Jazz CD Reviews – early May 2017

May 10, 2017

Mark Winkler The Company I Keep (Café Pacific CPCD 45135)

Sophisticated jazz singing by Mark Winkler who teams up here with fine instrumentalists and also in duet with five other singers. This album is Mark’s 15th, his career dating back to the 1970s. Singing throughout his career, he has also written the lyrics of some 250 songs. Added to all this, he is a music educator and has taught at UCLA and the LA School of Songwriting. In the songs chosen for this album, Mark reflects on the death of a loved one – something that has touched all of us all at some point. Although this might suggest gloom and darkness, instead Mark finds beauty and glimmers of hope.winkler Among these songs are six with his lyrics, while others include the work of Prince (Strollin’), George and Ira Gershwin (They Can’t Take That Away From Me), Oliver Nelson and Mark Murphy (Stolen Moments), and Leonard Bernstein with Betty Comden and Adolph Greene (Lucky To Be Me). While linking sophistication and jazz might suggest elevator music, there is nothing like that here; Mark’s interpretations have depth and understanding and his performance is enhanced by his mature vocal sound. Ensuring this album’s jazz credentials are the instrumentalists and vocalists who appear with him. Collectively, his instrumental collaborators are Ron Blake, Brian Swartz (trumpet); Bob McChesney (trombone); Don Shelton (clarinet), Bob Sheppard (tenor saxophone & clarinet); Jamieson Trotter, Rich Eames, Eric Reed, Josh Nelson, John Beasley, David Benoit (piano); Larry Koonse, Bob Mann (guitar); Lyman Medeiros, John Clayton (bass); Mike Shapiro, Jeff Hamilton, Kevin Winard (drums); Paul Cartwright (violin). The singers with whom Mark duets are Jackie Ryan (Walk Between The Raindrops), Cheryl Bentyne (Strollin’), Steve Tyrell (But It Still Ain’t So), Claire Martin (Stolen Moments), Sara Gazarek (Rainproof). These duets are especially attractive aspects of the many pleasures heard on The Company I Keep, an album that will undoubtedly appeal to many.

Tina Raymond Left Right Left (Orenda 0039)

A respected performer and teacher, drummer Tina Raymond has now made her album debut as leader. She is joined here by two instrumentalists who have graced the west coast music scene for many years: pianist Art Lande and bassist Putter Smith. Unusually for a jazz project, Left Right Left was prompted by recent political events in America and the sometimes stark issues that still divide the country. Unusual because although popular music has long touched upon politics, jazz has rarely stepped to the forefront, unlike the blues, a form that has consistently depicted division and outright discrimination. In the last hundred years folk musicians have confronted important issues with songs of protest, among themTina_Raymond_-_Left_Right_Left_Digital_Cover Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez. Songs by all of these appear here and despite their folk origins, Tina, Art and Putter deliver jazz interpretations with flair and skill (the bassist also contributing some original songs). It is self-evident that songs of protest achieve their aim through what the have to say, but no words are sung here. Thus listeners have the choice of listening to the music for its own sake, or bringing to the experience their own knowledge of the songs’ words, or at last their themes. Tina’s chosen repertoire includes songs that address respectively issues of gender discrimination and exploitation of migrant workers, Woody Guthrie’s Union Maid and Pastures Of Plenty (who could have imagined that these issues were still unresolved eighty years later); songs of protest against, and reflections on, war Joni Mitchell’s The Fiddle And The Drum and Joan Baez Saigon Bride, Putter Smith’s Xxmas In Baghdad; racial matters, Smith’s White Flight, which refers to deliberate avoidance of integration, and Jame Weldon Johnson’s Lift Every Voice And Sing, which for the second half of its one hundred-plus years of existence has been an anthem of hope for black Americans. There are also songs that center upon patriotism, something that all too readily in these trying times is taken to equate with nationalism, which is a very different matter. The songs played here are Samuel A. Ward’s America and Julia Ward Howe’s Battle Hymn Of The Republic, the latter played by Art Lande with a touch of dissonance that mirrors the America of today. Despite the long-ago origins of most of what is heard here, this interesting, thought-provoking and well played album is very much music of today.

