Archive for the ‘ Jazz ’ Category

John Petruccelli Quintet – The Way

Sometimes, it’s good to just play. Forget theme. Forget format. Just pick a song, or write a new one, and play your heart out. That appears to be approach of the John Petruccelli Quintet with The Way (2015), a two-disc set.

Petrucelli plays tenor saxophone. The rest of the ensemble are Peter Park, guitar; Victor Gould, piano; Alex Claffy, bass; and Gusten Rudolph, drums. Drummer Victor Lewis appears on three tracks.

“Prism,” one of eight originals among the 11 tracks, is a mellow, moderate-tempo piece. The opening sequence is highlighted by some cool, guitar/sax banter and a series of tightly choreographed, stop-time phrases. The bass and drums are deeply engaged when the guitar is out front, and the piano comes forward a bit more during the sax lead. As Petrucelli heats up, he makes the tenor grind and wail during key passages.

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Colette Michaan – Incarnate Encarna

How about a change of pace? Enter Colette Michaan. In a genre dominated by pianos, saxophones and guitars, it’s refreshing to hear a flutist as leader. Michaan presents Incarnate Encarna (2014).

The ensemble consists of Michaan, flute, alto flute and vocals; Pablo Vergara, piano and keyboards; Reut Regev, trombone; Mireya Ramos, violin and vocals; Gregoire Maret, chromatic harmonica; Jorge Bringas, bass; Roman Diaz, bata drums, congas, bongo, shekere and vocals; Luisito Quintero, timbales, drums, wind chimes and other percussion instruments; Yusnier Sanchez Bustamante, cajon, congas, quinto and vocals; and Harvey Wright, drums.

The title song opens the set. It’s a haunting piece with a subtle, Latin vibe. The main theme is a blending of flute, violin and trombone with plenty of support from the other instruments. Michaan stretches out in free flight. A hint of the main theme highlights the end of her solo. Maret is also featured. The pace and overall vibe can serve multiple purposes: background for a scenic drive, a score for a dramatic movie scene, or a romantic experience.

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Ted Kooshian – Clowns Will Be Arriving

Ted Kooshian doesn’t clown around. Or does he? The pianist, known for his imaginative adaptations lets loose with the big noses, funny hair and wide shoes with Clowns Will Be Arriving (Summit Records, 2015), an exciting collection of five original songs and remakes of television show themes composed by Hugo Montenegro, Lalo Schifrin, Johnny Williams and more.

Kooshian uses a variable lineup of players to help him take this trip through time. Jeff Lederer appears on all but one track, playing flute, soprano sax or tenor sax. Others who appear here and here are Pete McGuinness, trombone; Wilbur Bascomb electric bass; David Stillman, drums and percussion; Matt Jodrell, trumpet; Scott Neumann, drums; Tom Hubbard, bass; Warren Odze, drums and percussion; Napoleon Murphy Brock, vocals on “Christmas Day, My Favorite Day”; Morrie Louden, bass; Cliff Lyons, alto sax; and Paul Livant, rhythm guitar.

“I Dream of Jeannie” kicks things off. Lederer’s flute takes point. Bascomb’s dynamic bass line gives this track extra depth. The congas add a tropical vibe. For his part, Kooshian tickles the ivory like there’s no proverbial tomorrow. McGuinness gets his licks in while there’s time. The song ends with a series of creative, tightly syncopated phrases.

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Camera Soul – Dress Code

Dress CodeCamera Soul is a powerful jazz-funk ensemble, produced by Mr. Marco Rossi of Azzurra Music (Verona) and released in the Americas by Kathryn Ballard Shut of TIMKAT Entertainment (Denver, Colorado). Inspired by legendary horn line, soul, R&B, and jazz-fusion artists such as Earth, Wind and Fire, The Commodores, Tower of Power, and Stevie Wonder, as well as neo-soul grooves by Erykah Badu and Jamiroquai, the group is based out of southern Italy (Bari), and led by veteran composer-arranger brothers Piero and Pippo Lombardo.

Camera Soul’s distinctive sound is further defined by the smoky and soulful voice of lead vocalist, Serena Brancale on the group’s first two albums (2011-2013), and Maria Enrica Lotesoriere (2014).

