Posts Tagged ‘ Jazz ’

Kenny Shanker – The Witching Hour

It’s straight-ahead jazz, but with enough melodic influences to work for the masses who tend to shy away from things that aren’t catchy. Saxophonist and composer Kenny Shanker releases The Witching Hour (Wise Cat Records, 2017).

Shanker plays alto and soprano saxophones. His accompanists are Mike Eckroth, piano; Daisuke Abe, guitar; Yoshi Waki, guitar; and Brian Fishler, drums.

Shanker plays the alto on the opener, “Kottinger Park.” It’s a high-energy, fun romp. The leader plays with passion, exploring the range of his instrument, with powerful cohesion among his accompanists. Middle solos by Eckroth and Abe keep things going, but it’s the play of Waki and Fishler that keeps it all together. The two really get busy behind the guitar.

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Tal Cohen – Gentle Giants

Pianist Tal Cohen bridges jazz with classical on Gentle Giants (Inner Circle Music, 2017).

In session with Cohen are Greg Osby, alto saxophone; Jamie Oehlers, tenor saxophone; Robert Hurst, bass; and Nate Winn, drums.

Often when paired horns lead a jazz song, it’s two instruments from different families, such as a trumpet or trombone (brass) and a saxophone or clarinet (woodwind or reed). Two saxes bring a different dynamic, as Osby and Oehlers blend or overlap. That pairing launches “Great PK (for Shuli),” an upbeat jaunt. With Hurst and Winn digging it in the background, the middle section features a series of solos by Cohen, Oehlers and Osby. Each goes to town by a different path, enjoying all the scenery. In the liner, Cohen explains that the song is dedicated to his sister, Aviv, whom he calls “Shuli.” The “PK” refers to their friend, PK the Dog, an odd mix of Dachshund and golden retriever.

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Thelonius Monk – Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960

It’s 15 tracks, split over two discs and just over an hour long. And it’s a first-time release of some vintage music. Thelonious Monk: Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960 (Sam Records/Saga, 2017).

This collection captures Monk’s 1959 all-star band of Charlie Rouse, Sam Jones and Art Taylor, with special guest Barney Wilen. It marks the first time Monk’s music was used in a film, in this case the French film of the same title, about a couple who enjoy fun, excitement – and sex. They agree to see other people, with one caveat: Don’t fall in love.

The release comes about after producer Zev Feldman visited Paris in December of 2014. He received an e-mail from the head of Sam Records, Fred Thomas, explaining that Thomas and an associate had located master tapes of a previously unissued studio session. After a meeting of the three partners, they spent two years working with the Thelonious Monk estate to gather the voices, words and photos to tell the story. Marcel Romano, described in some publications as “hipster,” was active on the jazz scene in France during the 1950s. He served as the liaison between filmmakers and jazz artists, which ultimately led to Roger Vadim’s selecting Monk to score Les Liaisons Dangereuses.

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Bill Cunliffe – BACHanalia

A play on words and the melding of two genres of music is the result when pianist Bill Cunliffe put his creative energy toward two passions. His effort comes through with BACHanalia (Metre Records, 2017).

The ensemble consists of varying combinations of players. On trumpet are Wayne Bergeron, John Daversa, Dan Fornero, Jamie Hovorka, Kyle Martinez, Kyle Palmer, Terell Stafford and Bob Summers; trombone: Ryan Dragon, Erik Hughes, Alex Iles, Andy Martin, Bob McChesney, Ido Meshulam, Ira Nepus and Francisco Torres; bass trombone: Ben Devitt, Cody Kleinhans and Bill Reichenbach; alto and soprano saxophone, clarinet and flute: Jeff Driskill, Nathan King, Brian Scanlon and Bob Sheppard; tenor saxophone, clarinet and flute: Jeff Ellwood and Rob Lockart; baritone saxophone and bass clarinet: Tom Peterson and Adam Schroeder; guitar, John Chiondini and Larry Koonse; bass: Alex Frank and Jonathan Richards; drums: Joe La Barbera; and vocals: Denise Donatelli. Cunliffe also provides background vocals on “Sleepers Wake.”

Donatelli’s delightful scat sets the tone for the opening track, “Sleepers Wake.” With a muted trumpet and the trombone offering countermelodies, she flits and dances to this upbeat arrangement of the Bach classic. After a vocal and horn section swell, the music softens for the leader’s solo. Accompanied only by bass and drums, Cunliffe expresses freely, licking his improvisational chops, occasionally giving hints of the main theme. McChesney also stretches out. Donatelli’s voice takes on a haunting mood as the song downshifts to its closing.

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Joe Policastro Trio – Screen Sounds

Take what is known and juice it up. The Joe Policastro Trio revisits some themes from popular television series and movies on Screen Sounds (JeruJazz Records, 2017).

The trio consists of Policastro, bass; Dave Miller, guitar; and Mikel Avery, drums.

An ambitious taking, Policastro melds two hit songs from a hit movie in one of the coolest tracks in the set. “Everybody’s Talkin’ – Midnight Cowboy” moves back and forth between the two. One is a slow, easy listening ballad. The other is an upbeat, pop/folk tune. And the trio weaves in and out of each, changing the pace, and mood, as it suits them. Policastro leads the first melody, but gives way to Miller, who takes off, mixing familiar phrases from the two songs, with improvisation. The signature, descending four-step phrase from “Midnight Cowboy” is worked in and out of numerous passages. As the piece starts to wind down, Policastro uses the bow on his bass to take one more shot at “Everybody’s Talkin’” before handing it back over to Miller.

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Ted Chubb – Gratified Never Satisfied

One can be pleased without being ecstatic. But one might find it difficult to separate the two when listening to trumpeter Ted Chubb’s Gratified Never Satisfied (Unit Records, 2017).

In assigning that title to his third album, Chubb acknowledges that life, like jazz, is handed down, absorbed and practiced daily. Though you may achieve goals, tomorrow is a new day and may present new challenges. It’s also an idea brought to him by trumpet player and teacher, William B. Fielder, who inspired him to maintain curiosity and continue to grow.

Accompanying Chubb are Bruce Williams, alto sax on several tracks; Seth Johnson, guitar; Oscar Perez, piano and Fender Rhodes; Tom DiCarlo, bass; and Jerome Jennings, drums.

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Marc Copland – Better By Far

Sometimes, a jazz artist just wants to play good music – feel-good music. No crossing over to attract a diverse, or younger, audience. No enhancements or gimmicks to pick up on contemporary trends. Just the musicians, their instruments, quality songwriting and an hour of your time. That’s what you get with Marc Copland’s Better By Far (Innervoice Jazz Records, 2017).

The players are Copland, piano; Ralph Alessi, trumpet; Drew Gress, double bass; and Joey Baron, drums.

“Day and Night” opens the set. It’s a bright, warm piece that features some crisp stick work by Baron. Bass and trumpet share the lead when the melody begins. Alessi takes the first solo, taking the trumpet on an easygoing jaunt, a stroll in the park that’s occasionally broken up by a few hops and skips. Copland takes it to another level. With Gress and Baron firmly engaged, the pianist takes the baton and turns the jaunt into a sprint. Gress downshifts a bit when it’s his turn, slowing down to enjoy the scenery.

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