Posts Tagged ‘ Contemporary Jazz ’

Slow – Under Everchanging Sky

undereverchangingskyPolish group Slow was founded by Tomasz Kaczmarczyk (guitar) and Krzysztof Wermiński (piano). Their debut album Art of Silence (2011) was followed by Songs For Everyone (2015). Their newest project is Under Everchanging Sky (2022).

The group’s leader, composer, arranger and producer Tomasz attaches importance to the fact that the new project is stylistically different from its predecessors. The emphasis is on diversity and ranges from contemporary jazz to classic bebop to world music.

The melodies are lead by his guitar and Leszek Szczerba’s soprano sax. Furthermore pianist Krzysztof Wermiski participates. The rhythm section is built by bassist Tomasz Grabowy and drummer Sawomir Berny.

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Brian Grace – Long Beach

longbeachSaxophonist, jazz composer and multi-instrumentalist Brian Grace began his musical career as a professional musician at a young age of 19. He spent a large part of his following years in various Army Bands before moving into the field of contemporary jazz.

Brian counts ten solo albums among his original body of work. The three latest are The Streets of San Francisco (2015), Stratosphere (2017) and his newest project Long Beach (2022). Brian considers his musical focus to be fusion jazz. He himself describes his stylistic home as progressive jazz.

Brian performs on his new album tenor & alto saxophones, piano, organs, guitars, strings, vibes, tubular bells, triangle, sound effects. As can be seen from the credits, Brian has been able to attract some big names in contemporary jazz to his EP. On all tracks you can hear the well-known bass player Jimmy Haslip, who has already proved to be a valuable support for many fusion jazz players.

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The Jones Factor – The Time Is Now

TheTimeIsNowUncertainty brought on by the pandemic has inspired major life changes as well as creating a sense of urgency when it comes to completing long-gestating projects. Five years in the making and fifteen years since their last release, jazz ensemble The Jones Factor committed to finishing their third album, “The Time is Now,” as soon as pandemic restrictions eased and the ten-piece horn-powered band could gather safely in the studio. The contemporary jazz collection comprised of original compositions and inventively arranged covers, produced by the group’s Dave Anderson and John Fumasoli, drops July 15.

Trombonist Fumasoli formed The Jones Factor (originally called The Jazz Collective) in 1986 with bassist Anderson joining shortly thereafter. Horn heavy, they described themselves as “a little big band” and together, they crafted over one hundred charts spanning various shades of jazz, including contemporary, bop and hard bop as well as Latin, blues, funk and even hip-hop grooves. The unique instrumentation allows for a wide variety of textures, colors and sounds while the diversity of the unit’s players makes for exciting performances and imaginative improvisation.

The challenge inherent for a band comprised of busy first-call musicians who have played with jazz, pop and R&B legends (from Frank Sinatra to Tony Bennett, from Lady Gaga to Diana Ross, from Elton John to Steely Dan) as well as prominent orchestras, symphonies and ballets is being able to gather all the members. Thus, work on their albums takes a while and they were about three years into recording “The Time is Now” when the pandemic slowed the process to a halt. As soon as the band got the greenlight to get back to work, The Jones Factor returned to the studio with a renewed impetus to finish and release the project.

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Bill Ortiz – Points Of View

pointsofviewTrumpeter Bill Ortiz may not be well known to the general public, but it is quite different in musician circles. His roots are firmly anchored in jazz. After all, he has played with greats like Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter or Chick Corea. His performing activities also extend to musicians such as Boz Scaggs, Buddy Guy, Tony Toni Toné, En Vogue, Johny “Guitar” Watson and Destiny’s Child.

His first two solo albums, From Where I Stand (2009) and Highest Wish (2012), reflect this wide-ranging spectrum of activity. Bill Ortiz also feels at home in the realm of Latin music, with which he is connected by performances with Tito Puente and Pete Escovedo.

This musical career eventually led him to an intensive collaboration with Carlos Santana. He can be heard as lead trumpet player on Santana’s hit Smooth (1999) for example, which finally led to extensive touring work with the famed guitarist until 2016. Bill’s third solo album Points Of View (2022) is based on this musical period and adapts this style.

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Rique Pantoja – Live In Los Angeles

liveinlaMulti-talented jazz pianist and keyboardist Rique Pantoja performed a concert at the Gallery Theater, Hollywood, Los Angeles together with Steve Tavaglione (sax, flute), Jimmy Earl (bass), Joel Taylor (drums), Ricardo Silveira (guitar), Cassio Duarte (percussion). This live event was recorded by Geoff Gillette and initial released in 2001.

Moondo Music has re-issued this recordings in a re-mastered version in April, 2022. The repertoire of this concert is based on Pantoja’s original compositions from his previous releases. The album opens with Arpoador. In Portuguese that means harpooner. It’s also the name of a small peninsula in Rio de Janeiro, where Pantoja grew up.

Pantoja develops a great Brazilian sound painting from a small motif. A concept, by the way, that he took from his mentor, legendary trumpeter Chat Baker. On the synthesizer, his virtuosity explodes into incredible cascades of sound comparable to Joe Zawinul’s jazz fusion excursions. Ricardo Silveira takes the brilliant solo on the electric guitar, as it is hard to beat. This is followed by an ecstatic drum and percussion solo.

