Archive for the ‘ Jazz ’ Category

Francisco Pais – Verde

The band is new, but the relationships have a history. And that history makes a recording like Verde (Product of Imagination, 2016) by Francisco Pais possible.

The musicians are Pais, voice and guitar; Myron Walden, tenor sax; Godwin Louis, alto sax; Julian Shore, piano; Connor Schultze, bass; and Fereno Nemeth, drums. Guest vocalists Genetta Kha and Jacklyn Chan appear on “Million Galaxies.” They have performed together in one configuration or another for about 10 years.

“The Painter” is an upbeat, gear-shifting song. Guitar and sax are in unison for the main theme. The tempo is constant, but the leads adjust their rate of notes per beat as the song progresses. Shore, Shultze and Nemeth stay quite busy behind the leads, especially Nemeth. Louis and Walden carry the middle passage in turns, each making his instrument sing, grind and wail for emphasis.

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SaltmanKnowles – Almost

Questions abound with the duo of William Knowles and Mark Saltman. They refuse to be defined by others, yet by their own admission, they’re not quite what they want to be – yet. On the brink of establishing that identity, they release SaltmanKnowles – Almost (Pacific Coast Jazz, 2016).

Personnel are Knowles, piano; Saltman, bass; Keith Killgo, drums; Grant Langford, saxes; DeAndre Schaifer, trumpet; Lori Williams, vocals on “What Is This Thing Called Love” and “September in the Rain”; EC3, drums on “This Is New”; Yvette Spears, vocals on “This Is New”; and Victor Provost, steel pans on “This Is New.”

Williams joins the ensemble for “What Is This Thing called Love?” It’s an easygoing, sassy rendition with Killgo provided a shuffle beat. The interplay among Knowles, Saltman and Killgo is dynamic throughout. Williams delivers a soulful lead. Solos are by Langford and Schaifer.

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Steve Gadd Band – Way Back Home – Live from Rochester, NY

He’s only one of the greatest drummers on the planet: Steve Gadd. Greatness, for the purposes of this article, is defined by a combination of skill on the kit, diversity of genres, versatility as an ensemble player, sideman and leader, and, of course, longevity. Employing the same lineup for his 2015 release, 70 Strong, featuring live versions of selections from that album and Gadditude, as well as some older songs, Gadd comes back in concert with Way Back Home – Live from Rochester, NY (BFM Jazz, 2016).

The package includes a CD and two DVDs – one of the concert, the other with interviews.

Along with Gadd, the players are Walt Fowler, trumpet and flugelhorn; Larry Goldings, keyboards; Jimmy Johnson, bass; and Michael Landau, guitars.

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Quinsin Nachoff – Flux

Strap yourselves in. You’re in for a ride unlike anything you’ve experienced. Saxophonist Quinsin Nachoff challenges the listener with Flux (Mythology Records, 2016).

Nachoff plays the tenor. Accompanying him are David Binney, alto sax; Matt Mitchell, piano, Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer, Moog Rogue and organ; Kenny Wollesen, drums, timpani, tubular bells, and handcrafted percussion.

“Complimentary Opposites” opens with some quirky keyboard phrasing. The other instruments enter in what might best be described as random switching on and off. The saxes meld for what passes for a melody, but separate once the song goes full force. Binney stretches his creative muscle with an extended solo. His accompanists are seemingly in another world, as no two appear to be on the same page. Yet it somehow works. While each musician is in his own world, they’re not in conflict. After Nachoff goes a round, the mood softens for the acoustic piano. There, the drums do appear to complement, at times barely audible. Mitchell and Wollesen then take off on a parry and thrust sequence. This continues after the tenor rejoins. A slight hint of reggae is injected when the song shifts again, entering a more melodic phase. The pace, intensity and quirkiness pick up as the entire ensemble builds to an explosive ending. There are many elements to this piece. At 10 minutes, the group has time to cover them all.

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Scott Morgan – Songs of Life

It’s worth noting that when Scott Morgan selected the music for his debut album, he broke with the tried and true practice of remaking standards from “The American Songbook.” That alone makes Songs of Life (Miranda Music, 2016) different from most vocalist debuts. There are a few standards, but there are also jazz arrangements of pop songs, covers of lesser-known jazz pieces and songs written or co-written by the album’s producer.

For his entry into the world of recorded music, Morgan is accompanied by Fred Hersch, piano; Matt Aronoff, bass; Ross Pederson, drums; with special guest Joel Frahm, tenor saxophone on selected tracks.

“Song of Life” is a sunny, easygoing piece highlighted by Hersch’s piano opening and solo, crisp stick work by Pederson, and Frahm’s subtle phrases throughout and his bright, end solo. The lyrics express Morgan’s experience of a fall day in New York City – the sights, the sounds and the joy of being alive.

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Daniela Schächter – Van Heusenism: A Tribute to Jimmy Van Heusen

Take some well-written songs, a charming voice and excellent musicians, put them together, and you’ll come away with a feast for the ears. Daniela Schachter accomplishes this with Van Heusenism: A Tribute to Jimmy Van Heusen (2016).

The set consists mostly of songs composed by the celebrated songwriter for whom it’s named. Many of Van Heusen’s songs were recorded or performed by Frank Sinatra. Schachter sings, plays piano and composed all arrangements. Her accompanists are Mike Tucker, tenor saxophone; Michael O’Brien, acoustic bass; and Mark Walker, drums.

The quartet is solid throughout, with Schachter performing elegantly on the keys, and her voice expressing the love and joy of playing this music. Her voice is at once soothing and enchanting. The musicians complement one another well, each getting an opportunity here and there to stretch out a bit. A few highlights are “Here’s That Rainy Day,” “Darn That Dream,” “Come Fly with Me,” and the one original song, Schachter’s “Vanheusenism.” Schachter even employs a delightful scat during her rendition of “Polkadots & Moonbeams.”

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Gordon Goodwin’s Little Phat Band – An Elusive Man

Smaller ensemble, same leader, equally good sound. That’s the essence of An Elusive Man (Music of Content, 2016) by Gordon Goodwin’s Little Phat Band.

The band consists of Goodwin, composer, arranger, piano and tenor saxophone; Wayne Bergeron, trumpet; Eric Marienthal, alto and tenor saxophones; Andy Martin, trombone; Andrew Synowiec, electric and acoustic guitars; Rick Shaw, acoustic and electric bass; Bernie Dresel, drums; and Joey De Leon, percussion.

A cool bass line, percussion and stick work help set the table for “Behind You,” a bouncy, delightful piece. Muted trumpet accents the melody. After two passes on the theme, the horns deliver a drama-building sequence, setting up Synowiec’s dancing, prancing solo. Goodwin follows with a spirited jaunt on tenor sax. Back on piano, he engages in a call and response with Dresel and De Leon. The horn section returns with the main phrase, also calling and responding with Dresel. A transition, and the melody comes back in full.

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