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. 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. 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. 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 ([email protected]).
All albums available from Amazon.