Posts Tagged ‘ Jazz ’

Mike Holober – Balancing Act

Work vs. play. Sharing vs. keeping. Dreams vs. realities. And so on. Pianist Mike Holober says we all have acts to balance. Expressing his personal take on this concept, he presents Balancing Act (Palmetto Records, 2015).

Performing with Holober are Kate McGarry, voice; Marvin Stamm, trumpet and flugelhorn; Dick Oatts, alto and soprano sax, flute; Jason Rigby, tenor sax, clarinet and bass clarinet; Mark Patterson, trombone; John Hebert, bass; and Brian Blade, drums.

McGarry’s whispery scat opens the tranquil “Book of Sighs.” When the musicians join in, she sings Holober’s lyrics with bass and piano responding to her calls. After a few verses, she cedes to the instruments. Oatts is first to delight the ear with a riveting, blistering tour on the alto sax, punctuated by Blade’s dexterity on the kit. As Oatts continues, Patterson joins in with overlapping lines. Stamm and Rigby add fills. Then subtly, Oatts steps back and hands the reigns to Patterson. McGarry signals a transition to the main theme with a wordless chant that matches the phrase played by Holober and Hebert. It’s an engaging piece that has many textures and moods.

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Nicole Glover – First Record

Sax legend Wayne Shorter is making his mark on the musical world in a way that doesn’t involve his playing an instrument. Instead, he’s using his wisdom to inspire others to focus their skills and share them with the world. So it is that saxophonist/composer Nicole Glover releases her debut, aptly titled First Record (2015).

Glover plays tenor and is joined by George Colligan, piano, trumpet on “Snow Dance”; Jonathan Lakey, bass; and Alan Jones, drums.

“Water Ritual” opens the set. It’s an upbeat, ambient song that hints on being a waltz. The piano sets the elegant mood while the tenor leads. Shortly into the piece, both step back for a brief bass solo. After a return to the main theme, Glover takes point for an adventurous workout. The drums stand out a bit more during this passage. After another pass on the theme, the piano opens up, bass and drums become more firmly locked in, and the tenor goes on a rambling, blistering jaunt. If the main body of the song represents a baptism or similar ceremony, the ending is a raucous celebration wherein individuals catch the spirit and let go of their inhibitions.

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David Gilmore – Energies of Change

It took five years, but the wait was well worth it. Guitarist David Gilmore releases Energies of Change (Evolutionary Music, 2015), a philosophical as well as musical journey.

With Gilmore are Marcus Strickland, soprano, alto and tenor saxes, bass clarinet; Luis Perdomo, piano; Ben Williams, bass; Antonio Sanchez, drums; and special guest Kofo Wanda, talking drum on “Dance of Duality.”

The title song opens the set. It’s a moderately paced, easygoing piece. Guitar and sax blend on the melody with each taking a turn on the lead. Strickland overdubs, bringing in the bass clarinet for depth and diversity. After a few passes, Strickland switches to the sax for a passionate solo, with the rhythm trio turning up the heat in the background. The group mellows some when it’s Gilmore’s turn to stretch out. Still firmly locked in but softer. That mood remains when Perdomo takes point. Williams and Sanchez are brilliant throughout. Intensity returns when guitar and trade phrases during the frantic closing.

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Kirsten Edkins – Art & Soul

The music has a touch of the familiar, if only in the approach to playing it straight – no gimmicks. However, the songs of Art & Soul, the debut of composer and saxophonist Kirsten Edkins (Kirsten Edkins Music, 2015) are all new.

Edkins plays tenor, alto and soprano saxophones. Her primary accompanists are Larry Goldings, piano and Hammond B3 organ; Mike Valerio, bass; and Mark Ferber, drums. Guitarist Larry Koonse appears on two tracks. Friend and mentor Bob Sheppard, tenor sax and bass clarinet, appears on three tracks. Other guests are Mike Cottone, trumpet; and Ryan Dragon, trombone.

Sheppard offers the distinctive sound of bass clarinet as part of the bass rhythm for “Good Blood.” This is an old school band piece with blended horns, Cottone and Dragon joining Edkins for the melody. Solos are by Valerio, Edkins (soprano), Dragon and Goldings (piano). The overall mood is easygoing, placid and at times adventurous. Some of the background sounds add a haunting element.

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Scott Hamilton and Jeff Hamilton Trio – Live in Bern

Don’t let the surnames fool you. Saxophonist Scott Hamilton and drummer Jeff Hamilton are brothers only in spirit. They come together for their first recording, Live in Bern (Capri Records, 2015). Billed as Scott Hamilton and the Jeff Hamilton Trio, the ensemble is completed by Tamir Hendelman, piano; and Christof Luty, bass.

The set was recorded in a compact session at Marian’s Jazzroom as part of the International Jazz Festival in Bern, Switzerland.

The title, “September in the Rain,” may seem like a soggy beginning to fall. But there’s nothing soggy about this delightful tune. The tenor leads in a playful, bouncy manner. Scott Hamilton carries the lead most of the way. After Hendlemen gets a moment to stretch out, Jeff Hamilton bridges the solo with a return to the melody. The final pass maintains the festive nature of the rest of the song, but is played softly.

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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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