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Gabriel Mark Hasselbach – MidCentury Modern Volume 3

277356233_4750043115094698_301537955521861180_nWhile Denver Colorado born trumpeter Gabriel Mark Hasselbach‘s album Open Invitation (2014) is settled in the smooth jazz genre, his albums MidCentury Modern Volume 1 (2018) and MidCentury Modern Volume 2 (2019) are walking the jazz way. With Tongue & Groove (2021) Gabriel Mark returned to the smooth jazz realm.

Now he offers again contemporary jazz with MidCentury Modern Volume 3.  The album follows in the footsteps of the prior two MCM volumes but takes a decidedly different turn into fiery organ combo territory, going head-to-head with the trumpet/organ sound of Joey DeFrancesco. Gabriel’s working combo features himself on trumpet, the fleet fingered Jason DeCouto on organ/bass, the snappy Nick Bracewell on drums, and the mellifluous John Lee on guitar. Gabriel starts with a dynamic deep-dive into a few smart originals and mid century gems, and then switches up personnel and adds his flute, flugelhorn, and ‘bone, for some underutilized but timeless classics.

Stream the album here.

Special EFX – Twenty Twenty 2

275042008_381756920618322_4477729908728617706_nGuitarist Chieli Minucci is since 1982 the musical heart of the formation Special EFX. With the new album Twenty Twenty 2 (2022) new times are dawning for him. Most of the music was written and recorded during the first years of the enduring pandemic. Now what has been recorded is brought to the stage.

Chieli Minucci plays on this album acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards, synth kalimba, arrangements and vocals. From his large circle of friends, the following musicians have joined the recordings: Lionell Cordew (drums), Jerry Brooks (bass), Jay Rowe (organ), Richie Cannata (flute, saxophone), Mino Cinélu (pecussion), John Favicchia (drums), Joel Rosenblatt (drums), Lao Tizer (Hammond organ, electric and acoustic piano), Gianlucca Minucci (bass), Ric Fierabracci (bass), Nelson Rangell (flute), Antoine Silverman (violin), Eric Marienthal (saxophone), Dave Anderson (fretless bass), Lin Rountree (trumpet), and Oli Silk (piano). Enough musicians for a complete festival.

The album opens with the longest tune of the album, In Memory of Elizabeth Reed. This instrumental composition was originally created by The Allman Brothers Band and appeared on their second studio album, Idlewild South (1970). More information about the original and about Elizabeth Reed is to find here. Chieli was infected by this classic Southern Rock song and just slightly altered the guitar sound.

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Pippo Lombardo – Railway Station

railwaystationLast year I reviewed the album Esagerato by the group Camera Soul. This group was founded by the Italian brothers Piero and Pippo Lombardo. Another formation in which these brothers are active is the group Marchio Bossa. The brothers have used the time of the pandemic to produce Pippo Lombardo’s second solo album Railway Station (2022).

Hailing from Bari both have devoted their passion for jazz, Bossa Nova and Samba. On this album Pippo plays the Farina grand piano. Further involved are the musicians Guiseppe Bassi (double bass), Beppe Sequestro (bass), Fabio Delle Foglie (drums), Elie Arcieri and Piero Dotti (vocals), Leo Gadaleta (strings and string arrangements) and Piero Lombardi (guitar).

The album opens with Railway Station. A multitude of strings carry Pippo’s lilting and graceful glide over the keys of his piano. While the melody seems to dominate on the surface, Pippo’s real supremacy is revealed in the almost indulgently sprawling jazz improvisation. This is how he spans the grandiose arc to Lyle May’s legacy. With the beige vocals, it also spreads a little Italian flair.

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Marco Pignataro’s Dream Alliance – Awakening


awakeningMarco Pignataro is a distinguished jazz saxophonist who, together with Danilo Perez, directs the Berklee Global Jazz Institute (BGJI), the world premiere jazz center of musical creativity at Berklee College of Music in Boston. He can already look back on numerous albums that he has recorded together with different formations.

His most recent grouping is Marco Pignataro’s Dream Alliance and their joint project is the album Awakening, due out in April 2022. This formation consists of Marco Pignataro (soprano, alto & tenor sax), Kenny Werner (piano, backing vocals), Nadia Washington (vocals, guitar) and Devon Gates (bass, vocals).

In today’s fast-paced world, it’s often the first track on an album that decides whether a listener likes it or not. In this specific case, Marco Pignataro did everything right. With the first two pieces, renditions of world-famous hits by Stevie Wonder (Send One Your Love) and Ben E. King (Stand By Me), the maximum in listening pleasure from the world of pop music is delivered to the interested listener.

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Brooklyn Bridge – Here Now

here20nowSyracuse, Italy based multi-instrumentalist and producer Fabio Puglesi is already known by projects such as Soul Basement and The Park Avenue Experience. His newest project is Brooklyn Bridge presenting the album Here Now (2022).

The bass driven opener In Our Lifetime reveals with the bebop excursions of the saxophonist, who also boldly takes on dissonant tones that the piece likes to move into the realm of contemporary jazz. Fabio counters with tight melodic keystrokes, but the playing of the saxophone drifts off into the jazzy.

Actually, the road is not for dreaming because of the heavy traffic. With Highway Dreams you can definitely make an exception, although the fast-paced element drives you rather than relaxes you. The playing length of the pieces also give ample room for solo interludes like the furious one of Fabio on piano, which can justifiably be called such.

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