Posts Tagged ‘ Contemporary Jazz ’

Ron Jackson – Standards and My Songs

31Gv8WYaTrLComing out of the pandemic lockdown, distinctive and versatile jazz guitarist Ron Jackson re-emerges boldly with his latest solo album, Standards and My Songs, released on his own Roni Music label. The album spotlights Jackson’s clean-burning, clean-toned guitar voice mostly in trio format with Willie Jones III and Ben Wolfe (drums and bass, respectively), and serves as a bookend sequel to his pre-pandemic 2019 outing, Standards and Other Songs, with a critical difference.

“It is a sequel,” Jackson states. “On the earlier album, I played standards, some pop songs and even a Drake song that I adapted to jazz. This one is, standards and my songs. I took a couple of hits like soft rock tune ‘Brandy’ and R&B tune ‘Secret Garden’ by Quincy Jones, and adapted them to jazz.”

Song choice is key to the success of the new album’s portrait of Jackson’s broad musical aesthetic, with a program opening with a jazz-flavored arrangement of the 1972 Looking Glass hit “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” (one of two album tracks with cameos by organist Brian Ho) and, to close, a gorgeous solo version of the standard “Time After Time.” The latter showcases Jackson’s unique skill on the 7-string guitar, which the guitarist has been focusing on for a decade and is one of the instrument’s prime jazz proponents. Between those repertoire extremes comes a menu of diverse original tunes, creative new arrangements of Charlie Parker’s “Moose the Mooche”—spiced up with a jazz/hip hop groove–and a 5/4 take on the standard “This Nearly Was Mine,” and more, adapted to and by Jackson’s special touch. Continue reading

Thomas Heflin – Morning Star

Thomas-Heflin-Morning-StarMorning Star is presented as a late-night radio show (complete with station IDs, and a radio DJ) and features songs that flow effortlessly from one to the next. The music on “Morning Star” features a traditional jazz group underpinned by layers of Fender Rhodes, Hammond organ and strings, as well as percussion and additional woodwinds to create a warm, soulful sound reminiscent of the CTI recordings of the 1970s. The music also fuses elements of modern jazz with R&B, gospel, and neo-soul.

The album was conceived around the title track “Morning Star,” and listeners may notice reworked snippets of the bassline and melody from the title track in other songs on the album. The music was recorded at the beginning of the CoVid outbreak, and the “morning star” – the last star seen at night before the new day arrives – also serves as a musical symbol of hope and optimism through these dark times. The radio DJ (Brandon Robertson) presents the tracks through poetic words of encouragement, creating the feeling of listening to an inspirational radio host during a late-night car ride.

The album features several notable musicians including world-renowned tenor saxophonist Gregory Tardy (Elvin Jones), Mavis “Swan” Poole (Lauryn Hill, Prince) on vocals, Peter Stoltzman (Steve Gadd/Eddie Gomez) on piano, Steve Haines on bass, Aaron Matson on guitar, Ariel Pocock on vocals, Xavier Ware on drums, Dan Hitchcock on woodwinds and Jorge Luis Torres “Papiosco” (¡Cubanismo!) on percussion.
According to Heflin, “The music for the album is inspired things that bring me joy and hope. “Morning Star” is the Slavic translation of my wife’s first name. ‘Anna Breschine’ is my daughter’s name and ‘The Moon Singer’ is inspired by a book by Clyde Robert Bulla that I like to read to her at night. In the story, a lonely child sings beautiful, wordless melodies to himself out in the forest. Evensong, which means ‘a service of evening prayers’ is meant to evoke a late-night musical meditation. Haiku is a quirky song based on the chord changes of one of my favorite jazz standards, Benny Golson’s ‘Stablemates.'” Continue reading

Yaron Gershowsky – Transitions

transitionsThe highly accomplished and internationally recognized pianist & keyboardist, arranger, composer and producer Yaron Gershovsky started his musical career in his homeland Israel. Soon after that he emigrated to the USA, where he studied at Berklee College of Music in Boston. After his graduation, he toured with sax player Pharaoh Sanders and recorded with the legendary Wayne Shorter on his album ‘Atlantis’.

