Luis Muñoz touches on the core of that which is unquantifiable in great music making in this masterwork titled The Dead Man. Luis plays drums, piano and Rhodes, composed, arranged and orchestrated all seven of the songs and continues to reaffirm his place as a music visionary and as one of today’s most sensitive, melodic and talented jazz composers. Joined by Jonathan Dane on trumpet and flugelhorn, Brendan Statom on acoustic bass, Daniel Zimmerman on electric acoustic guitar, The Dead Man comes complete with the interplay among his quartet members that expertly describes the process of spontaneous improvisation and his creative processes.
Opening with “Secrecy” the quartet is joined by special guest Ramses Araya. This song features outstanding soloing by trumpeter Jonathan Dane, shining through this truly amazing song. Muñoz has composed the very things about music that are difficult to compose; intuition, expression, perception and of course secrecy. His self-expression continues with “Seveneves” where the song springs to life with his exceptional drumming and the great interpretation of the melody played by electric guitarist Daniel Zimmerman. Dane’s particular magic on the trumpet and Ramses Araya’s percussive wizardry blows you away!
The band changes mood and tempo with the trio version of “The Sleep of the Innocent.” This is a beautiful ballad that is a superior total artistic vision in space and time. Luis’ song has been created from a melody, a rhythmic flow, a senses and a structure all played beautifully by electric guitarist Daniel Zimmerman. The powerful, energetic sonics of Dane on trumpet and Norma LaTuchie on flute follows on “Tierranegra.” We hear the great sonority of Adam Asarnow’s detailed piano comping and soloing that makes this piece feel indivisible.
“The Dead Man” is a masterpiece. The instrumental storytelling is the link between Muñoz’s indescribable ability to hear and write memorable music in a highly personal and spontaneous way while keeping it accessible to his listeners. It’s the way he expresses his ideas in the solos and tandem performances by Dane on flugelhorn, Asarnow on Fender Rhodes and Tom Buckner on tenor sax and bass clarinet, as well as his own dynamic drumming. The notes, melody, rhythm and chords that fill this song with creative energy, quality, taste, and emotion are unbound.
Although “Savannah” closes the program and leaves you, dear listener, with an unrestrained desire for more of Muñoz’s high definition sounds, be assured that throughout this song, you should rejoice in the health of your ear drums because of the musician’s inspired performances. Muted trumpeting by Dane makes this song even more memorable as well as the great percussive tempi of Ramses Araya.
Overall, The Dead Man exceeds the standards Muñoz set on his previous recording titled Voz. Not only does it prove that inspiration can strike anywhere but The Dead Man gives us something we can take with us in an inimitable and unforgettable way. Check it out and then buy it here. Simply click on the CD cover.
DAY AND NIGHT
Inspiration comes in many forms but for Lisa Hilton, it came through her commitment to discover and savor every day moments and from the great American composer Cole Porter. Her most recent solo piano recording titled Day and Night, includes several songs that feature Porter’s lush melodies and gentle Latin rhythms as well as several of her originals that bring the beauty in a day from the first glow of sunrise to the dimming sky at sunset. Lisa also remembers the great composers/pianist Horace Silver and Count Basie.
Several of Lisa’s originals - “Caffeinated Culture,” “Sunrise,” “Sunset On The Beach,” – achieve her goal of savoring every day moments due to her imaginative techniques and ability to capture and convey the impressions and symbolism inherent in such moments. Her opening notes on “Dark Sky Day,” reveal Lisa’s virtuosic command of piano theory as a classically-trained pianist who uses harmonic impressionism. She explores the music as art and paints texture and color through various jazz approaches. Among the many great highlights are Porter’s “Begin the Beguine,” and her originals that convey many of Porter’s compositional integrity.
On Day and Night, Lisa Hilton makes moments that matter so check it out at SOTJ then buy DAY AND NIGHT by clicking on the CD cover.
