Posts Tagged ‘ Jazz ’

Nir Naaman – Independence

It’s tempting, particularly with the advent of smooth jazz radio, for a young saxophonist to follow the formula of success and create something more suited as pop instrumental than any type of jazz. Nir Naaman breaks that particular mold with Independence (Naaman Music, 2014), which could be his way of saying he won’t conform to contemporary expectations or appease commercial radio powers. Instead, he chooses a style reminiscent of post-World War II jazz, making it fun and free rather than catchy and trite.

Naaman plays tenor, alto and soprano saxes. For most tracks, he uses a quartet format with Dezron Douglass on bass throughout. Piano duties are split between George Cables and Roy Assaf. Drums are split by Gregory Hutchinson and Ulysses Owens Jr. Trumpeter Marcus Printup sits in on two tracks.

Naaman and Printup blend on the lead for “Ohali Blues.” Trumpet and sax playing together often makes for the most enjoyable sound in jazz. The instruments split, with the tenor taking point. It’s a lively, finger-snapping tune that serves as a great introduction to Naaman of listeners who aren’t familiar with him. Printup delivers a jaunty trumpet solo. During the closing sequence, Hutchinson gives the kit a brief but intense workout.

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Miguel Zenón – Identities Are Changeable

Nationality, melting pot culture and art come together in Miguel Zenon’s Identities Are Changeable (Miel Music, 2014). It’s billed as an extended musical work for large ensemble about national identity as experienced by the Puerto Rican community in the New York City area. It’s also a spoken word testimony to that experience.

The Miguel Zenon Quartet consists of Zenon, alto saxophone; Luis Perdomo, piano; Hans Glawischnig, bass; and Henry Cole, drums. The “Identities” Big Band members are Will Vinson and Michael Thomas, alto saxophones; Samir Zarif and John Ellis, tenor saxophones; Chris Cheek, baritone saxophone; Mat Jodrel, Michael Rodriguez, Alex Norris and Jonathan Powell, trumpets; and Ryan Keberle, Alan Ferber and Tim Albright, trombones.

One of the voices heard in the opening track, “De Donde Vienes? (Overture),” is that of Sonia Manzano, whom many will recognize as Maria, a character on the children’s television program Sesame Street. She and others introduce themselves, say a little something about their experience, all over the back drop of a big jazz band playing something that’s part Latin, part symphonic.

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Jonathan Kreisberg – Wave Upon Wave

A single wave on the shore is connected to the deepest parts of the ocean. People are connected to their ancestors who fought to survive, and many of whom traveled to other lands for a better life. Guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg combines these thoughts for Wave Upon Wave (New For Now Music, 2014).

His sidemen are Rick Rosato, bass; Colin Stranahan, drums; and Will Vinson, saxophone. Pianist Kevin Hays sits in on a few tracks.

The title song opens the set. Kreisberg plays layered tracks, one setting two pairs of step-down chords in a 3/4 rhythm, the other the lead. Guitar and sax blend on the melody of this calm, soothing piece. After the initial offering, the two instruments briefly share the step-down rhythm before Kreisberg takes off on an adventurous jaunt. The subliminal message is that of artists – singers, songwriters, musicians – moving to a new country by sea. They follow in the footsteps of those who preceded them, the waves representing each new generation of hope. Hays joins the quartet for this and three other tracks. His solo and some intense background work by Rosato and Stranahan complete the package.

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Bruce Blackman – Moonlight Feels Right 2014

It’s pop and rock. It’s jazz via bossa nova, it’s blues. It’s even soul and funk. But mostly, it’s just plain cool. Bruce Blackman, founding member of the pop/rock group Starbuck, reinvents himself and some of his hits with Moonlight Feels Right 2014 (Bruce Blackman, 2014).

