Archive for the ‘ Jazz ’ Category

Bob James and Nathan East – The New Cool

TheNewCoolAlbums just aren’t made like the way The New Cool was made. Yamaha Entertainment Group label president Chris Gero put legendary keyboardist Bob James and master bassist Nathan East in the recording studio, equipped them with state-of-the-art Yamaha gear and gave them free reign to create. Recorded entirely in Nashville, the long-time collaborators emerged with an unexpected and audacious collection of original compositions plus a few handpicked classics, an acoustic jazz outing that will make you forget everything you thought you knew about these GRAMMY®-recognized artists best known as contemporary jazz luminaries. The disc produced by Gero, James and East will be released September 18.

The New Cool unfolds much in the way the meticulously-crafted project was conceived. The germ begins organically with a couple of intimate James and East duets. Pastoral piano wanderings explore the outer perimeter of straight-ahead jazz where they peruse, mirror and engage with meandering bass lines. In fact, more than half of the record’s compositions written by James and/or East are sparsely-produced, probing piano and bass sojourns. As the seed sprouts, dramatic orchestral accoutrements added by the Nashville Recording Orchestra illuminate the piano, keyboard and bass explorations, contributing hues that are warmly rustic and autumnal or whimsically vibrant.

James challenges with deftly inventive arrangements on complex pieces like “All Will Be Revealed” while East counts off supple rhythms that are astutely measured and metered. Fluid melodies and harmonies ranging from subtle, serene and meditative to lush, exquisite and cascading blossom throughout, whether emoted by a dexterous piano, keyboard or bass or East’s celestial vocalese. An imaginatively-arranged version of Willie Nelson’s “Crazy” bops and swings in sublimely surprising style before the ultimate surprise is revealed: a serendipitous vocal from Vince Gill. The proceedings flourish in a gust of breezy Brazilian jazz when percussionist Rafael Padilla and drummer Scott Williamson appear on “Canto Y La Danza” and climax in a crashing crescendo on the explosive and intricately orchestrated “Turbulence.”
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Oleg Frish – Duets with My American Idols

One way to stand out when doing vocal renditions of songs that have been sung six ways ’til Sunday is to add another voice. Or in the case of Oleg Frish, several voices. Duets with My American Idols (Time Out Media, 2015) features Frish with 10 crooners.

Each song is accompanied by a variable lineup of musicians. Frish sings a few tracks without a partner, but the duets make his renditions of these classics unique.

After an introduction by Connie Francis, Frish begins the set, joined by Gary U.S. Bonds for “You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You.” The pair are a throwback to the Rat Pack duets of Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr., or Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. The band is solid behind the two leads.

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Luis Perdomo & Controlling Ear Unit – Twenty-Two

Original music, combined with three players who bring their own passions. That’s what you get on Twenty-Two by Luis Perdomo & Controlling Ear Unit (Hot Tone Music, 2015).

Accompanying pianist Luis Perdomo are Mimi Jones, bass; and Rudy Royston, drums.

“Love Tone Poem” begins softly, as in a classical, solo piano interlude. Then, the mood sweels as the accompaniment enters. The swell is brief, as the song reverts to a more tranquil vibe, the difference being that other instruments are now involved. It gradually evolves into something more melodic, more contemporary, but never losing its haunting, classical quality.

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Phil Maturano – At Home Everywhere

You could call it a piano trio that’s led by a drummer. That’s the configuration for Phil Maturano’s At Home Everywhere (2015).

Maturano, of course, is the drummer. His accompanists appear in three combinations. The pianists are Matthew Fries and Christian Torkewitz. The bassists are Phil Palombi, Michael O’Brien and Irio O’Farrill. O’Brien performs on only one track, with Torkewitz on piano.

Wayne Shorter’s “Fee Fi Fo Fum” opens the set in easygoing fashion. Fries carries the lead during the main body, with Palombi and Maturano laying down the head-bopping groove. The song is largely a showcase for the piano, but the bass gets its moment in the spotlight, as does the drum kit. Maturano holds back until near the end, when he mixes it up during a call and response with Fries.

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Lauren Henderson – A La Madrugada (At Dawn)

Many forms of music comprise Lauren Henderson’s inspiration and vocal repertoire. And you’re likely to hear traces of all of them on A La Madrugada (At Dawn) (2015).

With Henderson are Riley Mulherkar, trumpet; Jonathan Powel, trumpet and flugelhorn; Louis Fouche, alto saxophone; Sullivan Forner, piano, Rhodes and organ; Ameen Saleem, double bass and electric bass; and Jeremy “Bean” Clemons, drums and percussion.

The set begins with a sultry rendition of “You and the Night and the Music.” Henderson’s earthy voice is complemented by a sassy horn section. The piano and percussion styling give the song a hint of flamenco, one of the styles that influenced Henderson. Saleem enjoys a tight, string-snapping solo. The highlight of the piece is the way the trumpets blare to emphasize key phrases sang by Henderson.

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David Berkman – Old Friends and New Friends

It’s a combination of members of a recently formed quartet and companions from years past. Pianist David Berkman brings them together for Old Friends and New Friends (Palmetto Records, 2015).

With Berkman are Dayna Stephens, soprano and tenor saxophones; Billy Drewes, alto and soprano saxophones; Adam Kolker, soprano, alto and tenor saxophones, clarinet and bass clarinet; Linda Oh, bass; and Brian Blade, drums. Stephens and Oh are the relative newcomers, while the others have performed or recorded with Berkman in the past.

With Kolker on soprano sax and Stephens on tenor, “Tribute” is a tranquil, ocean breeze. The horns harmonize during the melody, accented by Berkman’s piano and Blade’s cymbal splashes. Tom and snare rolls, mixed with cymbal splashes accompany the soprano solo. The accompaniment softens for Berkman’s elegant passage.

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Antonio Gómez – Alcala Street

In the last weeks I had the focus on Spanish music with reviews about the albums of saxophonist Inaki Arakistain and guitarist Juan Carlos Mendoza. I finish this cycle with the album of Spanish guitarist Antonio Gómez Alcalá Street, Jazz from Spain (2015).

Haling from Almeria he studied his instrument in America and Spain. He started his musical career with Guitarra de Navidad, an album of Christmas songs in 1997. His second album Aires de Mar followed in 2007. Alcalá Street, Jazz from Spain is his third album.

These Spanish folk music arrangements are released on the label Youkali Music. Antonio comments꞉ “The title Alcalá Street refers to a musical walk through an imaginary Alcalá Street where Spanish folk melodies combine with rhythms and harmonies of other latitudes, as well as different styles, sounds and rhythms of jazz, funk, Latin and flamenco″.

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