With a solid reputation as a superb mastering engineer with a musician’s ear, the next step in Ron Boustead’s exciting career was most likely steered by his evolving tastes and growth as an artist with a love of vocal jazz. Unlikely Valentine, Boustead’s fourth recording as a leader, encompasses many styles of vocal jazz including Cool, Swing, bebop and Brazilian. The songs are brilliantly expressed and easy to listen to. One stunning feature of Boustead’s vocal music is the rich polyphonic textures heard on these 10 songs arranged by Bill Cunliffe and Mitchel Forman who also share duties on piano, Rhodes, Hammond B3 organ and accordion. Another highlight is the resonance of Boustead’s voice and the varied tempi given to such standards as “Love Potion No. 9” which is now re-imagined as a 6/8 waltz with a soul-jazz vibe. The fairly obscure tune now designed with Rhodes and flugelhorn updates on “I Love My Wife” and Boustead’s approach on “I Won’t Scat” in a mixed meter statement, both reveal the musicians’ skills and versatility that make these songs worth a second listen.
Joining Ron on Unlikely Valentine are some of Southern California’s most prolific and admired musicians. In addition to the musical prowess of Cunliffe and Forman, listeners will appreciate the contributions of John Leftwich on acoustic bass, Jake Reed on drums and percussion, Pat Kelley on acoustic and electric guitars, Bob Sheppard on saxophones and flute, Bob McChesney on trombone, Ron Stout on flugelhorn and guest vocalist Fabiana Passoni who duets with Boustead on “Til Now.” Their sensual take on this Brazilian samba has several musical landmarks that remain with you long after the song is over.
Overall, the harmonic language Boustead has composed for the original songs shows that he has achieved his goal of expressing the meaning of individual words and phrasings in the music and that he is aware of their special characteristics as a vocalist. Buy Unlikely Valentine today.
The Gold Standards
Jazz vocalist Deborah Silver has released her debut album titled The Gold Standards and it’s heating up the Billboard charts! Produced by Grammy Award-winner Steve Tyrell and Jon Allen, the recording features arrangements by Alan Broadbent. Special guest duets by Jack Jones on “I’ve Got A Crush On You,” and Ann Hampton Calloway on “The Glory of Love” make this recording extra special.
Deborah Silver has a great vocal range and her new renditions of such Great American Songbook standards as “The Nearness of You” and “Teach Me Tonight,” get new life via her inspired interpretations. So check her out and then buy The Gold Standards here. Simply click on the CD cover.
Clare Fischer Latin Jazz Big Band
The keyboard mastery of the late, great Clare Fisher is featured on 7 of the 10 new tracks heard on ¡INTENSO! 2016 is the final year for Clare Fisher’s music to be eligible for a posthumous Grammy and therefore his son, producer/arranger Brent Fischer has curated an outstanding recording of previously unreleased tracks recorded by his father. Among the stellar guests are Sheila E. on percussion, vocalist Roberta Gambarini, horn greats Carl Saunders, Ron Stout, Alex Budman and several others.
This Latin Jazz Big Band is spellbinding and intense. The virtuosic performances and soloing make this recording a must hear for your listening pleasure because it blends skillful improvisations and musicality. Check it out. Buy ¡INTENSO!here.
Celebrating Elvin Jones
Drummer Will Calhoun of the rock group Living Colour pays tribute to a profound influence on his musical life with Celebrating Elvin Jones. The album features Christian McBride on bass, saxophonist Antoine Roney, pianist/keyboardist Carlos McKinney, and trumpeter Keyon Harrold. Also, the keyboardist Jan Hammer, a member of Elvin Jones’ trio joins the band for a reprise of “Destiny” and Doudou N’Diaye Rose joins with a group of drummer for “Doll of the Bride.”
The songs on the recording span Elvin Jones’ career but Calhoun has devised a distinctly individual approach. Among the songs included are “EJ Blues”, “Harmonique” and “Mahjong”. “Sarmastah” is Calhoun’s sole original song on the album and plays a 12-string guitar! Celebrating Elvin Jones is available on Motema Music.