With Mike McCarty’s cover illustration depicting Blackman in a white suit, white gloves and his trademark driving cap, the album presents a mix of 11 new songs and stylish remakes of a few Starbuck songs. A native of Greenville, Mississippi, Blackman handles lead vocals, bass and keyboards. Additional vocalists are Mike Brookshire, Mike Jones, David Powell, Tim Tice, daughter Sarah Blackman, Sandra Chalmers, Meeko, Lina Kiwar-Michaelides, Donna Rhodes and Cheryl Wilson. Sharing bass duties with Blackman are Larry Cianelli and Alison Prestwood. On drums are Cianelli, Ed Massey and Scott Meeder. Guitarists are Brookshire, Mac McInally, Tommy Strain, Robert Taylor and Glen Wood. Horns are by Ben McCoy, Mart Avant and Chris Gordon. Additional keyboards are by Steve Ferguson and Steve Nathan. On saxophones are Steve Black and Jay Scott. Other musicians are Wayne Mosley, steel guitar; Robert Taylor and Glen Pace, violin; Mary Sims Alms, viola; and Elizabeth Wasson, cello.

“The Big Hurt” is one of the bossa nova arrangements. Accented by strings and a Stan Getz-like tenor sax, this pop hit Toni Fisher has been covered by several jazz artists, among others. Blackman takes it a step further, adding a touch of samba.

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Miho Nobuzane – Jazz Loves Brazil

Jazz Loves Brazil (Miho Nobuzane Music, 2014) seems like stating the obvious. For several decades, jazz musicians have incorporated traditional Brazilian sounds into their music. And Brazilian songwriters have created music that easily translates into jazz. Pianist Miho Nobuzane follows in their footsteps.

The ensemble is primarily the duo of Nobuzane and bassist Tetsuya Sato, with a parade of drummers completing the trio. Mauricio Zottarelli handles the sticks on 11 of the 15 tracks. Other contributes are Bernard Purdie and Adriano Santos. Filo Machado sings and plays guitar on four tracks. Percussionist Dende sits in on three tracks. Singer Carla Cook and flutist Oriente Lopez perform on one track each. For her part, Nobuzane plays piano on most tracks, keyboards on one and melodica on another, she sings lead on four and backs up Cook on one.

“Avenida Atlantica” features Michado on vocal and guitar. Zottarelli has drum duties on this one. It’s a delightful, celebratory tune, highlighted by Michado’s scatting. During one series, he mixes in a bit of yodel. A radio edit of the song appears at the end of the set.

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Frank Kimbrough – Quartet

Decades of working with one another in various ensembles ultimately leads to Frank Kimbrough’s Quartet (Palmetto Records, 2014).

The pianist calls on three longtime friends for a free-spirited, straight jazz set. With Kimbrough are Steve Wilson, alto and soprano saxophones; Jay Anderson, double bass; and Lewis Nash, drums.

“The Call” opens the set. It begins in ambient fashion, with the piano playing freely out front, while bass and drums go through some loosening-up rolls. The alto sax comes in briefly, steps back, then returns for a brief lead, then gives way to the piano again. The piece has no melody to speak of. It’s mainly Kimbrough, expressing himself without confinement. Toward the end, Wilson is more expressive when he returns toward the end. Though each player appears to be doing his own thing, it all fits as they complement one another rather than compete.

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Yonrico Scott – Only A Smile

OnlyASmileThird Blue Canoe Records release from Grammy Award winner Yonrico Scott (Royal Southern Brotherhood, Derek Trucks Band) titled, Only A Smile. Featuring Ronda Scott (vocals), Kofi Burbridge (keys/flute), Todd Smallie (bass), Joseph Patrick Moore (bass), Larry Jackson (alto/tenor sax), Mace Hibbard (alto/tenor sax), YS Jr. (hand percussion), Lebron Scott (bass), Randy Honea (guitar), Buzz Amato (keys), Rick Hinkel (guitar), Count Mubutu (congas), Grant Green Jr. (guitar), Bruno Spreight (guitar), Oliver Wells (keys, bass, string arr.), Tiffany Jackson (bgv) and Minnie Orr (bgv).

Throughout the 1980’s to the Present, Yonrico has enjoyed working with various composers and arrangers for a multitude of commercial recordings for advertising/ commercials, jingles, individual songs, etc. Probably one of the more important recordings of this nature, working with Producer, Tim McCabe, Yonrico collaborated with Ray Charles to re-record Georgia’s State Song, Georgia On My Mind. Additional composers Yonrico has worked with include Bill Meyers, Jim Ellis, Jack Turner, and Steve Holts, among others.

Listen to the album here. Only A Smile is available at Amazon.com.

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