Archive for the ‘ Jazz ’ Category

Steve Gadd Band – 70 Strong

He’s one of the great drummers of our time, a designation he’s carried for at least as far back as the 1970s, when he contributed to such recordings as “Aja” by Steely Dan, Van McCoy’s “The Hustle” and Maynard Ferguson’s Primal Scream album. Born on April 9, 1945, Steve Gadd celebrates 70 years as the Steve Gadd Band presents 70 Strong (BFM Jazz, 2015).

For this date, Gadd is reunited with his Gadditude ensemble: Walt Fowler, trumpet and flugelhorn; Larry Goldings, keyboards and accordion; Jimmy Johnson, bass; and Michael Landau, guitars.

“Foam Home,” co-written by all members of the group, is considered the son of “Green Foam,” a track from the ensemble’s Gadditude (BFM, 2013). This track is like a group therapy session, with all five players expressing themselves as individuals yet maintaining the cohesion of the group. Gadd and Johnson mostly handle background, but they do so effectively. Fowler carries the melody with supplements by Landau and Goldings, and each contributes a solo. It’s a strutting, free-spirited piece.

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Lisa Parrott – Round Tripper

Just ahead of baseball season, Lisa Parrott launches one across the fence. Round Tripper (Serious Niceness Records, 2015) is all about the passion of creating music.

Parrott plays alto and baritone saxophones. With her on this date are Matt Wilson, drums; Chris Lightcap, double bass; Carl Dewhurst, guitar; and guest Nadje Noordhuis, trumpet and flugelhorn on two tracks.

“Rosa Takes a Stand” is a Carlos Ward composition that Parrott and her bandmates adopt as their own. The alto sax and guitar handle most of the out-front work, with bass and drums getting plenty of action underneath. Toward the end is an extended call and response, showcasing Wilson’s dexterity on the kit.

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Josh Nelson – Exploring Mars

Instrumental music can inspire the imagination. Whether the soundtrack of a favorite movie or jazz, music without words can take you places that can be any combination of a wonder, amusement, adventure, romance or relaxation. For pianist Josh Nelson, the wonder is the Red Planet. Exploring Mars (Origin Records, 2015) is inspired by the fiction of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. It’s also a follow-up to Nelson’s Discoveries (2011).

In addition to piano, Nelson plays trumpet and Nord Electro 3. Also on this date are John Daversa, trumpet and EVI; Larry Koonse, guitar; Dave Robaire, bass; Dan Schnelle, drums; Kathleen Grace, vocals; Alan Ferber, trombone; and Brian Walsh, bass clarinet.

“Bradbury’s Spirit” includes a spoken-word excerpt of Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. The music plays softly underneath Nelson’s reading from a section of the book that depicts a Martian jam session. Koonse, Robaire and Schnelle enjoy a light jam as Nelson speaks. The piano is subtle.

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Dario Boente – Limelight

Electronica is not necessarily a friend to jazz audiences. However, when played with the dexterity presented by pianist Dario Boente and merged with acoustic stylings, the result can be positive. That’s the approach to Boente’s Limelight (Circular Moves / Sunnyside Records, 2015).

Boente employs a variable cast in small ensembles. For much of this date, Antonio Sanchez handles drum duties. A different combination of players assist throughout.

The title song begins the set. It’s a tranquil, easygoing piece. Boente complements his piano play with use of keyboards, vocoder and additional programming. Those elements add a haunting mood to some passages. His accompanists are subtle, yet effective. Most noticeable among them are Sanchez’s cymbal splashes and a brief moment when the bass emerges.

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Steven Feifke – Peace in Time

No gimmicks. No bells and whistles. But plenty of originality. That’s what you’ll get with Peace in Time (2015), the debut of pianist Steven Feifke. This 23-year-old rising star has already touched the world, as his compositions and arrangements have been performed by several artists.

Performing with Feifke are Benny Benack, trumpet and flugelhorn; Andrew Gould, alto saxophone; Chad Lefkowitz-Brown, tenor saxophone; Alex Wintz, guitar; Raviv Markovitz, bass; and Jimmy Macbride, drums.

“Am I Still There for You?” is prefaced by a solo piano intro. The actual song begins softly, with the tenor and the guitar blending for the lead with only bass and piano underneath. The melody weaves a series of intricate phrases. Then after one pass, the alto and trumpet enter, making for a bright, charming sound. The pace and mode conjure a visual of a couple dancing the waltz but without the one-two-two note pattern typical of waltz music. As the instruments swell and fade in time, with one stepping out for a transition or solo, the dancing couple dips and twirls, changing their steps every so often to reflect the evolving passion. What they do when the horns grow in intensity and overlap one another may be best left to the imagination. Lefkowitz-Brown stands out during the intense parts. During the dancing couple’s afterglow, the music softens again with Feifke taking point for the conclusion.

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Adam Birnbaum – Three of a Mind

Ambient, dynamic, charming, engaging. Those words can describe Three of a Mind (Daedelus Records, 2015) by pianist Adam Birnbaum. It’s a trio session for one of the rising stars on the New York jazz scene.

With Birnbaum are Doug Weiss on bass and Al Foster on drums.

“Binary,” one of six Birnbaum originals, is a bright, upbeat song. The leader plays freely throughout. Underneath, Foster enjoys mixing it up with rolls here, shuffles there, and Weiss is firmly engaged. About midway through, things get intense when the piano cranks up the heat, and the other instruments follow suit.

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Charles McPherson – The Journey

Straight, no chaser. Charles McPherson goes old school with The Journey (Capri Records, 2015). Recognized as one of the last authentic practitioners of bebop sax, McPherson would make some of his pioneering brethren proud.

McPherson plays the alto sax. With him are Keith Oxman, tenor sax; Chip Stephens, piano; Ken Walker, bass; and Todd Reid, drums.

The sassy opener, “The Decathexis from Youth (for Cole),” features the duet of McPherson and Oxman in harmonious lead. The song begins in moderate, swing. Then it shifts into high gear as the leader takes off on a spirited jaunt. Composer Stephens stretches out in blues style.

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