The Brazilian-American Soundtrack
The Grammy nominated multi-talented Bob Baldwin offers his fans and new listeners a double disc recording of 26 songs that he has titled The Brazilian-American Soundtrack. This urban-jazz and Brazilian rhythms exploration of Rio de Janierio and New York features 20 original songs written and performed by Baldwin during recording sessions in Rio, New York and Atlanta, GA over a period of three years! Collected in the two discs titled Movement 1 – Rio-Ipanema and Movement II – New York, we hear several guest artists help to bring Baldwin’s musical visions to life.
In the first movement, guest artists Café Da Silva, Ragan Whiteside, Torcuato Mariano and lead vocalist Gigi add their impeccable musical skills to Baldwin’s meticulously produced tracks titled “Ipanema Fusion,” “Teardrop,””Caipirinha,” and “Looking At Me,” and to several tracks by some of Brazil’s most revered songwriters Including Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Corcovado,” Ivan Lins’ “Anjo De Mim,” “The Island,” and ”Love Dance, May I Have This Dance,” and Djavan’s “Eu Te Devoro.” Each song is performed to perfection and with such virtuosity that you will revel in Baldwin’s dexterity on the keyboards and be amazed and charmed by his vocals.
Overall, the second movement features two songs written especially for the late, great Maurice White of Earth Wind and Fire by Bob Baldwin as well as guest songwriters Alonzo Wright. Marion Meadows is featured on Baldwin’s “My Soul” playing a lovely saxophone solo. “Summer Madness,” featuring James “Crab” Robinson on vocals and John Lennon’s “Yesterday,” featuring Freddie V on saxophone deserve special mention.
Overall, Bob Baldwin’s magnum opus deserves recognition and certainly several deep listens since it represents the passion and virtuosity of his musical personalities. With 20 songs written especially for The Brazilian-American Soundtrack, you will understand that certain state of mind Bob Baldwin has shared with his fans and new listeners on this great recording. Highly recommended. To buy this CD, please click on the CD cover.
An Elusive Man
Little Phat Band
The Grammy and Emmy Award-winning bandleader Gordon Goodwin has trimmed his 18-piece Big Phat Band to an 8-member Little Phat Band which released their debut recording titled An Elusive Man for the Music of Content label. According to Goodwin, the recording “represents another side of his interest in jazz with more emphasis on improvisation and letting the musicians explore things in a way that they can’t do in a larger ensemble.” The seven musicians joining Goodwin from his Big Phat Band perform 10 songs, 8 of which were written by Goodwin. He also produced and arranged the songs performed by Wayne Bergeron on trumpet, Eric Marienthal on alto and tenor sax, Andy Martin on trombone, Andrew Synowiec on electric and acoustic guitar, Rick Shaw on electric and acoustic bass, Bernie Dresel on drums and Joey De Leon on percussion.
The set swings hard and throughout the band balances serious jazz rhythms and jazz funk jams. Goodwin plays piano and tenor sax and solos with ease on such songs as “An Elusive Man,” “Cot In The Act,” and “In A Sentimental Mood.” Overall, the entire recording presents the compositional integrity of Gordon Goodwin and his ability to lead smaller bands with the same finesse as his Big Phat Band. Check it out. This one should definitely be in your jazz collection. Buy it here. Click on the CD cover.
MONK'estra is in stores now.
MONK'estra, Volume 1
Innovative, exuberant, and controversial, Thelonius Monk’s music in its nearly 70 years of existence, has found both popular appeal and intellectual appreciation for its emotional and musical intensity. His compositions provide the most impressive examples of bop harmonies while supporting catchy themes. As with any great composer, the ability to arrange and perform Monk’s compositions at any tempo and time signature came with great ease for John Beasley. The award-winning composer/pianist formed the big band known as MONK’estra as a result of a commission from Los Angeles’ Luckman Jazz Orchestra and over the years, stored up a pile of groove-centric arrangements that best suited Monk’s compositions.
On their debut recording for Mack Avenue titled MONK’estra, Vol. 1, John Beasley arranged, conducted and produced all songs on the recording in addition to bringing together many of the most revered jazz musicians to play 9 songs from the Thelonius Monk songbook – big band style! He retains much of the bop style that was rooted in the big-band techniques of the swing era – including the walking bass as a harmonic foundation and the repetitive cymbal patterns of swing while supplanting certain aspects of rhythm, harmony and melody. Beasley also left room on his arrangements for the musicians to improvise and the result is a five-star gem that provides thoughtful and comprehensive interpretations of Monk’s remarkable music.