Since 1979, Yaron has been the Musical Director and pianist/keyboardist for the world-renowned vocal group The Manhattan Transfer. For them, he wrote instrumental and vocal arrangements, recorded and toured also with them. But that’s not all. He also recorded and performed with other greats such as Dr. Lonnie Smith, Steve Gadd, Abraham Laboriel, Lew Soloff, Janis Siegel, Ray Brown, Grady Tate, Don Sebesky, The Count Basie Orchestra, Richie Havens, Take 6, and our Belgian pride Toots Thielemans.

Yaron did vocal arrangements for the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical ‘City of Angels’ and for the musical ‘Swing’. And he played keyboards for the musicals ‘The Phantom of The Opera’ and ‘Les Miserables’.

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Phil Turcio – The Quiet

a1581668497_16Accomplished Melbourne-based keyboard player, composer, producer, arranger, Phil Turcio sports a resume which would be the envy of any musician. His credits are too many to list in total but include the likes of – Hugh Jackman, Olivia Newton John, John Farnham, Guy Sebastian, Jimmy Barnes, Vanessa Amorosi, Gary Pinto, Jessica Mauboy, Westlife, K.D. Lang, Paulini, and numerous others.

In 2016 Phil was Musical Director for Richard Marx’s Australian Tour. In 2017 he was keyboardist for Peter Criss’s (KISS) farewell concert. As a keyboardist/pianist, he has played with international jazz acts such as Dave Weckl, Ric Fierabracci, Virgil Donati, Tom Brechtlein, Will Kennedy, George Garzone, Larry Carlton, Gary Meek, Antonia Bennett and many others.

His newest project is The Quiet (2021). You get it on bandcamp.

E.S.P. – Ready or Not

a0132670276_16E.S.P. is a tasteful, award winning modern jazz group, featuring guitarist John Magnate, bassist Matthew Vacanti and drummer Bill D’agostino. In 2010 Time’s Up! won a SAMMY award for best jazz recording of the year. In 2011 Reach was produced by Grammy award winning bassist Jimmy Haslip from The Yellowjackets and featured three tracks from legendary keyboardist Jeff Lorber.

This critically acclaimed, award winning group proudly presented with Zero Gravity (2017) its seventh recording of original modern jazz featuring tight, grooving and creative music. Its real jazz, but you won’t need a GPS to follow it!

E.S.P. has dropped their latest record Ready or Not (2021) and you can get yours on an actual, GOOD sounding reliable CD. It is beautifully packaged in a 4 page “Digipack” with all the liner notes that you can’t get from a download.

Get your copy at bandcamp.

Robert Christa / Tom Reif – Free As A Bird

freeasabirdGerman pianist and composer Robert Christa is best known in the smooth jazz genre by his solo projects Nightflight To Rio (2015), City Lights (2017) and Smooth World (2019). His new album is a collaboration with the multi-instrumentalist Tom Reif entitled Free As A Bird (2021).

Robert Christa has written all tracks and plays Rhodes, piano and keys. Tom Reif has arranged, mixed and produced the tracks and performs guitars, guitar synth, fretless bass, keyboards, loops, percussion, programming and was co-composer on three tracks. Additional artists are Herb Berger (harp) and Tommy Eberhardt (drums).

The album opens with the sun-drenched Sunset Boulevard, from which Christa and Reif can definitely derive romantic aspects. Christa follows with the opening track to the familiar smooth jazz style of his previous album.

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Christoph Spendel Group – Avenue E

avenueeJazz piano virtuoso Christoph Spendel has developed a multitude of projects in his remarkable decades-long creative period, which would require a professional biographer to document. Despite his now advanced age, his creative energy is still brimming with new ideas, which are reflected in numerous releases and formations.

Among these countless projects, the Christoph Spendel Group stands out. It consists of the musicians Peter Klohmann (flute, saxes), Thomas Heidepriem (bass), Martin Standke (drums) as well as founder and name-giver Christoph Spendel (piano, keyboards). The formation as such already exists since the 80s in changing line-ups. Christoph has a long-standing friendship with the bassist Thomas Heidepriem, who comes from Freiburg. The other two musicians, presenting the young generation, recommended themselves through different projects.