Mari Nobre Live and Alive (Chrome)

Born and raised in Italy where she first sang professionally, Mari Nobre worked in Europe before settling in the USA where she met and married bassist Leo Nobre who at the time was with Sergio Mendes. Although now resident in Los Angeles, where she leads Nobresil, a Brazilian band, Mari tours internationally. Linguistically skilled, she sings in her native language and English as well as Spanish, Portuguese and French.Live_and_Alive_Cover-page-001 This album was recorded just three weeks after Mari had undergone surgery following treatment for cancer and the music heard is vibrant and often joyous, perhaps reflecting her feelings at this moment in time. The album’s full title is Live and Alive from Gershwin to Jobim … a Musical Journey, and it contains several well-known songs, among them Fascinating Rhythm, by George and Ira Gershwin, Corcovado, Retrato Em Branco E Prato and Chega de Saudade (No More Blues), all composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim, the last-named two with lyricists Chico Buarque and Vinicius de Moraes respectively. Also heard are a standard by Victor Young and Edward Heyman, When I Fall In Love, a song by Albert Domínguez, Frenesi, well known to all who remember Artie Shaw’s swing era hit, Leonard Cohen’s Dance Me To The End of Love, Benny Golson’s Whisper Not and an original written by Mari with Patrick Lockwood, Linda. On this live date at UCLA’s Jan Popper Theatre, Mari’s attractive, fluent vocal sound is supported by saxophonist/flautist Justo Almario, pianist Daniel Szabo, guitarist Angelo Metz, bassist Leo Nobre, and drummer Sandro Feliciano. Good songs attractively sung, this should have wide appeal. Worth noting is Mar’s comment: “Since music healed me I want to return the favor and donate part of the sales from the album to the children cancer research.”

For more on Mark Winkler, Tina Raymond and Mari Nobre, including booking details, contact Mouthpiece Music.

Available from walk-in and on-line retailers including Amazon.

Jazz CD Reviews – early April 2017

April 1, 2017

Cathy Segal-Garcia In2uition (Dash Hoffman DHR 1021)

When a singer chooses to perform songs accompanied only by a single instrument she or he is wide open to the closest examination. Quite simply, there’s no place to hide. Not that there is any need for Cathy Segal-Garcia to conceal her considerable talent on this exceptionally satisfying double album. The songs Cathy has chosen are especially meaningful to her, reflecting as they do relationships both musical and personal. Joined only by a pianist on twelve of the fourteen tracks, Cathy sings with eloquent charm and deep understanding of the lyrics; indeed, on some songs she brings to the surface qualities not always uncovered by other singers. Cathy’s accompanist’s are John Beasley (Ruby, My Dear), Gary Fukushima, (I Want To Be Happy and Sleep in Peace), Jane Getz (Ruby), Bevan Manson (Looking For Bill ), Llew Mathews (America), Dave Moscoe (It Never Entered My Mind and Small Hotel), Josh Nelson (I Love You and Song Of My Heart), Vardan Ovsepian (Something We May Never Know), Otmaro Ruiz (Bonita). On the remaining tracks, The Room and Mary O’Shaunessy, Cathy has with her pianist Karen Hammack and violinist Calabia Foti. Some of these songs are familiar but here sound fresh and engaging while the less well known songs include three of Cathy’s originals and one written with Gary Hoffman. There are also songs by Shelby Flint, Bevan Manson, and Samuel A. Ward and Kathryn Bates. The musical relationships explored here are those between singer and accompanist, although they are best described as collaborators. The importance and value of these collaborations is described by Cathy: “I really love the intimacy of performing as a duo, because it allows you to establish a deep musical dialogue.” This singer’s considerable talent allows her to explore and expose the underlying qualities of songs that reflect individuals lost to her in real life. She does this with grace, never descending into mawkishness. Instead there are many profound and moving moments to cherish. Cathy’s vocal sound is a warm contralto that brings added depths and maturity to performances that are of the highest quality. A wholly admirable set that will be admired by many.

For more information on Cathy Segal-Garcia as well as booking details, go to Mouthpiece Music.