Opening with “Epistrophy” the orchestra swings its unforgettable melody as Gary Burton nails his solo on the vibraphone. This angular tune never sounds dated and with the orchestral tinge John Beasley has arranged, this song sounds as contemporary as the present. Great soloing from Bob Sheppard, Brian Swartz, Bijon Watson and Gary Novak make “Skippy” a real thrill alongside controlled riffs and handclaps. Trumpet solos from Gabriel Johnson and Brian Swartz along with a solo from trombonist Francisco Torres rise to the occasion on “Oska.”
However, the real gem on the recording is “Round Midnight.” Here John Beasley has added subdued harmonies, hip-hop beats and shades of neo-soul sounds that bring this song into focus for a new 21st century listener as well as reminding jazz purists of Monk’s compositional integrity and ability to transcend generations.
The recording concludes with the easy-going “Coming on the Hudson,” and is the perfect way to relax with your significant other or dance the night away. Beasley’s masterful pianism makes this one a real keeper also.
Overall, MONK’estra, Vol. 1 is a masterpiece that uniquely defies conventional interpretations of Monk’s music. The recording deftly indicates John Beasley’s virtuosity as a re- arranger of the groove-centric, swinging, contemporary harmonies that emanated from Monk’s jazz. Check it out. Learn more about John Beasley here.
Sky Begins is Daniel Meron’s second album which was recorded with his current band consisting of Maia Karo on vocals, Noam Wiesenberg on bass, Jimmy McBride on drums and himself on piano. Sky Begins featrues 8 of Meron’s most recent original compositions which are produced by Meron and Ian Turner. While clearly in the realm of jazz, the music on the album is dynamic and lyrical, traveling through rich harmonies to magical places in time and imagination. The band grooves hard on funky and folkloric rhythms, while shifting between energetic improvisation and intimate interaction.
Vocalist Maia Karo is supreme as are the members of the ensemble. Meron’s own lyrical piano prowess is worth the price of the CD alone. Along with his activities as composer, arranger and bandleader, Daniel continues to perform as a sideman in multiple bands such as the Ayal Tsubery band, Rubycon, and Arnan Raz Quintet.
Ivo Perelman and Matthew Shipp
On Callas, tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman and pianist Matthew Shipp collaborate on this spontaneous duo performance that depicts the improvised free jazz versions of characters portrayed by operatic diva Maria Callas. Each of the improvised arias from operas such as "La Boheme," "The Barber of Seville," "Norma," "Tosca," "Aida," "Turandot " and others, evoke the operatic sensibilities of Perelman’s brilliance as well as Shipp’s emotional resonance and musical clairvoyance.
The pair discover the various nuances of each aria and develop them further throughout their improvisations. There is a subtle new vocal sound to Perelman’s saxophonics as he matches Callas’ approach to the low, middle and high registers she so brilliantly sang. The inflections are there, the subtleties, but not the melodies. Shipp’s dark, insistent ostinato supports and propels Perelman’s flights on the opening track titled “Lucia” the heroine’s defiant character from Donizetti’s opera “Lucia di Lammermoor.” On “Magdelina” Perelman channels a plangent yearning as Shipp’s steady, implacable undercurrents reminisce the doomed love of the title character’s fate in “Andrea Chenier.”
On “Norma” his throaty low notes contrast his brilliant coloratura excursions while on “Mimi” he unveils a tender romantic splendor. Overall, this album is a brilliant emotional breakthrough that comes from a newly discovered understanding and appreciation for some of opera’s greatest arias. Perelman and Shipp’s own superb musicality and artistry deserve more than one listen. Callas is that great.