The album starts with the title song, which brings all the tonal power of the well-tempered piano into the melodic harmony. Peter Klohman shares the melody accompanying on soprano saxophone. Behind the title  Avenue E lies the “Eschersheimer Landstraße”, Frankfurt’s lifeline, a vivid street in Christoph Spendel’s adopted home city.

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Hidden Symetry – Some Days

61YZUKWJnqL._SS500_Hidden Symmetry is a crossover mix of smooth jazz, jazz-rock-fusion & symphonic music written, produced by Carl Eichman. Carl hails from St. Clair Shores, MI, studied guitar & French horn along with composition, scoring & big band jazz performance.

At 18 he started performing professionally at clubs around the Detroit area later touring as guitarist & arranger in top booked acts around the U.S. & Canada.

‘Some Days’ features internet collaborations recorded by Maurizio Antonini: drums, Gernot Dechert: sax, Bill Lawrence, Melisa Dopazo, Brandon Meeks: bass, Kyle Whitlock, Luca Cacucciolo: keyboards, Daniele Raciti, Marco Piazzolla, Álvaro Soto Gutiérrez: guitar and Luckers: trumpet

The album is available on Amazon.com.

Johannes Wamberg – Tabloid

Tabloid‘Scandinavian jazz’ may conjure up an expectation of moody soundscapes and melancholic sounds, but there is a new wave of musicians, in Denmark at least, forging ahead with something rather more extroverted. With the self-titled debut Tabloid, Danish guitarist & bandleader Johannes Wamberg presents his modern jazz twist on that classic American funk/soul sound.

It just takes one look at the retro stylings of the artwork – vinyl, of course – to get a sense of the unabashed passion for the 70s & 80s. But this isn’t a nostalgic rehash of music from the past. Wamberg has assembled a group of young musicians from Copenhagen’s vibrant scene whose background in everything from classic Jazz and Hip Hop to Gospel and Danish Pop help present a fresh twist on the disco spirit.

Wamberg himself studied with the legendary guitarist Doug Raney, who he went on to perform with. Alongside him, Jonathan Bremer (bassist of Bremer/McCoy who are signed to David Byrne’s Luaka Bop label), award-winning saxophonist Oily Wallace, in-demand session drummer Felix Ewert and pianist/producer Malthe Rostrump on keys.

And, whilst the self-titled Tabloid is their debut release, the musicians have already recorded together in various constellations and have built a solid foundation in Copenhagen for this group thanks to their hard-grooving and virtuosic live show. Now, in collaboration with prolific Danish label April Records, they are ready to reach out and entertain fans of crossover jazz. The future of jazz has always been shaped by young musicians transforming the best elements of yesteryear into new modes of expression and this group proves that shows no signs of stopping!

Tabloid is available on all digital platforms.

Peter Welker – Sidemen

sidemen-cover-artPeter Welker, the only child of parents who were both working jazz musicians in New York and Boston, first picked up the trumpet at the age of nine. He credits his mother as being the major influence on his life and music career. “She really inspired me,” Welker said. “Born blind, she sang on the coast-to-coast Camel Caravan show with Al Pearce and His Gang from 1935 to 1939.” After studying at Berklee College of Music, Welker moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. He led a sextet which was the house band at the famed Jazz Workshop in North Beach from 1961 to 1965 and featured piano player George Duke.

“Oh man, I’ve played with hundreds of bands over the years,” he says, quickly adding, with a huge smile, “I’ve never actually tried to sit down and count how many. Dozens of bands. And hundreds of players. I’ve played with a lot of great people. But I’ve honestly never been as excited to play with a group of folks as I am about the guys in my current band, The Sidemen. It’s the best band I’ve ever put together.”

The Sidemen are drummer Todd Tribble, bassist Cliff Hugo, saxophonist Steve Steinberg, keyboardist Ruben Valtierra and guitarist Morris Acevedo. Every one is a hardworking session player, having performed with scores of major names over the years.

Sidemen is also the title of their new album released in August, 2021 on Summit Records.

Purchase the album here.