Patrice Williamson+Jon Wheatley Comes Love (Riverlily 003)

Many musicians perform tributes to artists from an earlier generation but it needs talent and understanding to do it well, especially when the dedicatees are iconic figures. Fortunately, Patrice Williamson and Jon Wheatley are aware of the potential pitfalls in venturing into the special world of Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass and have taken considerable and loving care in developing this project. As a youngster, Patrice heard sacred and secular music at home, including records by Ella. While studying classical flute at the University of Tennessee she fell in with the jazz crowd and this brought back her early love for Ella’s singing.comes-love-cover She studied voice at New England Conservatory under jazz singer Dominique Eade, later joining the faculty at Berklee College of Music where her collaborator here, Jon, is also a faculty member. Patrice learned that experiences in her own life mirrored those of Ella who had once remarked: “I’ve had some wonderful love affairs and some that didn’t work out. I don’t want to dwell on that and I don’t want to put people down, but I think of all the fabulous places I’ve been, the wonderful things that have happened to me, the great people I’ve met – that ought to make a story.” Patrice and Jon have certainly made a story, and it is one that they tell through the lyrics of songs that include Comes Love; ’Tis Autumn, which ponders upon the maturing of a relationship; Take Love Easy, a cautionary tale for all who begin a love affair; Lush Life, a richly evocative story of a past affair. However familiar some songs might be, they are vividly re-imagined by Patrice, a fine singer with a creamily attractive voice, and Joe, a fluent guitarist with an unerring sense of swing. Patrice’s voice has a mature aural quality and an air of vibrancy. Added to this is her admirable interpretation of lyrics and the integrity she displays in always delivering a jazz performance. Perhaps Dominique Eade summed up her talent best when she said: “Patrice is a hard-swinging interpreter and a refreshingly accomplished jazz vocal improviser.” This very good album, released on the 100th anniversary of Ella’s birth, will appeal to all who love hearing good songs sung well.

For more information on Patrice Williamson as well as booking details, contact Braithwaite & Katz (Ann@bkmusicpr.com).

Buy now from Amazon.

Jazz CD reviews – February 2017

February 28, 2017

Virginia Schenck Aminata Moseka (Airborne Ecstasy)

On this attractive album, subtitled An Abbey Lincoln Tribute, Atlanta-based singer Virginia Schenck delivers fine interpretations of a dozen songs written by Lincoln in many of which she made clear her strong bonds with the freedom movement in the USA. Here, Virginia (who is usually known as ‘VA’) is joined by a trio of instrumentalists who are also well-established in Atlanta. Clearly, there will be added interest for fans of Lincoln but those who are unfamiliar with her work will find much to admire in the blending of melodic charm with meaningful lyrics. Virginia’s voice has a maturity that suits the material well. It is obvious that the singer understands and endorses the messages contained within the sometimes mystical lyrics.Home_VirginiaSchenck Wholly admirable instrumental contributions from pianist Kevin Bales, bassist Rodney Jordan, and drummer Marlon Patton, who are best described not as accompanists but as collaborators. Virginia makes her own mark on Lincoln’s material as she ranges over a wide stylistic palette. At one extreme is The River, a free form imagining of a traffic-clogged freeway (whereon alto saxophonist Kebbi Williams also plays); at the the other extreme is the splendidly swinging Learning How To Listen (to my ears bearing an occasional resemblance to Benny Carter’s When Lights Are Low). The only non-Lincoln song is Thelonious Monk’s Blue Monk, which is given a very pleasing reading. New to me and perhaps new to many, this is a singer who is very well worth hearing.

For more information on Virginia Schenck (including booking) contact Mouthpiece Music.

