Archive for the ‘ Jazz ’ Category

Bruce Blackman – Moonlight Feels Right 2014

It’s pop and rock. It’s jazz via bossa nova, it’s blues. It’s even soul and funk. But mostly, it’s just plain cool. Bruce Blackman, founding member of the pop/rock group Starbuck, reinvents himself and some of his hits with Moonlight Feels Right 2014 (Bruce Blackman, 2014).

With Mike McCarty’s cover illustration depicting Blackman in a white suit, white gloves and his trademark driving cap, the album presents a mix of 11 new songs and stylish remakes of a few Starbuck songs. A native of Greenville, Mississippi, Blackman handles lead vocals, bass and keyboards. Additional vocalists are Mike Brookshire, Mike Jones, David Powell, Tim Tice, daughter Sarah Blackman, Sandra Chalmers, Meeko, Lina Kiwar-Michaelides, Donna Rhodes and Cheryl Wilson. Sharing bass duties with Blackman are Larry Cianelli and Alison Prestwood. On drums are Cianelli, Ed Massey and Scott Meeder. Guitarists are Brookshire, Mac McInally, Tommy Strain, Robert Taylor and Glen Wood. Horns are by Ben McCoy, Mart Avant and Chris Gordon. Additional keyboards are by Steve Ferguson and Steve Nathan. On saxophones are Steve Black and Jay Scott. Other musicians are Wayne Mosley, steel guitar; Robert Taylor and Glen Pace, violin; Mary Sims Alms, viola; and Elizabeth Wasson, cello.

“The Big Hurt” is one of the bossa nova arrangements. Accented by strings and a Stan Getz-like tenor sax, this pop hit Toni Fisher has been covered by several jazz artists, among others. Blackman takes it a step further, adding a touch of samba.

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Miho Nobuzane – Jazz Loves Brazil

Jazz Loves Brazil (Miho Nobuzane Music, 2014) seems like stating the obvious. For several decades, jazz musicians have incorporated traditional Brazilian sounds into their music. And Brazilian songwriters have created music that easily translates into jazz. Pianist Miho Nobuzane follows in their footsteps.

The ensemble is primarily the duo of Nobuzane and bassist Tetsuya Sato, with a parade of drummers completing the trio. Mauricio Zottarelli handles the sticks on 11 of the 15 tracks. Other contributes are Bernard Purdie and Adriano Santos. Filo Machado sings and plays guitar on four tracks. Percussionist Dende sits in on three tracks. Singer Carla Cook and flutist Oriente Lopez perform on one track each. For her part, Nobuzane plays piano on most tracks, keyboards on one and melodica on another, she sings lead on four and backs up Cook on one.

“Avenida Atlantica” features Michado on vocal and guitar. Zottarelli has drum duties on this one. It’s a delightful, celebratory tune, highlighted by Michado’s scatting. During one series, he mixes in a bit of yodel. A radio edit of the song appears at the end of the set.

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Maggie Herron – Good Thing

Long a favorite in paradise, Maggie Herron is now available to the rest of the world. Good Thing (2014) is the latest by the pianist/vocalist known as “the Big Island’s jazz goddess.”

The album is produced and edited by Brian Bromberg, who plays acoustic bass on 12 tracks, and piccolo bass for the cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock.” Drummer Dave Tull appears on all but two songs. Several others make contributions here and there. Among the notables are saxophonist Bob Sheppard, percussionist Alex Acuna and trumpeter Rick Braun.

“Things Could Be Better” is one of five original songs in this session. The song has a hint of bossa nova. Saxophonist Paul Lindbergh and trumpeter Lee Thornburg play softly beneath the vocal, with charming fills by guitarist Ramon Stagnaro. Piano and guitar enjoy brief solos.

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Yonrico Scott – Only A Smile

OnlyASmileThird Blue Canoe Records release from Grammy Award winner Yonrico Scott (Royal Southern Brotherhood, Derek Trucks Band) titled, Only A Smile. Featuring Ronda Scott (vocals), Kofi Burbridge (keys/flute), Todd Smallie (bass), Joseph Patrick Moore (bass), Larry Jackson (alto/tenor sax), Mace Hibbard (alto/tenor sax), YS Jr. (hand percussion), Lebron Scott (bass), Randy Honea (guitar), Buzz Amato (keys), Rick Hinkel (guitar), Count Mubutu (congas), Grant Green Jr. (guitar), Bruno Spreight (guitar), Oliver Wells (keys, bass, string arr.), Tiffany Jackson (bgv) and Minnie Orr (bgv).

