Archive for the ‘ Jazz ’ Category

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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Mark Whitfield – Grace

In the tradition of George Benson, Wes Montgomery, Lee Ritenour and many more, Mark Whitfield exhibits superb finger dexterity with Grace (Marksman Productions, 2017).

The players are Whitfield, guitar; sons Davis Whitfield, piano, and Mark Whitfield Jr., drums; Yasushi Nakamura, bass; and Sy Smith, vocals on “Grace.”

The music throughout is unfiltered jazz with tight syncopation and unit cohesion, augmented by individual expression. Smith lends her whispery voice to the title song, whose lyrics she wrote. Whitfield breezes through the songs, playing cleanly whether mixing chords with a string of single notes, or doing a high-speed riff. Davis, Mark Jr. and Nakamura deliver solid accompaniment, at times stretching out on their own.

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Nick Finzer – Hear & Now

The year 2017 so far is shaping up to be one of statements. Delfeayo Marsalis and Noah Preminger have already released protest albums, inspired at least in part to the U.S. presidential election in 2016. Now comes trombonist Nick Finzer with Hear & Now.

With Finzer are Lucas Pino, tenor sax and bass clarinet; Alex Wintz, guitar; Glenn Zaleski, piano; Dave Baron, bass; and Jimmy MacBride, drums.

“The Silent One” is moderately paced. The melody consists of overlapping phrases, with Finzer and Pino going one way, and Wintz another. After the opening sequence, Finzer steps out front while Wintz shifts into rock power chord mode in the background. About midway through the interlude, the guitar shifts back into jazz. Pino then takes the tenor on a jaunt, with some hardcore background play by Zaleski, Baron and MacBride. Finzer comes back in what for a moment seems like a competing solo, but he and Pino seamlessly weave back toward the main theme, setting up the placid finale.

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The Baylor Project – The Journey

From a guest appearance on Kenny Garrett’s Happy People to fulltime member of the Yellowjackets and guest vocalist, the journey of husband-wife duo Marcus and Jean Baylor is one of unity, togetherness and partnership. Thus The Journey (Be a Light, 2017) by The Baylor Project is aptly titled.

Personnel are Jean Baylor, all vocals, handclaps; Marcus Baylor, all drums, handclaps; Shedrick Mitchell, piano and organ; Allyn Johnson, piano; David “DJ” Ginyard, electric bass; Chris Smith, upright bass; Dezron Douglas, upright bass; Corcoran Holt, upright bass; Marvin Sewell, guitar; Rayfield “Ray Ray” Holloman, pedal steel guitar and electric guitar; Bob Mintzer, tenor sax on “Summertime”; Keith Loftis, tenor sax; Freddie Hendrix, trumpet and flugelhorn; Keyon Harrold, trumpet on “Again”; Stafford Hunter, trombone on “Again”; Aaron Draper, percussion and handclaps on “Block Party”; Pablo Batista, percussion and handclaps; Nicole Neely, live strings and arrangement on “Again”; and Brandee Younger, harp on “Summertime.”

“Block Party” is a straight jam. It opens with sermony vibe, but quickly warms into a celebration, punctuated by handclaps, Jean’s wordless chants and Hendrix. Marcus holds back until a spot about two minutes from the end. Accompanied only by the organ, he gives the kit a workout. The interlude sets up the listener for the joyous, all-in climax.

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Swiss Youth Jazz Orchestra – Heaven Help Us All

Take some 1960s and ‘70s jazz, soul and funk, and put them into the hands and hearts of some young people from Switzerland and other countries, you might be astonished by the result. Heaven Help Us All (Shanti Records, 2016) by the Swiss Youth Jazz Orchestra mixes old, new and lots of energy.

The orchestra is comprised of Sharon Renold, vocals and bass; Rit Xu, flute; Sara El Hachimi, alto sax; Felix Piringer, tenor sax and EWI; Mia Stauffacher, baritone sax; Gergo Szax and Dmitry Zinakov, trumpets; Florian Weiss and Sebastian Wey, trombones; Claude Stucki, guitar; Mary Rasshohovatskaya, keyboards; and Roberto Carella, drums. Additional players are Oli Rockberger, vocals and keyboard; Franke Greene, trumpet; Tony Lakatos, tenor sax; Marques Young, trombone; Neil Jason, bass; and Billy Cobham, drums. The orchestra is directed by Fritz K. Renold, who composed two original songs, “Blues for George” and “No Way Boss.”

“Ridiculous,” was written by and features Rockberger. He sings of a relationship with someone who seems not to notice him. He wonders if it’s ridiculous, if it’s really out of the question, for them to be together. The sense of longing comes through loud and clear in his singing. After a brief interlude by Stucki, an uncredited soprano sax player cuts loose on a blistering, pleading solo. The song is big band jazz meets old-school soul.

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The Ray Charles Orchestra Zürich 1961 – Swiss Radio Days Jazz Series

It’s nearly 80 minutes of musical brilliance, presented by 17 songs. The Swiss Radio Jazz Series presents Ray Charles Orchestra, Zurich 1961 (The Montreaux Jazz Label, 2016).

It’s a legendary concert recording featuring a young Ray Charles at the start of a tour that was a turning point in his career. The performers are Ray Charles, piano and vocal; trumpets: Marcus Belgrave, Wallace Davenport, Phil Guilbeau and John Hunt; trombones: Henderson Chambers, Dickie Wells and Keg Johnson; Rudy Powell, alto saxophone; Hank Crawford, alto saxophone and band leader; David Newman, tenor saxophone and flute; Don Wilkerson, tenor saxophone; Leroy Cooper, baritone saxophone; Elbert “Sonny” Forriest, guitar; Edgar Willis, bass; Bruno Carr, drums; and Quincy Jones, arranger of several tracks. Background vocalists, the Raelettes, are Priscilla “Pat” Lyles, Margie Hendricks, Gwen Berry and Darlene McCrea.

Set highlights include “Happy Faces,” “My Baby,” “Sticks and Stones,” “Georgia on My Mind,” “Hit the Road, Jack” and “I Believe to My Soul.”

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