Josh Green Telepathy & Bop (indie)

A big band playing original compositions that meld modern jazz with contemporary classical music, Josh Green’s Cyborg Orchestra makes its recording debut with this album. Josh’s composing and arranging career has ranged through film and television, the concert hall and the Broadway stage. His emotionally and intellectually stimulating compositions heard here have been inspired by works of art by René Magritte, La Victoire, which has a subtly Latinesque feel, and Edward Hopper, Soir Bleau: A Rag of Sorts, that hints of a long-gone European atmosphere, and there are musical images of Cuba, Reverie Engine: The Ambiguous Rhumba, and Hungary, through Improvisations & Nebula, where Josh reflects upon György Ligeti, a composer he admires.S02_5x5.125_Sleeve.eps The title work is a three-part suite that links bebop with avant-garde classical music. All of these influences have materialized in Josh’s music since he embraced jazz fully, a decision that was prompted in part by the death of Michael Brecker, one of his musical heroes. The skilled musicians of the Cyborg Orchestra include John Lake (trumpet); Chris Misch-Bloxdorf (trombone); Charles Pillow, Todd Groves, Jay Hassler (saxophones); Nathan Schram, Nick Revel (violas); Clarice Jenson (cello); Michael Verselli (piano); Nathan Kochi (accordion); Sungwon Kim (guitar); Brian Courage (bass); Josh Bailey (drums). Joining the big band on three tracks is the PUBLIQuartet, consisting of Curtis Stewart, Jannina Norpoth (violins), Nick Revel (viola), Amanda Gookin (cello), and Cody Brown (drums). First-rate musicianship throughout, with several good solos, notably from Michael Verselli and all three saxophonists. Altogether, Josh Green’s Cyborg Orchestra is an exciting experience.

Rich Halley & Carson Halley The Wild (Pine Eagle 010)

Constantly developing intriguing musical concepts, Rich Halley and Carson Halley now present a set of ten exploratory themes, all of them instantaneous improvisations. The Halleys, father Rich and son Carson, have played music together for the last two decades, sometimes in quartets but often as a duo and their closely integrated interplay reflects their empathy. Rich plays tenor saxophone, Carson, plays drums, both are imaginative improvisers, their music ranging widely in rhythmic and melodic styles. Among the works heard here are Wild Lands, Flat Plane of The Sky, and The Stroll, and these bring to my mind musical depictions of the natural images of the continent; not the urban sprawl in which most jazz was born and has flourished but the sweeping physical grandeur of the Americas.rich halley On the shortest track, The Old Ways, Rich sets aside his saxophone and plays wood flute while Carson drums solemnly. This time, again to my mind – and admittedly influenced by the title – the haunting sound evocatively captures the spirituality of the people of the First Nations. Altogether this is effective, involving and inspirational music.

For more information on Josh Green’s Cyborg Orchestra and the Rich Halley-Carson Halley Duo (including booking) contact Braithwaite & Katz (Ann@bkmusicpr.com).

All albums available from Amazon.

Jazz CD reviews – late January 2017

January 30, 2017

Beata Pater Fire Dance (B&B Records BB 0421)

An earlier album by Beata Pater, Golden Lady (BB 0419), reviewed here, featured her singing a pleasing selection of well-known yet underused songs with just piano and bass accompaniment. On this new release, she sings a collection of wordless songs, all of them originals by Alex Danson, and for these she is joined by a seven-piece band.beata pater Rhythmically varied, the music touches on eastern Europe, the Middle East and north Africa, all cloaked in American concepts, including contemporary R&B and jazz/funk. Beata’s vocal sound, soft and intimate, draws the listener in and despite the absence of words succeeds in creating a warmly intimate and lyrical air. The nature of the songs heard here showcases Beata’s musical skill, honed though training as a violinist at Warsaw’s Music Academy, and also as a session singer in Japan. The singer’s accompanists here are saxophonists Sam Newsome, Anton Schwartz, Aaron Lington, keyboard player Scott Collard, bassist Aaron Germain, drummer Alan Hall, and percussionist Brian Rice. Adding immeasurably to the texture of these performances, use is made by Beata of multi-tracking, thus creating a highly effective vocal chorale. The absence of lyrics enhances the Beata’s role as a fully integrated member of the ensemble, her voice being used instrumentally. An attractive album that presents yet another aspect of this multi-faceted artist’s work.

