Posts Tagged ‘ Jazz ’

Bob James and Nathan East – The New Cool

Play what you want! That could be the request to Bob James and Nathan East by Yamaha Entertainment Group label president Chris Gero. A studio full of Yamaha equipment and two legends to work with.

The New Cool shows an intimate duet between pianist Bob James and Nathan East on acoustic bass. Improvisation and melodic essentials are weighted equally. Oliver’s Bag helps the swing on the legs. Nathan’s acoustic bass is very present, you can hear the vibration of each string.

On All Will Be Revealed both play with different stylistic elements. Instrumentation, orchestral strings by the Nashville Recording Orchestra and Nathan’s celestial vocals are woven into a captivating whole.

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Laszlo Gardony – Life in Real Time

The Berklee College of Music in Boston is a prestigious institution, well known in jazz circles. Many artists have been there as students or instructors. It’s also a venue for live music. Laszlo Gardony’s Life in Real Time (Sunnyside Records, 2015) was recorded in September 2014 at the Berklee Performance Center.

Gardony, a pianist, is accompanied by drummer Yoron Israel, bassist John Lockwood, and a trio of saxophonists: Stan Strickland, Don Braden and Bill Pierce.

“Bourbon Street Boogie” is aptly named. The song has a brassy, New Orleans vibe. The saxophones lead the melody, with two harmonizing and a third offering fills to give it a hint of Dixieland. Pierce and Braden stretch out plenty, each putting his instrument through some frantic paces. Gardony gets a turn as well. From start to finish, the band gets the listener engaged, playing with an attitude of, “Let’s just get out there and enjoy ourselves.”

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David Benoit and Jane Monheit – 2 in Love

Two Grammy nominees come together for an experience in cool music and romance. David Benoit and Jane Monheit team up for 2 in Love (Concord Records, 2015).

This is Benoit’s first recording with a vocalist. Over the years, he has employed guest vocalists to contribute a token song. Among them are David Pack of the rock group Ambrosia, pop singer Jennifer Warnes and jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves. However, 2 in Love is Benoit’s first time giving a vocalist equal billing. Monheit appears on all but two songs.

The lineup is broken into three configurations. On five songs, Benoit plays piano and synthesizer, accompanied by Monheit; Pat Kelly, acoustic and electric guitar; David Hughes, upright and electric bass; Jamey Tate, drums; and Lauren Kosty, percussion. For three songs, it’s Benoit, piano; Monheit; John Clayton, bass; Clayton Cameron, drums; Michelle Suh, violin; Cathi Biagini, cello; and Darryl Tanikawa, contractor. On “Love in Hyde Park,” it’s Benoit, piano; David Hughes, acoustic bass; Tate; and Tim Weisberg, alto flute and C flute. And as he usually does, Benoit goes solo on the finale.

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Rayford Griffin – Reflections of Brownie

The late Clifford Brown was on the jazz scene only a short time, four years, but his impact is far-reaching. It’s only fitting that the trumpeter’s nephew, Rayford Griffin, would recruit four of today’s prominent artists with the instrument for a tribute: Reflections of Brownie (RazoRedge Records, 2015).

Griffin, a drummer, called upon several musicians who themselves owe a debt to Clifford Brown. They are bassists Brian Bromberg and Dan Lutz; pianist George Duke; keyboardist Phillipe Saisse; saxophonists Everette Harp and Doug Webb; and trumpeters Roy Hargrove, Michael “Patches” Stewart, Rick Braun and Nicholas Payton. Other musicians also contribute, including members of Brown’s family.

After an introduction of Brown from one of his live performances, Grifford and his companions take on “Daahoud.” The horns mix and match during the melody, with Duke, Bromberg and Griffin licking their chops plenty in the background. Trumpet solos provide bookends for Harp on the tenor and a dialogue between sax and trumpet. Griffin cuts loose, working the cymbals and toms overtime on the fade.

