Posts Tagged ‘ Jazz ’

Adam Birnbaum – Three of a Mind

Ambient, dynamic, charming, engaging. Those words can describe Three of a Mind (Daedelus Records, 2015) by pianist Adam Birnbaum. It’s a trio session for one of the rising stars on the New York jazz scene.

With Birnbaum are Doug Weiss on bass and Al Foster on drums.

“Binary,” one of six Birnbaum originals, is a bright, upbeat song. The leader plays freely throughout. Underneath, Foster enjoys mixing it up with rolls here, shuffles there, and Weiss is firmly engaged. About midway through, things get intense when the piano cranks up the heat, and the other instruments follow suit.

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Charles McPherson – The Journey

Straight, no chaser. Charles McPherson goes old school with The Journey (Capri Records, 2015). Recognized as one of the last authentic practitioners of bebop sax, McPherson would make some of his pioneering brethren proud.

McPherson plays the alto sax. With him are Keith Oxman, tenor sax; Chip Stephens, piano; Ken Walker, bass; and Todd Reid, drums.

The sassy opener, “The Decathexis from Youth (for Cole),” features the duet of McPherson and Oxman in harmonious lead. The song begins in moderate, swing. Then it shifts into high gear as the leader takes off on a spirited jaunt. Composer Stephens stretches out in blues style.

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John Mills – Invisible Designs

Classic literature finds its way into modern music. That’s part of the idea behind John MillsInvisible Designs (Fable Records, 2015).

The players are Carmen Bradford, vocals; Mills, soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones, flute and bass clarinet; Jeff Hellmer, keys on all but three songs; Jim Beard, keys on “Invisible Designs,” “My Disagreeable Attitude” and “Darwin”; Eric Johnson, guitar on “Invisible Designs”; Mitch Watkins, guitar on “Banana King,” “Tidewater” and “Everything I Learned”; Jake Langley, guitar on “Lady Vain,” “My Disagreeable Attitude,” “Four Directions” and “Strictly Business”; Carter Arrington, guitar on “Napoleon” and “Let Your Brother Go”; Spencer Starnes, acoustic bass; and David Sierra, drums.

This is that rare commentary about a jazz recording that says little about the music and a lot about the words. Mills changed his approach to the project. Instead of composing music and creating lyrics to match, he wrote the words first. More than that, the songs originated with phrases borrowed from classic, public-domain novels. The lines evolve into ideas that may or may not have any connection to the stories from which they were adapted.

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John Petruccelli Quintet – The Way

Sometimes, it’s good to just play. Forget theme. Forget format. Just pick a song, or write a new one, and play your heart out. That appears to be approach of the John Petruccelli Quintet with The Way (2015), a two-disc set.

Petrucelli plays tenor saxophone. The rest of the ensemble are Peter Park, guitar; Victor Gould, piano; Alex Claffy, bass; and Gusten Rudolph, drums. Drummer Victor Lewis appears on three tracks.

“Prism,” one of eight originals among the 11 tracks, is a mellow, moderate-tempo piece. The opening sequence is highlighted by some cool, guitar/sax banter and a series of tightly choreographed, stop-time phrases. The bass and drums are deeply engaged when the guitar is out front, and the piano comes forward a bit more during the sax lead. As Petrucelli heats up, he makes the tenor grind and wail during key passages.

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Ted Kooshian – Clowns Will Be Arriving

Ted Kooshian doesn’t clown around. Or does he? The pianist, known for his imaginative adaptations lets loose with the big noses, funny hair and wide shoes with Clowns Will Be Arriving (Summit Records, 2015), an exciting collection of five original songs and remakes of television show themes composed by Hugo Montenegro, Lalo Schifrin, Johnny Williams and more.

Kooshian uses a variable lineup of players to help him take this trip through time. Jeff Lederer appears on all but one track, playing flute, soprano sax or tenor sax. Others who appear here and here are Pete McGuinness, trombone; Wilbur Bascomb electric bass; David Stillman, drums and percussion; Matt Jodrell, trumpet; Scott Neumann, drums; Tom Hubbard, bass; Warren Odze, drums and percussion; Napoleon Murphy Brock, vocals on “Christmas Day, My Favorite Day”; Morrie Louden, bass; Cliff Lyons, alto sax; and Paul Livant, rhythm guitar.

“I Dream of Jeannie” kicks things off. Lederer’s flute takes point. Bascomb’s dynamic bass line gives this track extra depth. The congas add a tropical vibe. For his part, Kooshian tickles the ivory like there’s no proverbial tomorrow. McGuinness gets his licks in while there’s time. The song ends with a series of creative, tightly syncopated phrases.

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Vance Thompson’s Five Plus Six – Such Sweet Thunder

Reimagining the music of jazz giants Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington and country legend Dolly Parton is the goal of Vance Thompson’s Five Plus Six. The ensemble delivers fresh arrangements of those compositions on Such Sweet Thunder (Shade Street Records, 2015).

The Five are a quintet that had been working steadily for more than a year under the name of The Marble City Five. The group consists of Thompson, trumpet and flugelhorn; Greg Tardy, tenor sax and bass clarinet; Keith Brown, piano and Fender Rhodes; Taylor Coker, bass; and Nolan Nevels, drums. As Thompson began thinking about recording the group, the idea of expanding the sound to include a fuller horn section emerged. The Six are Michael Wyatt and Joe Jordan, trumpet; Tylar Bullion, trombone; Sean Copeland, tenor and bass trombone; Jamel Mitchell, alto and soprano saxophone; and David King, baritone and soprano saxophone.

The set begins with Monk’s “Pannonica.” The horns lead in grand fashion, then step aside as Mitchell, Tardy King take turns on alto, tenor and baritone, respectively. Throughout, the rhythm trio of Brown, Coker and Nevels keep things tight. Brown and Thompson also get to stretch out. After the solos, the saxophones blend for a delightful romp. The song downshifts for a bit as the other horns take point again. Then it revs up for the finale. It’s a satisfying tribute to Monk.

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Manuel Valera – In Motion

Grammy nominated pianist and composer Manuel Valera continues to churn out ear candy. Having recently collaborated with his father, Manuel Valera Sr. and released a solo piano set, he’s back with his band, New Cuban Express, for their third venture, In Motion (Criss Cross Jazz, 2014)

Valera plays piano and Fender Rhodes electric piano. With him are Yosvany Terry, alto and soprano saxophones, and chekere; Tom Guarna, guitar; Alex Sipiagin, trumpet and flugelhorn; Hans Glawischnig, bass; Ludwig Afonso, drums; and Mauricio Herrera, percussion.

It’s like a confluence of Tito Puento, Paquito D’Rivera and Arturo Sandoval “Descargando” is a lively opening track. It’s as if Valera said, “Let’s just play.” The song captures many moods, represented by each musician, as they all get a moment or two in the spotlight. Terry and Sipiagin are out front much of the way, blending for a bright, sunny melody, and separating as they trade verses. A highlight is a call and response between Valera and the percussionists, which sets up the leader’s climactic solo near the end.

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