Sidney Jacobs First Man (Baby Chubs Records)

After singing in church and touring internationally with the Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers, Sidney Jacobs performed operatic roles and also jazz. Family needs directed him toward a career outside music (he had mastered in Clinical Psychology and Educational Psychology) but music was an ever-present facet of his life. Writing numerous songs in a wide range of genres, Sidney continued to sing, eventually releasing his debut album, Been So Long, in 2013.sidneyjacobs2 On this, his second album, Sidney performs seven of his own songs as well as works by Sacha Distel, The Good Life, Bill Withers, Lonely Town Lonely Street, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, My Favorite Things, James Taylor, Secret O’ Life, and others. Sidney’s accompaniment ranges from single instrument (Secret O’ Life with Josh Nelson, piano), duo (The Good Life with Nelson, piano and Zephyr Avalon, bass) to seven- and eight-piece groups. Collectively, these musical collaborators are Nolan Shaheed, trumpet, Wendell Kelly, trombone, Josh Johnson, alto saxophone, Michael Jarvey, piano & viola, Greg Poree, guitar, Zephyr Avalon, bass, Justin Thomas, vibraphone & marimba, Francesco Canas, violin, and Efa Etoroma Jr, drums, and on three tracks Sidney is also backed by vocalist Cathy Segal-Garcia. A strong, mature and distinctive voice enhances Sidney’s original compositions and his unusual and always interesting variations on familiar songs commands attention.

More information on Beata Pater and Sidney Jacobs (including albums and booking) can be found at Mouthpiece Music.

Nick Fizer Hear & Now (Outside In Music OiM 1701)

On this, his third album, trombonist Nick Fizer displays not only his exceptional instrumental skill but also his ability as a composer. All but one of the tracks are Nick’s compositions, and with them Nick seeks unity at a time of division (the exception is a fine interpretation of Duke Ellington’s Single Petal Of A Rose). Although division and strife knows no boundaries, the USA in particular is today divided despite its origins as a land of hope and freedom.finzer What the composer strives to find are ways in which introspective thought might supersede the shoot-from-the-hip approach so often suffered (sometimes quite literally). Given the album concept and the international mood it might be thought that this would result in gloomy music but that is not so. Yes, there are compositions that depict the dark side of life today but there are also optimistic works, suggesting that come what may there will one day be a time of unity in the world. Among Nick’s works heard here are We The People, Race To The Bottom, New Beginnings, and Love Wins. The other instrumentalists joining Nick are Lucas Pino, tenor saxophone and bass clarinet, Glenn Zaleski, piano, Alex Wintz, guitar, Dave Baron, bass, and Jimmy Macbride, drums.

More information on Nick Fizer, including albums and booking (as well as February and March nationwide tour dates) can be obtained from Braithwaite & Katz: Ann@bkmusicpr.com.

Jazz CD reviews – early January 2017

January 16, 2017

Andrea Claburn Nightshade (own label)

On this, her debut album, Andrea Claburn sings an attractive selection of songs, some her own, others by notable composers mostly from the world of jazz. A trained and skillful musician, as a child Andrea studied piano and violin with the encouragement of her parents (her mother was a classical pianist), going on to study singing, composing and arranging. This culminated in her being awarded the California Jazz Conservatory’s Mark Murphy Vocal Scholarship. Five years later, in August 2015, she returned to the Conservatory to teach vocal technique, performance, and musicianship. Andrea’s sound is rich and warm, which is not only admirably suited to her interpretation of ballads but also brings depth and intensity to up-tempo songs.nightshade Importantly, Andrea’s treatment of the lyrics of the songs she sings shows understanding and empathy. Her own songs, words and music, are Lionheart, My Favorite Flavor, The Fall Of Man, Colors Of Light, and Steal Away. The others are Duke Ellingtons’s Echoes Of Harlem (with Andrea’s lyrics and retitled Infinite Wisdom), Bill Evans and Gene Lees’ Turn Out The Stars, Pat Metheny’s Bird On A Wire (Andrea’s lyrics), Turner Layton and Henry Creamer’s After You’ve Gone, Betty Carter’s I Can’t Help It, Mark Shelby’s Daybreak (Andrea’s lyrics), and Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer’s Skylark. Cushioning Andrea is the core trio of Matt Clark, piano and keyboards, Sam Bevan, bass, and Alan Hall, drums. Guests added on some tracks supplying support and soloing ably are percussionist John Santos, guitarist Terrence Brewer, trombonist Rob Ewing, trumpeter Erik Jekabsen, alto saxophonist Kasey Knudsen, tenor saxophonist Teddy Raven, violinist Mads Tolling, and cellist Joseph Hébert. A wholly admirable debut and it’s good to know that a new generation of singers is in good hands.

