ‘In the Blink of an Eye’ for which he adds a whole load of zest and guarantees to set feet tapping everywhere. Not only that, the expansive Latin flavoured ‘Miami Remix’ of ‘The One’ is perhaps an even greater hip swayer than the album original while another track with a decidedly Latin disposition is the wonderful ‘The World to Me’ that U-Nam embellishes with his own special brand of ‘Electro Swing’.

The extended player’s only vocal number is the appropriately named ‘From Estonia with Love’ remix of the vibrant ‘The Dance Must Go On’ which would fit perfectly on any James Bond soundtrack. Mixing elements of hip-hop and R&B with a distinctly Cab Calloway vibe, U-Nam also makes full use of wah wah trumpet from Christian Martinez to build an inspirational platform for Susanna Aleksandra’s smoky vocals. Make no mistake, and picking up on the James Bond theme, this is a track that will leave the listener both shaken and stirred.

There are only a few established artists capable of taking a genre busting U-turn to reinvent themselves with a project such as ‘U-Nam Goes Big Band’. U-Nam is certainly one of them.

Gabriel Mark Hasselbach – MidCentury Modern Volume 2

Denver Colorado born trumpeter Gabriel Mark Hasselbach‘s album Open Invitation (2014) is known as one of his latest smooth jazz album. His album MidCentury Modern Volume 1 (2018) shows Gabriel’s affinity for the classic jazz genre. With MidCentury Modern Volume 2 (2019) he continues this way.

The line-up of the new album differs only slightly from its predecessor. Miles Black (piano, organ, bass), Laurence Mollerup (acoustic bass), Joel Fountain (drums) and Olaf DeShield (guitar) played already on Volume I, new to it are Cory Weeds and Ernie Watts (sax), furthermore Cord Lemon (electric bass) on selected tracks.

Superblue is very melodious, even if the attitude is jazzy. Gabriel expands his trumpet performance on a swinging rhythm, while Miles Black just sets accents with tasteful piano chords. In the middle of the theme he unchains to a larger piano solo with different rhythm background.

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