Jenna Mammina & Rolf Sturm
Pop/Jazz vocalist/songwriter Jenna Mammina and guitarist Rolf Sturm offer their listeners 12 exceptional songs on their first recording together called Spark. Many of the songs such as “Talk To Me,” “Get Your Kicks On Route 66” and “I’m Beginning to See The Light” are from the 1950s and 1960s but now have a jazz twist. The duo also update the Stylistics’ tune “Betcha, By Golly Wow,” and later move from the Philadelphia International Sound to a sweet Brazilian fantasy called “The Girl From Ipanema.” Overall, this eclectic vocalist and fingerstyle player effortlessly alternate between swinging jazz chords and beautifully executed melodies. Together their improvisational abilities are both impressive and expressive.
Cuentos is Guraudo’s second release on ZOHO Music and his sixth as a leader. With fleshed out trombone and trumpet sections and a percussionist in the mix, Giraudo’s new Big Band capably delivers 9 great compositions including the beautiful four -movement “Angela Suite.” Pedro Giraudo wrote and arranged all of the songs and plays electric and acoustic basses. Following his critically-acclaimed 2011 ZOHO release titled Cordoba, Giraudo has created another masterwork with his daring and immensely rewarding Cuentos. He treats his fans to ravishingly detailed expression of Argentine music forms and themes while standing solidly in the tradition of such North American masters as Duke Ellington, Thad Jones and Gil Evans.
On Headin’ Out, alto saxophonist Matt Criscuolo and his bandmates guitarist Tony Purrone, acoustic bassist Preston Murphy and drummer Ed Soph, perform several original songs and rarely covered compositions as Miles Davis’ “Sippin’ at Bells” and Randy Weston’s “Little Niles.” These musicians offer the songs in freely improvised terms that were influenced by Henry Threadgill, Jimmy Lyons and David S. Ware, as well as Jimmy Heath. Headin’ Out is high-quality, impassioned 21st century modern jazz.
Triangles and Circles
Dafnis Prieto Sextet
Recorded on the heels of a one-week run at the Jazz Standard in New York City, the eight songs on Triangles and Circles capture the essence of Dafnis Prieto’s composing skills and imaginative drumming. Joined by Peter Apfelbaum on tenor & soprano saxophones, Felipe Lamoglia on alto saxophone, Mike Rodriguez on trumpet, Manuel Valera on piano and Johannes Weidenmueller on acoustic and electric basses, Dafnis Prieto Sextet excels in all areas and reaches a near-telepathic level o interplay and impeccable interpretation throughout this excellent program. Standouts include “Back and Forth,” and the title track “Triangles and Circles.”
All I Know
Rachel Caswell duets with Dave Stryker and Jeremy Allen on this lovely collection of songs from the Great American Songbook titled All I Know. Rachel’s vocal creativity is clear, controlled and relaxed on these 12 songs that serve as a wonderful vehicle for her new interpretations. Among the songs the trio remakes are “I’ve Never Been In Love Before,” “Sometimes I’m Happy,” and “I Fall In Love Too Easily.” Each song is charming and emotional and exposes the sincerest form of musicality from all three collaborators.
Portland-based alto and soprano saxophonist Hailey Niswanger plays with remarkable authority and drive on PDX Soul. Rich in funky rhythms, instantly hooky melodies and sophisticated crafting, the 8 track recording is brimming with Hailey’s finely tuned improvisations. Working with a collective of 16 superb musicians Hailey’s great interpretation of “Take Me To The River,” will have you moving to its rhythmic joy while “I’m Gone,” shows her true essence as a reed player who can deliver the goods as an arranger and composer of new songs. Barbara Mason’s hit, “Yes I’m Ready” is also given a newly designed feeling and one that is sure to make you aware of Haley’s innovative skills.
B.J. Ward and Donn Trenner
Outstanding musical talents B.J. Ward and Donn Trenner have reunited after 40 years to release their second recording titled Double Feature. The duo recorded this exemplary program improvisationally, capturing voice and piano together with no over-dubbing of vocals. The 12-songs are culled from the annals of film music and Broadway musicals. Rarely heard songs include the haunting and beautiful “Theme From Rosemary’s Baby,” “Drifting” from Auntie Mame and “Do You Know Why?” from Love Thy Neighbor. Gordon Hunt produced the vocal/piano recording with Lee Lessack as Executive Producer.