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Jeff Lorber and Chuck Loeb – Bop

It’s an all-star cast, although it falls under the heading of two leaders: Jeff Lorber and Chuck Loeb. Bop (2015) is the junction of vintage jazz, a popular festival and charity.

The core group consists of Lorber, Rhodes; Loeb, guitar; Everette Harp, tenor saxophone; Harvey Mason, drums; Brian Bromberg, bass; Rick Braun, trumpet and flugelhorn; and Till Broenner, trumpet. Special guests appear on selected tracks.

The ensemble goes for the jugular on the opening track, a thrilling arrangement of Thelonius Monk’s “Straight No Chaser.” After the horns bring us into the mood of the piece, Loeb takes off on a jaunt worthy of Wes Montgomery. Braun and Bronner take their turns and engage in a brief call-and-response sequence, followed by Lorber. The track ends with Braun’s signature throaty wail.

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John Yao – Flip-Flop

Rather than call it a big band or orchestra, trombonist John Yao calls his ensemble his 17-piece instrument. This configuration’s first recording, Flip-Flop (See Tao Records, 2015) is indeed a big band release.

The 17 pieces are Yao, a five-piece saxophone section, four-piece trumpet and flugelhorn section, four-piece trombone section and three-piece rhythm section. The saxes are John O’Gallagher, alto, soprano and flute; Alejandro Aviles, alto and flute; Rich Perry, tenor; Jon Irabagon, tenor and clarinet; and Frank Basile, baritone and bass clarinet. The trumpets and flugels are John Walsh, Jason Wiseman, David Smith and Andy Gravish. The trombones are Luis Bonilla, Matt McDonald, Kajiwara Tokunori and Jennifer Wharton. And the rhythm players are Jesse Stacken, Bob Sabin and Vince Cherico.

The title song gets the action going from the first beat. It’s all in, with the horns and rhythm section, each providing high-energy thrills. A brief piano phrases interjects, then the full band goes full throttle. Eventually, there’s a gear shift for Perry to take point. He builds, signaling the other musicians to come back in, then hands it over to O’Gallagher. The alto screams at times, comparable to one of Kenny Garrett’s stretching out moments. Things become frantic when multiple saxes join in, overlapping one another. The song downshifts to something more placid, with one of the saxes accompanied only by piano, bass and drums. But that only lasts so long as the intensity builds again, and the other horns get involved. The bass gets a moment in the spotlight before the stellar finale.

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Maria Schneider Orchestra – The Thompson Fields

If you take a jazz big band and ease back off the throttle, then have a symphony orchestra that plays modern music, combine the two, you might get an idea of the Maria Schneider Orchestra. Schneider’s The Thompson Fields (2015) is the first recording she’s done with this ensemble in eight years.

A Grammy-winning composer, Schnieder has worked with many of the musicians for more than 25 years. With Schneider as conductor, the musicians are Steve Wilson, alto and soprano saxophones, clarinet, flute and alto flute; Dave Pietro, alto and soprano saxophones, clarinet, flute, alto flute, bass flute and piccolo; Rich Perry, tenor sax; Donny McCaslin, tenor sax, clarinet and flute; Scott Robinson, baritone sax, bass clarinet, alto clarinet and clarinet; the quartet of Tony Kadleck, Greg Gisbert, Augie Haas and Mike Rodriguez, trumpets and flugelhorns; Keith O’Quinn, Ryan Keberle and Marshall Gilkes, trombones; George Flynn, bass trombone; Gary Versace, accordion; Lage Lund, guitar; Frank Kimbrough, piano; Jay Anderson, bass; Clarence Penn, drums; and Rogerio Boccato, percussion on “Lembranca.”

“The Monarch and the Milkweed” was inspired both by the monarch butterfly and the scenic beauty of the prairie in Minnesota. The track features solos by Gilkes and Gisbert. It’s a tranquil, majestic piece.

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