Archive for the ‘ Jazz ’ Category

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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Craig Sharmat – Nouveau

Guitarist Craig Sharmat is a great number in the area of film and television music. His compositional field of activity extends to trailers for films such as King Kong, Ghost Rider, Eragon, Anchorman or TV series like CSI Miami. His scoring work he is mostly known for are America’s Most Wanted, Alone, Who the Bleep Did I Marry and a host of other shows. More than his second mainstay, rather his passion is his career as a solo musician.

After his debut album So Cal Drivin (2009) he released Outside In (2010) and Blue Horizons (2013). What lasts long will finally be good with Nouveau (2019), the aptly title of his new album. While his earlier albums reflect more on smooth jazz themes, and his album Blue Horizons traveled the world, Craig now reveals his pronounced tendency for Django Reinhardt’s heritage. Django was a Belgian-born Romani-French jazz guitarist and composer, regarded as one of the greatest musicians of the twentieth century.

In creating his new album, Craig relies on the collaboration of proven professional musicians from the Californian scene, such as Greg Manning, Brian Mann (keyboards), Hussain Jiffry, Kim Collins (bass), Eric Valentine, Rayford Griffin (drums), Mark Hollingsworth (sax), Chris Tedesco (trumpet), and George Quirin (flamenco guitar). Ludovic Beier (accordina) is from France, and Christiaan Van Hemert (viola, violins) from The Netherlands, Nick Coventry (violin) lives in Tucson, AZ. Craig comments: “I wanted influence from players outside of So California as Gypsy Jazz was created in Europe and filtered back to the United States.”

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BT ALC Big Band – The Search For Peace

Reaching back to the past in order to move a musical artform forward, the BT ALC Big Band turns loose the might and muscle of a 13-piece horn section to huff and puff and blow down any previously held conceptions of what a big band could be. The mission of the 19-piece Boston big band’s forthcoming album, “The Search For Peace,” is part passion, part music education and anything but peaceful. The bombardment of funk and jazz, written by trombonist Brian Thomas and trumpeter Alex Lee-Clark and produced by Alan Evans (Soulive), drops May 17 on Ropeadope.

After researching big band recordings of the 1960s and 70s, Evans decided on an old-school approach to capture the high-volt energy of BT ALC Big Band’s live performance. He propped up one omnidirectional microphone in front of each of the three horn sections – five saxophonists, four trumpeters and four trombonists – in the same studio as the rhythm and melody players, letting them rip through the seven compositions that comprise “The Search For Peace.” The result is an organic sound that jukes and jives, harnessing the vim and vigor of the powerful posse. The album encapsulates the group’s vintage brand of rhythms and grooves they call “big band funk,” an explosive mashup of Duke Ellington and Count Basie meets James Brown and Parliament Funkadelic. Listen closely and you’ll detect some African funk and reggae inflections on this set as well.

“In recent years, the music that most big bands play, either professional or student, falls into two categories: tributes to the music of the past or new art music meant for the concert hall. We want to play music that’s new, accessible and culturally relevant; music that reflects the music we put on in the car when we’re zooming around in our day-to-day lives. We want to take the great art form of the big band and breathe new life into it,” said Thomas.
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Branly, Ruiz, Haslip – Elemental

Top musicians have a certain resemblance to star chefs. Their outstanding position is based on talent and a lot of passion. When three musical greats come together, then we experience an event of a special kind, fusion jazz in the truest sense of the word. Otmaro Ruiz, Jimmy Branly, and Jimmy Haslip form Elemental.

On the new album Otmaro Ruiz performs piano, Fender Rhodes and synths, Jimmy Branly drums, and Jimmy Haslip electric bass. Ruiz has written all tracks with the exception of Boomtown, which is from the Yellowjackets album Mint Jam (2001).

The aptly titled introduction A Good Start presents three of the most talented contemporary jazz players on the scene in a breathtaking action. Otmar Ruiz keeps the music flowing on synth and keys while Branly and Haslip provide the right rhythmic frame for it.

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