Archive for the ‘ Jazz ’ Category

Marnix Busstra – Firm Fragile Fun

Dutch-born guitarist Marnix Busstra tries something different with Firm Fragile Fun (Buzz Music, 2015). Instead of naming the songs himself, he invited non-musician friends to assign one-word titles, based on their reactions to the music. Each title represents an emotion or atmospheric condition.

Busstra plays guitar, bouzouki and electric sitar. His sidemen are Rembrandt Frerichs, piano; Arnold Dooyeweerd, double bass; and Pieter Bast, drums.

“Firm” is an adventurous piece. One gets the sense of travel, but rather than a Sunday drive or sightseeing tour, this one’s on a road that has some wild turns and blind curves. You don’t always see what’s coming. Busstra plays freely, emoting in the moment. The other musicians are intense, keeping time while enjoying their own freedoms.

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Manuel Valera – Urban Landscape

Music seems to just ooze from the mind and fingers of Manuel Valera. Over the last few years, he’s released several recordings, among them two with New Cuban Express, one solo piano effort and as a sideman to his father, Manuel Valera Sr. Now with a new ensemble, Groove Square, Valera delivers Urban Landscape (Destiny Records, 2015).

Valera plays Fender Rhodes, Minimoog, Prophet 08 and Hammond organ. With him are John Ellis, tenor saxophone and bass clarinet; Nir Felder, guitar; John Benitez, bass; E.J. Strickland and Jeff “Tain’ Watts, drums; Gregoire Maret, harmonica; and Paula Stagnaro and Maurice Herrera, percussion.

Guitar and tenor join for the melody of “121st Street.” The song has a slight funk groove. After the first few lines, Ellis takes off on a spirited jaunt. Benitez and Strickland remain locked in during the solo. Then Valera takes a turn on the Rhodes. The melody resumes, setting up Felder’s expressive solo during the finale.

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Amp Trio – m(y)our world

Music for the visual? Amp Trio does both an audio recording and a video series with m(y)our world (2015).

The musicians are Addison Frei, piano; Matt Young, drums; and Perrin Grace, bass. Special guests who appear on selected tracks are Tahira Clayton, voice; Brad Kang, guitar; Drew Zaremba, organ; and Nick Rothouse, percussion.

Clayton joins the trio for “Stand by You.” It’s an upbeat title, driven by Grace’s riveting bass line. Frei’s piano play gives the song a touch of beauty and elegance. The lyrics speaks of friendship, as Clayton sings, “Stand by me, and I will always stand by you.”

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Kim Nalley – Blues People

History, contemporary times, hard times and good times mix and mingle with Kim Nalley’s Blues People (2015).

The band consists of Nalley, vocals; Tammy Hall, piano and organ; Greg Skaff, guitar; Michael Zisman, bass; Kent Bryson, drums; and Bryan Dyer, background vocals.

Blues People is inspired by Amiri Baraka’s book, Blues People: Negro Music in White America. According to the liner notes, Baraka argues in the book that African Americans were fundamentally a blues people. In short, the blues were a way of life, a culture, that encompasses the totality of black Americans’ historical and day-to-day existence.

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Oscar Perez – Prepare a Place for Me

For his first two albums, pianist Oscar Perez focused on his composition. On Prepare a Place for Me (Myna Records, 2015), he shifts toward the playing side.

Performing with Perez are Thomson Kneeland, bass; Alvester Garnett, drums; and on selected tracks, Bruce Williams, alto saxophone.

“Just Everything,” a remake of a song from Perez’s debut album, begins as a tranquil piece. Kneeland and Garnett figure prominently, even though Perez is out front most of the way. After an easygoing beginning, the gears shift and the trio accelerates to a frantic pace. Which makes sense as the song inspires a visual of three joggers encouraging, helping one another on a long run, each with a different style. Kneeland running head over heels, Garnett with short, choppy steps and Perez gliding along.

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Patrick Williams – Home Suite Home

Artists are known to dedicate a song or two to loved ones. Musician, composer and arranger Patrick Williams takes the idea a step further – perhaps two steps. Home Suite Home (BFM Jazz, 2015) is a star-studded album, with several songs written for members of Williams’ family.

The orchestra consists of Dave Grusin, piano; Chuck Berghofer, bass; Peter Erskine, drums; Dean Parks, guitar; Dan Higgins and Jeff Driskill, alto saxophones; Bob Sheppard and Tom Scott, tenor saxophones; Gene Cipriano, baritone saxophone; Wayne Bergeron, Dan Fornero, Bob Summers and Michael Stever, trumpets; Charlie Loper, Andy Martin and Bob McChesney, trombones; Craig Cosnell, bass trombone; and Dan Grecco, percussion. Vocalists Patti Austin, Frank Sinatra Jr. and Tierney Sutton make appearances.

Austin joins the cast on “52nd and Broadway.” This is a lively, swinging tune. Austin sings with joy and verve, and injects a little scat. It’s a terrific show opener.

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Ike Sturm – Shelter of Trees

At one time, conventional thinking was that jazz was evil – devil’s music. However, artists of all genres have incorporated spirituality into their music. Composer and bassist Ike Sturm does likewise with Shelter of Trees (Kilde Records, 2015).

Personnel are the bandleader’s wife Misty Ann Sturm, Chanda Rule and Melissa Stylianou, vocals; Loren Stillman, alto saxophone; Fabian Almazan, piano; Chris Dingman, vibraphone; Jesse Lewis, guitar; Ike Sturm, basses; and Jared Schonig, drums.

“Rejoice” has an ethereal, haunting quality. The voices help introduce the track, like a chorus of flutes. Then Lewis goes on a free-spirited romp, aided by piano, vibraphone, bass and drums. One voice sings a phrase, which is then echoed by the other voices and the saxophone. After two passes, the sax steps out for a moment, then the music fades.

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