The group features a world-class lineup of studio and live performance musicians, including Pippo Lombardo (piano), Beppe Sequestro (bass), Francesco Palmitessa (lead guitar), Gianluca Cardellicchio (rhythm guitar), Liviana Ferri (percussion), Mimmo Campanale (drums, 2011-2013), Daniele Scannapieco and Bruno Tassone (saxes), Gianfranco Campagnoli (trumpet and flugelhorn), and Piero Dotti (background vocals). On Not For Ordinary People, the Brothers Lombardo also led a stellar global songwriting team. Together with their compositions, they also welcomed original music and lyrics from Serena Brancale and Denver-based jazz pianist and ASCAP composer, Kathryn Ballard Shut.

The group has released third albums – Words Don’t Speak (2011) and Not For Ordinary People (2013). Whereas Words Don’t Speak reached previous critical acclaim as a “chill” or “smooth” effort, Not For Ordinary People counts on powerful horn lines, deep funk, complex arranging, impassioned writing, and superb engineering, culminating in a stronger effort than the debut. Their newest album is entitled Dress Code and available now. For more information read this.

Vance Thompson’s Five Plus Six – Such Sweet Thunder

Reimagining the music of jazz giants Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington and country legend Dolly Parton is the goal of Vance Thompson’s Five Plus Six. The ensemble delivers fresh arrangements of those compositions on Such Sweet Thunder (Shade Street Records, 2015).

The Five are a quintet that had been working steadily for more than a year under the name of The Marble City Five. The group consists of Thompson, trumpet and flugelhorn; Greg Tardy, tenor sax and bass clarinet; Keith Brown, piano and Fender Rhodes; Taylor Coker, bass; and Nolan Nevels, drums. As Thompson began thinking about recording the group, the idea of expanding the sound to include a fuller horn section emerged. The Six are Michael Wyatt and Joe Jordan, trumpet; Tylar Bullion, trombone; Sean Copeland, tenor and bass trombone; Jamel Mitchell, alto and soprano saxophone; and David King, baritone and soprano saxophone.

The set begins with Monk’s “Pannonica.” The horns lead in grand fashion, then step aside as Mitchell, Tardy King take turns on alto, tenor and baritone, respectively. Throughout, the rhythm trio of Brown, Coker and Nevels keep things tight. Brown and Thompson also get to stretch out. After the solos, the saxophones blend for a delightful romp. The song downshifts for a bit as the other horns take point again. Then it revs up for the finale. It’s a satisfying tribute to Monk.

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Katie Thiroux – Introducing Katie Thiroux

Vocalists coming onto the jazz scene often dip into the well of the American Songbook, remaking classics that have been remade ad infinitum. One thing that sets this newcomer apart from that newcomer is the presentation. Introducing Katie Thiroux (BassKat Records, 2015) makes a distinction in that Thiroux isn’t just a vocalist fronting a band of jazz musicians. She is a musician.

Thiroux plays bass and sings. Her accompanists are Roger Neumann, tenor saxophone; Graham Dechter, guitar; and Matt Witek, drums.

The first track is a take on the Rogers and Hart composition, “There’s a Small Hotel.” Thiroux charms as she revisits the classic. Dechter is subtle underneath but clearly in the moment. He gets to stretch out a bit during the instrumental break. The sax sits this one out.

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Manuel Valera – In Motion

Grammy nominated pianist and composer Manuel Valera continues to churn out ear candy. Having recently collaborated with his father, Manuel Valera Sr. and released a solo piano set, he’s back with his band, New Cuban Express, for their third venture, In Motion (Criss Cross Jazz, 2014)

Valera plays piano and Fender Rhodes electric piano. With him are Yosvany Terry, alto and soprano saxophones, and chekere; Tom Guarna, guitar; Alex Sipiagin, trumpet and flugelhorn; Hans Glawischnig, bass; Ludwig Afonso, drums; and Mauricio Herrera, percussion.

It’s like a confluence of Tito Puento, Paquito D’Rivera and Arturo Sandoval “Descargando” is a lively opening track. It’s as if Valera said, “Let’s just play.” The song captures many moods, represented by each musician, as they all get a moment or two in the spotlight. Terry and Sipiagin are out front much of the way, blending for a bright, sunny melody, and separating as they trade verses. A highlight is a call and response between Valera and the percussionists, which sets up the leader’s climactic solo near the end.

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