Jazz CD Reviews – early July 2017

July 7, 2017

Kellye Gray Rendering (& Standards In Gray) (Grr8 0010)

Twenty-five years ago, Kellye Gray recorded her debut album, Standards In Gray, which proved to be very successful. Recently, she decided to re-record some of the same songs. These appear on Rendering, and an especially attractive aspect of this new release is that the earlier, long unavailable album is included in the package. That first album was recorded over three days, the new set is one concert-style take performed in the studio before a small invited audience. kellye newThe songs Kellye sings on both albums are Don’t Explain, How Long Has This Been Going On?, How Insensitive, and Good Morning, Heartache. There are subtle differences that reflect her artistic growth and this adds to the listening pleasure. Not that the first album is in any way less than excellent; here, Kellye sings the songs with understanding and her vocal command is apparent throughout. On the new set, Kellye’s voice remains rich and full while her interpretations mirror her maturity. Among other songs heard on the new set are I’ve Got A Right To Sing The Blues and two originals by Kellye, Out Blows Me and God You Make Me Wonder. Texas-born and mainly based, Kellye has a soulful vocal sound that is especially suited to the songs that have blues and gospel echoes. Supplying very good support on Standards In Gray are pianist Dave Catney, guitarist Dwight Stills, bassist Tom Anastacio,kellye old 2 drummer Sebastian Whittaker, and saxophonist Warren Sneed. Playing piano on Rendering are Pamela York, while David Craig is on bass, Andre Hayward on trombone, and both Sebastian and Warren return. Altogether, this pairing of albums is imaginative and hugely entertaining.

 

Hyeseon Hong Jazz Orchestra Ee-Ya-Gi (Stories) (Mama MAA 1053)

For the past several years, Hyeseon Hong has led a rehearsal band in New York City, a group that largely showcases her own compositions. These works draw upon the cultural heritage of Hyeseon’s homeland, South Korea, but are presented in the musical form of her new world. Titles for individual pieces include Harvest Dance: Story Of Thanksgiving, Para Mi Amigo Distante: Story Of Long Lost Friends, Boat Song: Story Of My Heritage, and Trash Digging Queen: Story Of Nica The Dog. The 17-piece ensemble directed by Hyeseon plays with bite and assurance, the melodic strains – lyrical, plaintive, lively – are underpinned by rhythms from Asia and the Americas. Among many solos (all of which are identified in the liner) are Ingrid Jensen’s fluid, warm trumpet on Harvest Dance and Love Song: Story Of First Love, Rich Perry’s compelling tenor saxophone on Boat Song, and Broc Hempel’s reflective piano on Disappearing Into Foam: Story Of Girlhood. The occasional vocal contributions, by E.J. Park and Subin Park, are mostly wordless and add to the album’s tonal palette.hyeseonhongjo.jpg Musically, this a blend of contemporary big band music and intriguingly unusual south-east Asian concepts. The full personnel of the band heard here is: Augie Haas, Ingrid Jensen, Jason Wiseman, Colin Brigstocke (trumpets); Ron Wilkens, Daniel Linden, Ric Becker, Becca Patterson (trombones); Ben Kono, Matt Vashlishan, Rich Perry, Jeremy Powell, Andrew Hadro (reeds); Broc Hempel (piano); Matt Panayides (guitar); John Lenis (bass); Mark Ferber (drums); E.J. Park, Subin Park (vocals). This should have wide appeal among fans of today’s jazz.

For more on these artists, including booking details, contact Mouthpiece Music.