Throughout the 1980’s to the Present, Yonrico has enjoyed working with various composers and arrangers for a multitude of commercial recordings for advertising/ commercials, jingles, individual songs, etc. Probably one of the more important recordings of this nature, working with Producer, Tim McCabe, Yonrico collaborated with Ray Charles to re-record Georgia’s State Song, Georgia On My Mind. Additional composers Yonrico has worked with include Bill Meyers, Jim Ellis, Jack Turner, and Steve Holts, among others.

Listen to the album here. Only A Smile is available at

Jason Yeager Trio – Affirmation

The piano-led trio is a staple of jazz – has been since the beginning. However, the format can, at times, seem trite – even boring. The challenge for a contemporary pianist is to be different. Original songs help make Jason Yeager Trio’s Affirmation (Inner Circle Music, 2014) distinct. Adding a few guests here and there also spoils any chance of monotony.

With pianist Yeager are bassist Danny Weller and drummer Matt Rousseau. Three guests appear on selected tracks.

The trio is joined by tenor saxophonist Noah Preminger for “Smiled First.” It’s like a hybrid between ambient jazz and something more intense, accented by Rousseau’s rim shots. Preminger’s play is charming and soothing. Yeager and Weller play softly underneath. When Yeager steps out front, he does so with an elegance matched only by the overall beauty of this piece.

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Lawson Rollins – Traveler

TravelerMany people travel from an encapsulated distance, staying at posh brand name hotels and dining under the golden arches while others prefer to explore by blending amongst the natives for a more immersive and organic experience of the actual sights and sounds of a culture. Award-winning guitarist Lawson Rollins lives by the latter philosophy, taking his guitar with him to view and interpret his global journeys. Writing twelve expansive compositions that are wordless diary entries encapsulating his travels, Rollins’s virtuoso guitar parlance speaks a universal language on tales of exhilarating adventure, intriguing mystery and enticing romance on his fifth album, Traveler, which will be released by his Infinita Records label and distributed by Baja/TSR Records on February 17.

Rollins’s traveling companion once again is platinum-selling producer-engineer Dominic Camardella, who has shared the helm on each of the guitarist’s previous releases that, like “Traveler,” are audacious border-crossing quests of melodic and rhythmic jazz and world beat. Joining them to create the intricate aural backdrops upon which Rollins unfurls masterful and impassioned fretwork on intercontinental and coast-to-coast exchanges was a noted ensemble comprised of Grammy-winning violinists Mads Tolling and Charlie Bisharat, Randy Tico (bass), Dave Bryant (drums & percussion) and Cameron Stone (cello). On select tracks they were joined by a horn section in addition to contributions from Big Bad Voodoo Daddy members Scotty Morris, Joshua Levy and Karl Hunter. Both Rollins and Camardella added keyboards and piano to the earthy mix on “Traveler” that Rollins describes as “a gypsy jazz amalgamation of travels.”

A Billboard singles chart-topper (“Moonlight Samba”) who has hit both the contemporary jazz (Top 30) and world music (Top 10) albums charts while amassing nearly eight million YouTube views for videos showcasing the guitarist’s mesmerizing technique, Rollins says, “‘Traveler’ is a musical travelogue for me, chronicling some of my journeys in life and evoking some of the places I’ve lived, visited and returned to in my memory. The album starts with the African-flavored title track ‘Traveler’ and continues north to Spain (‘Barcelona Express’ and ‘Meeting in Madrid’), France (‘Cafe Paris’), Germany (‘Berlin Bossa’) and England (‘Across the Moors’), and then over the Atlantic to Louisiana (‘Beyond the Bayou’) where I lived for a time after college. Next, we head to California with ‘Marching West’ and ‘Journey Home.’ The album concludes with the modern, electronica-infused ‘Urban Trilogy’ that evokes my times spent in New York, London, Tokyo and San Francisco. On this journey, my guitar serves as a kind of filter through which my impressions of the world are processed and expressed in the language of music.” Continue reading

Eric Schugren, Vin Scialla, Brian Charette, Mike DiRubbo – Wake Up!

No need for a group name. Just credit all members of the quartet, as each has his own distinct career as a band leader or sideman. They are Eric Schugren, tenor sax; Vin Scialla, drums; Brian Charette, Hammond B3 organ; and Mike DiRubbo, alto sax. The group presents Wake-Up! (Liftoff Records/Prime Directive Jazz, 2014).

It’s the debut album in a collaboration between Schugren and Scialla. The effort is a blending of the traditional organ trio and contemporary, “World Jazz,” expression.

The set begins with Jackie McLean’s “Appointment in Ghana.” The song opens slowly, brooding. It then shifts into high gear. The two saxophones carry the melody, at times with overlapping phrases. Charette stretches out with some adept stick work by Scialla to support him.

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