Ron Boustead Unlikely Valentine (Art-Rock Music)

Since the early 1980s, singer-songwriter Ron Boustead has been prominent on the Los Angeles jazz and contemporary music scene. An accomplished musician, Ron studied bass, piano and guitar but has concentrated on writing and singing. He has written lyrics to music composed by several jazz luminaries including Freddie Hubbard and Chick Corea. On Unlikely Valentine, Ron is joined by Bill Cunliffe and Mitchel Forman, who share the role of keyboard player (piano, Rhodes and Hammond B3), John Leftwich, bass, Pat Kelley, guitar, and Jake Reed, percussion. Also heard are instrumental guests Ron Stout, flugelhorn, Bob McChesney, trombone, and Bob Sheppard, tenor saxophone and flute (the latter especially notable on Autumn Leaves). Vocally, Ron’s admiration of Mark Murphy is apparent in some of his work, in particular with his improvisational ability, and on some songs he builds his vocals in much the same way as a jazz instrumentalist performs. ron bouOn this album, apart from his own compositions, Ron has brought his lyric-writing skill to music by Pat Kelley, Til Now, Bill Cunliffe, Unlikely Valentine, and Bill Cantos, I Won’t Scat. There are also lesser-known songs by well-known composers: I Love My Wife, by Cy Coleman and Michael Stewart, Love Potion #9, by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Along Came Betty, by Benny Golson and Jon Hendricks. On one song, Til Now, Ron duets with vocalist Fabiana Passoni, whose delicate sound blends admirably with Ron’s edginess in a captivating duet. That toughness of Ron’s vocal sound brings depth and strength to this album and throughout he offers profound interpretations of the lyrics. Undoubtedly, this release places him in the front rank of male jazz singers around today.

For more on Andrea Claburn and Ron Boustead contact Holly Cooper at Mouthpiece Music.

These albums can be found at walk-in and on-line stores, including Amazon.

Jazz Journal’s Record of the Year Poll

Every year, around more than thirty contributors to Jazz Journal are invited to vote for ten favorite albums drawn from the 900+ reviewed in the magazine in the past twelve months, new releases and reissues being drawn upon at will. At the risk of sounding grumpy, I am not convinced that polls such as this are valid. Of course the opinions of the reviewers are interesting and informative and they often open ears to previously unheard artists, but the problem for me lies in the fact that every year there are reissues of outstanding material by the greatest names in jazz, among them albums that are cherished by collectors. How can I not vote for, say, Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five and Seven; or Count Basie and Lester Young’s Classic Sessions; or Charlie Parker’s Savoy Masters? So, as can be seen in the January 2017 issue of Jazz Journal, I have risked incurring Editor Mark Gilbert’s wrath and have chosen not to vote for any of these and other masterpieces that were reissued in 2016. Here, in alphabetical order, is my list for JJ of the year’s top ten albums:

Cyrille Aimée Let’s Get Lost (Mack Avenue 1097)

Harry Allen The Candy Men (Arbord 19450)

Alan Barnes One For Moll (Woodville 144)

Ray Bryant Alone With The Blues (ooooo)

Don Byas New York – Paris (Frémeaux 5622)

Bob Cooper Four Classic Albums (Avid Jazz 1180)

Sinne Eeg Eeg Fonnesbæk (Stunt STUCD 15082)

Thad Jones-Mel Lewis All My Yesterdays: The Debut 1966 Recordings At The Village Vanguard (Resonance 2023)

René Marie Sounds Of Red (Motéma 234231)

Sarah Vaughan Live At Rosy’s (Resonance 2017)

To see which albums attracted the votes of the other reviewers (from which emerged the Record of the Year), you can subscribe to the magazine via their website. The annual subscription for twelve issues including mailing will cost you no more than a cup of coffee a week – a whole lot less in some places – and is far more nourishing.

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