Archive for the ‘ Jazz ’ Category

Allegra Levy – Lonely City

Allegra Levy is a refreshing talent to enter the jazz scene. Her debut release, Lonely City (Steeple Chase Productions, 2014), departs from the usual fare offered by up and coming vocalists. Rather than revisit standards from the American Songbook category of oldies that have been remade to infinity, Levy composed music and lyrics to all 11 tracks.

The core band consists of Adam Kolker, tenor sax; John Bailey, trumpet; Carmen Staaf, piano; Jorge Roeder, bass; and Richie Barshay, drums and percussion. Guest musicians are Steve Cardenas, guitar on “Anxiety”; Lolly Bienenfield, trombone on “I Don’t Want to Be in Love”; Mark Feldman, violin on “Everything Green” and “Clear-Eyed Tango”; Andy Green, guitar, and Aubrey Johnson, vocal, on “Lonely City”; and Fung Chern Hwei, violin, Victor Lowrie, viola, and Mariel Roberts, cello, on “The Duet.”

“Anxiety” opens the set. It has a moderate, low-swing groove. Levy sings of an emotion she wishes would leave her, make her stop worrying about a relationship. Her voice is soothing, despite the lyrics of unease. All the musicians on this track have significant impact, even those who are mostly background. Kolker, Staaf and Cardenas stand out.

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Chantale Gagné – The Left Side of the Moon

Rod Serling would love this. Pianist Chantale Gagné takes us on a trip whose boundaries are that of imagination with The Left Side of the Moon (2015).

She’s accompanied by bassist Peter Washington and drummer Lewis Nash, who both appear on Gagne’s earlier releases, Silent Strength (2008) and Wisdom of the Water (2010). Joining them for this trek is saxophonist Steve Wilson.

The introduction to “After You” is like something out of the classical music catalog, featuring Gagne on solo piano, joined by Wilson’s alto. Then Nash enters in high gear, turning this into a fiery, high-energy piece. Wilson leads much of the way, put the sax through a series of frantic rolls. Gagne then takes point, tickling the keys in a way to get the head bopping and the toes tapping. Bass and drums are firmly locked in throughout.

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Bob James and Nathan East – The New Cool

Play what you want! That could be the request to Bob James and Nathan East by Yamaha Entertainment Group label president Chris Gero. A studio full of Yamaha equipment and two legends to work with.

The New Cool shows an intimate duet between pianist Bob James and Nathan East on acoustic bass. Improvisation and melodic essentials are weighted equally. Oliver’s Bag helps the swing on the legs. Nathan’s acoustic bass is very present, you can hear the vibration of each string.

On All Will Be Revealed both play with different stylistic elements. Instrumentation, orchestral strings by the Nashville Recording Orchestra and Nathan’s celestial vocals are woven into a captivating whole.

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Laszlo Gardony – Life in Real Time

The Berklee College of Music in Boston is a prestigious institution, well known in jazz circles. Many artists have been there as students or instructors. It’s also a venue for live music. Laszlo Gardony’s Life in Real Time (Sunnyside Records, 2015) was recorded in September 2014 at the Berklee Performance Center.

Gardony, a pianist, is accompanied by drummer Yoron Israel, bassist John Lockwood, and a trio of saxophonists: Stan Strickland, Don Braden and Bill Pierce.

“Bourbon Street Boogie” is aptly named. The song has a brassy, New Orleans vibe. The saxophones lead the melody, with two harmonizing and a third offering fills to give it a hint of Dixieland. Pierce and Braden stretch out plenty, each putting his instrument through some frantic paces. Gardony gets a turn as well. From start to finish, the band gets the listener engaged, playing with an attitude of, “Let’s just get out there and enjoy ourselves.”

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David Benoit and Jane Monheit – 2 in Love

Two Grammy nominees come together for an experience in cool music and romance. David Benoit and Jane Monheit team up for 2 in Love (Concord Records, 2015).

This is Benoit’s first recording with a vocalist. Over the years, he has employed guest vocalists to contribute a token song. Among them are David Pack of the rock group Ambrosia, pop singer Jennifer Warnes and jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves. However, 2 in Love is Benoit’s first time giving a vocalist equal billing. Monheit appears on all but two songs.

The lineup is broken into three configurations. On five songs, Benoit plays piano and synthesizer, accompanied by Monheit; Pat Kelly, acoustic and electric guitar; David Hughes, upright and electric bass; Jamey Tate, drums; and Lauren Kosty, percussion. For three songs, it’s Benoit, piano; Monheit; John Clayton, bass; Clayton Cameron, drums; Michelle Suh, violin; Cathi Biagini, cello; and Darryl Tanikawa, contractor. On “Love in Hyde Park,” it’s Benoit, piano; David Hughes, acoustic bass; Tate; and Tim Weisberg, alto flute and C flute. And as he usually does, Benoit goes solo on the finale.

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Rayford Griffin – Reflections of Brownie

The late Clifford Brown was on the jazz scene only a short time, four years, but his impact is far-reaching. It’s only fitting that the trumpeter’s nephew, Rayford Griffin, would recruit four of today’s prominent artists with the instrument for a tribute: Reflections of Brownie (RazoRedge Records, 2015).

Griffin, a drummer, called upon several musicians who themselves owe a debt to Clifford Brown. They are bassists Brian Bromberg and Dan Lutz; pianist George Duke; keyboardist Phillipe Saisse; saxophonists Everette Harp and Doug Webb; and trumpeters Roy Hargrove, Michael “Patches” Stewart, Rick Braun and Nicholas Payton. Other musicians also contribute, including members of Brown’s family.

After an introduction of Brown from one of his live performances, Grifford and his companions take on “Daahoud.” The horns mix and match during the melody, with Duke, Bromberg and Griffin licking their chops plenty in the background. Trumpet solos provide bookends for Harp on the tenor and a dialogue between sax and trumpet. Griffin cuts loose, working the cymbals and toms overtime on the fade.

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Carol Duboc – Colored Glasses

Colored GlassesOn Carol Duboc’s deeply personal 2013 release, Smile, the contemporary jazz singer-songwriter opened up in a way that she had never done so before, revealing the pain and heartache involved with dissolving her marriage while being the mother of a young daughter. She described writing the album with producer and jazz keyboards legend Jeff Lorber as therapeutic. Her therapy continues on Colored Glasses, a Gold Note Music ten-track disc written and produced by Duboc and Lorber set for release on September 18 and launched that evening with a Hollywood concert date that will be streamed online.

Two years on, Duboc’s new material details her struggles with cutting the ties of the relationship, one tinged by her partner’s delusional view of the world. Writing lyrics and melodies to rhythm tracks sent to her by Lorber, Duboc addresses the realities and realizations of moving forward with honesty and candor, even if she felt her ex was hiding the truth behind “colored glasses,” thus spawning the album’s title. But she acknowledges her own role as well.

“Some people refuse to see the world as it really is or life as it is, and to be honest, I was so caught up in the hypnotic love that I didn’t see things as they really are either,” admitted Duboc, who titled the first single “Hypnotic.” “I think this album is going to surprise people. It’s about letting go completely and moving on emotionally. And it may be the funkiest solo record I’ve ever made.” Continue reading


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