Archive for the ‘ Jazz ’ Category

Ben Rosenblum – Instead

How does one emerge on the scene in a trio format and be distinctive? Well, one way is to bring some original material and take ownership of covers. Pianist Ben Rosenblum accomplishes this with his debut, Instead (One Trick Dog Records, 2017).

Accompanying Rosenblum are Curtis Lundy, bass; and Billy Hart, drums.

Rosenblum successfully avoids sounding ordinary by steering clear of the standards, popular jazz songs that have been covered ad nauseam. Instead, perhaps a hint of the thinking behind the album title, he composes six original songs and reinterprets five others that are a bit off the beaten path.

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Joel Larue Smith – The Motoroman’s Son

Pianist and composer Joel Larue Smith has a passion for mixing styles, Afro-Cuban, jazz and classical. He presents samples of each with The Motoroman’s Son (2017).

Personnel are Charles Langford, alto saxophone; Carlos Averhoff Jr., tenor saxophone; Jeff Galindo and Takahide Watanabe, trombones; Flavio Lira, bass; Tiago Michelin, drums; and Wilson “Chembo” Coriel, tumbadoras, which is a type of hand drum.

Each song is a work of a wonder. Standouts are “The Seed,” “Reverence,” “The Motorman’s Son” and “Sin Miedo.” Lira and the percussionists set the tone for most of the tracks, laying a solid foundation for the melodies and solos. On some tracks, Smith pairs with one of the saxes for a beautiful blend. The faster songs shift gears multiple times, altering both the themes and moods, as if on a journey through varied terrains and climates. The listener must take care not to presume a change is another song.

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Steve Khan – Backlog

There was the stunning electric guitar solo on the disco-fueled, big band cover of the Star Wars theme with Maynard Ferguson. Then there was the beautiful end solo to Steely Dan’s “Glamour Profession.” And apart from those, there were guest appearances with numerous other artists, his partnership with keyboardist Rob Mounsey and a brilliant solo career. The point is, you see Steve Khan’s name, you know what you’re going to get: musical fulfillment. That tradition continues with Backlog (Tone Center Records, 2017).

Personnel on this date are Ruben Rodriguez, baby bass and electric bass; Mark Walker, drums; Marc Quinones, timbal, bongo and percussion; and Bobby Allende, conga and bongo. Guests appearing selected tracks are Randy Brecker, trumpet on “Latin Genetics”; Bob Mintzer, tenor sax on “Invisible”; Mike Mainieri, vibes on “Head Start”; Rob Mounsey, keyboards, orchestrations and orchestral arrangements on several songs; and Tatiana Parra, voice on “Catta.”

Khan’s treatment of Ornette Coleman’s “Latin Genetics” presents a festive offering. Khan and Brecker are in unison for the melody. The rhythm section is as prominent here as the two leads, offering plenty of variety as they maintain the beat. Brecker and Khan take turns adding to the block party mood with extended solos.

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Miguel Zenon – Tipico

Saxophonist Miguel Zenon has brought in additional instruments to augment his band’s music. However, for Tipico (Miel Music, 2017), he decided to stay “closer to home.” The goal is to highlight his personal and professional life, as well as the uniqueness of his group.

Zenon plays alto saxophone. His companions are Luis Perdomo, piano; Hans Glawishnig, bass; and Henry Cole, drums.

“Academia,” inspired by Zenon’s teaching at the New England Conservatory, is mixed bag. The opening starts with a steady phrase repeated by the piano. Then the alto pitches in some high-speed rolls. A couple of shifts later, and we have something that more closely resembles a melody. With the others setting their own stamps, Zenon puts the sax through an intense, blistering jaunt. The horn wails at key points. Meanwhile, piano, bass and drums heat up. The energy continues to build until another shift. Things mellow considerably for Perdomo’s interlude. It begins softly, but soon kicks into overdrive. Zenon comes back in for a furious finish.

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Carmen Lundy – Code Noir

Multimedia artist Carmen Lundy charms and pleases with her latest offering, Code Noir (Afrasia Productions, 2017).

Lundy sings, plays piano, keyboards, acoustic guitar, and handles string programming and background vocals. Performing with her are Patrice Rushen, piano; Ben Williams, acoustic bass and electric bass; Kendrick Scott, drums and percussion; Jeff Parker, electric guitar; and Elisabeth Oei, background vocals on “The Island, The Sea, and You.”

“Black and Blues” is a statement against police brutality and the systemic protections of officers who kill without justification. The music has an angry quality to it, from Rushen’s piano chords to Scott’s work on the kit. “Killed another brother from – another mother,” Lundy sings.

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Mads Tolling & The Mads Men – Playing the 60s

The group name is a play on the leader’s first name and the title of an AMC television series. Violinist Mads Tolling revisits an iconic decade of music with Mads Tolling & The Mads Men, Playing the 60s.

The Mads Men are Tolling, violin, viola and baritone violin; Colin Hogan, piano, Hammond B3 organ, Fender Rhodes and accordion; Sam Bevan, bass; and Eric Garland, drums. Special guests appear on a few tracks. “My Girl” features Kalil Wilson, vocals; and Susanna Porte, cello. “The Look of Love” brings Spencer Day, vocals; Ricardo Peixoto, guitar; Joe Hebert, cello; Dan Feiszli, bass; and Spencer Day, vocals. Vocalist Kenny Washington appears on “What a Wonderful World,” and bassist Stanley Clarke steps in for “Beautiful Savior – Dejlig er Jorden.”

Tolling kicks things off with “A Taste of Honey. The violin hums brightly during the verse, jumping an octave on the second pass. The Herb Alpert recording straddles the line between big band jazz and easy listening. Tolling goes all jazz with this arrangement. After the second intro, he stretches out with some cool, crisp, finger-snapping grooves by The Mads Men. Hogan takes a turn, then Bevan and Garland lick their chops in a sizzling interlude.

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Bob Holz – Visions & Friends

After scoring some success with A Vision Forward (2015), Bob Holz releases his sophomore effort, this time with some extra help. Visions & Friends (MVD Records, 2017) is a set of all-original music.

The players are Holz, drums and percussion; Larry Coryell and Alex Machacek, guitars; Ralphe Armstrong and Mike Schoeffter, bass; Randy Brecker, trumpet on “Flat Out” and “For the One”; Billy Steinway, keyboards; David Goldberg, saxophones; Tori Higley, vocals on selected tracks; Rob Stathis, accompanying piano on “Eleven High”; Zoe Stathis-Sandor, vocals on “Take It From Maurice”; and Scott Gerling, percussion on “Take It From Maurice.”

“Flat Out” sets the tone for this set. This lively groove crosses the bridge between funk, fusion and instrumental rock. Brecker and Machacek are the stars, fronting the main theme and enjoying invigorating solos. Steinway and Schoeffter get their licks in as well. Holz keeps it all together, adding just the right touch to whatever is happening in the moment.

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