Archive for the ‘ Jazz ’ Category

Dave McMurray – Music Is Life

Dave McMurray’s Blue Note Records debut, Music Is Life (out May 18), is a reunion of sorts, given the long history the saxophonist shares with the label’s president, and fellow Detroit native, Don Was. McMurray was a member of Was’ genre-defying unit Was (Not Was), first working together on the band’s self-titled 1981 debut. He’s played on all of the band’s albums and many other Was produced projects in the years since. Hear the lead track “Naked Walk” on the Jazz Now! playlist.

When Was signed McMurray to Blue Note, the saxophonist says that he gave him no imperatives as to which artistic paths to take. “It was one of those situations in which he just said, ‘Do it,’” McMurray explains.

“I know Dave’s playing really well. He doesn’t bullshit,” Was praises. “He’s never playing licks for the sake of playing licks. He’s not trying to impress people with what all he knows about music or about his dexterity over the instrument. It’s all about honest expressions.” Continue reading

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David Garfield – Jazz Outside the Box

Well known as musical director of George Benson keyboardist David Garfield pursues his own dream as a solo artist. His debut album was a homage to the late drummer Jeff Pocaro Tribute to Jeff (1997).

Next albums were I Am The Cat…Man (1997), Music From Riding Bean (2001), Giving Back (2003), Seasons Of Change, The State of Things, Tribute To Jeff Revisited (2005). His newest project is Jazz Outside The Box (2018).

Garfield performs on the new album piano, Fender Rhodes and synthesizers. Further players are trumpeter Wallace Roney, percussionist Poncho Sanchez and drummer Steve Jordan. Guest musicians are Randy Brecker, Michael McDonald, Tom Scott, Eric Marienthal, Pete Christlieb, Bennie Maupin, Brian Auger, Will Lee, Airto Moreira, the Charlie Bisharat String Quartet, an orchestra conducted by John Clayton, the late guitarists Chuck Loeb and Larry Coryell, and John Densmore, who plays drums and orates on a spoken word segment.

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David Garfield – Jazz Outside the Box

Keyboardist David Garfield was nineteen when he got his start playing alongside influential bebop jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard. But opportunities came quickly for him in contemporary jazz as well as in R&B and pop, which guided the direction of his now five-decade career away from his roots. Straight-ahead jazz has remained in his core and he’s longed to return “home” thus to launch his prolific multi-volume, multi-genre “Outside the Box” collection, Garfield will drop his first straight-ahead jazz album, “Jazz Outside the Box,” on March 23 via his Creatchy Records label.

In addition to playing piano, Fender Rhodes and synthesizers, Garfield produced and arranged the 15-track jazz set that revisits Duke Ellington, Horace Silver, Joe Sample, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Oliver Nelson and Joe Zawinul classics, applies an imaginative jazz varnish to a pair of Sting songs, and presents four of his own compositions. To materialize his vision, Garfield rounded up a massive ensemble that boasts several accomplished musicians he’s never worked with before but have long been on his wish list of collaborators such as trumpeter Wallace Roney, percussionist Poncho Sanchez and drummer Steve Jordan. Randy Brecker, Michael McDonald, Tom Scott, Eric Marienthal, Pete Christlieb, Bennie Maupin, Brian Auger, Will Lee, Airto Moreira along with dozens of other prominent players guest on the record, which includes Charlie Bisharat’s String Quartet and an orchestra conducted by John Clayton. “Jazz Outside the Box” contains among the final performances by a pair of recently-departed guitar greats, Chuck Loeb and Larry Coryell. Perhaps the most unusual contribution comes from The Doors’ John Densmore, who plays drums and orates on a spoken word segment on the full-length version of Silver’s “Song For My Father.”

“I recruited a unique grouping of players to render each song. It was like casting for a movie. For example, ‘Song For My Father’ is rich with meaning, history and personal connections, which is a major component and an underlying purpose behind the entire ‘Outside the Box’ project. On that tune, I pay tribute to its author, Horace Silver, who was my mentor and like an adopted father to me. It also pays homage to The Doors and Steely Dan. A lot of people don’t know that Horace originally wrote lyrics to the song, so I had John (Densmore) speak Horace’s words. Another cool thing is that Steely Dan borrowed the opening bass riff from ‘Song for My Father’ for ‘Rikki Don’t Lose That Number’ so I often quoted ‘Rikki’ whenever I played ‘Song for My Father’ at my gigs. I included that quote at the beginning of this recording, which features guitarist Denny Dias, a founding member of Steely Dan who played on the original ‘Rikki.’ There’s also a part of the track where I have (former Chicago lead singer) Jason Scheff sing ‘If you have a change of heart’ as another nod to ‘Rikki,’” said Garfield. Continue reading

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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