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Jazz CD Reviews – early June 2017

June 16, 2017

Calabria Foti In The Still Of The Night (MoCo Records 23-002)

Although this is Calabria Foti’s third album, I have not heard her before now. My loss. Musically impeccable, Calabria presents a selection of Cole Porter songs, delivering the romantic and witty lyrics with thorough understanding. She is joined here by pianist Michael Patterson, who also arranged the music, Bob McChesney, trombone, Eddie Daniels, clarinet, Gene Bertoncini, guitar, Richard Locker, cello, Ike Sturm, bass, and Jared Schonig, drums. Calabria’s vocal sound is quite lovely, rich and warm and beguilingly intimate. Calabria’s musicianship is demonstrated through her session work as a violinist backing several leading artists, including Barbra Streisand and Paul McCartney, and in 2014, the single, Let’s Fall In Love, recorded with Seth MacFarlane, received a Grammy nomination. calabriaHighly regarded by fellow musicians – instrumentalists and singers – on this new album Calabria sings eleven of Porter’s songs, all of them familiar but here appearing freshly minted. The songs are: Just One Of Those Things; Miss Otis Regrets; Anything Goes; What Is This Thing Called Love?; Night And Day; I Concentrate On You; Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye; Get Out Of Town; It’s Alright With Me; So In Love; In The Still Of The Night. The sophisticated love stories told in these songs can be soulfully romantic or lithely swinging and are all wholly engaging. Calabria’s previous two albums are A Lovely Way To Spend An Evening and When A Woman Loves A Man. In childhood, it was Calabria’s intention to become an orchestral violinist and while she has accomplished this we are fortunate indeed that she widened her plans and has proved to be a fine singer. Not only are Calabria’s singing and playing exceptional, she also writes, composes and teaches. For more about Calabria Foti, including booking details, go to Mouthpiece Music.

Due for release on 17 July 2017, In The Still Of The Night will be available at Amazon, iTunes, and CalabriaFoti.com

 

Laura Campisi Double Mirror (independent)

Now resident in New York City, Laura Campisi was born in Palermo, Sicily, which is where she first sang professionally. Not long after arriving in America, Laura began absorbing into her music the rich cultural essence of her new surroundings while never losing her native origins. All of this is reflected here through repertoire and performance. There are seven of Laura’s own songs here as well as songs by Björk, Jeff Buckley, Miles Davis (with Laura adding lyrics to his Nardis), the Gershwins, Cole Porter, and Lou Reed. The singer’s interest in diverse musical traditions is apparent through her interpretations. Unusually and effectively, Laura chooses not to have a pianist among her instrumental collaborators, relying instead on bass and drums, with an added horn on some tracks. The core duo on some tracks is American: Ameen Saleem, acoustic bass and Greg Hutchinson, drums; on others Italian: Gianluca Renzi, electric bass and Flavio Li Vigni, drums. Appearing on one track each are Vincent Herring, alto saxophone on Al Risveglio; Giovanni Falzone, trumpet on Luckier; Jonathan Scales, steel pan on Ironman; Zach Brock, violin on Love For Sale; and Martin Pantyrer, baritone saxophone on Here Where I Stand. The overall effect has a minimalistic air that helps bring the lyrics and the stories they tell into sharp focus. Some of the music played and sung leans toward contemplation on love lost and found and there are also songs that reflects the role of the artist in the wider world. These qualities are revealed in the album’s title as explained by Laura: “Everyone needs a mirror to look into, to recognize themselves, to see their flaws and good qualities as they really are. The double mirror is the search for balance. campisiIt is the acknowledgment that my heart is divided between my art and real life, between Europe and America. The double mirror reflects my dual nature, strong and weak, determined and lazy, passionate and afraid.” Laura’s lightly youthful vocal sound is very pleasing, yet there is also an underlying maturity in her understanding of the lyrics she interprets. On Chorus Angelorum (Choir Of Angels) she intriguingly creates a shimmering effect by singing against a gong. Although her linguistic skills are not fully on display here, Laura sings not only in Italian (including Sicilian and Neapolitan dialects) and English, but also in Spanish, Portuguese and French. She can also sing in Punjabi, an ability that has come through her musical collaboration with New York’s Pakistani cultural community. Laura’s work on Double Mirror started in New York in 2012, but was then shelved until 2016 when she returned to it in collaboration with Argentine composer and producer Emilio D. Miler, further tracks being recorded in Buenos Aires. A very interesting singer whose work will have international appeal.

For more about Laura Campisi, including booking details, go to Mouthpiece Music.

 

Jocelyn Medina Common Ground (Running Tree RTR 102)

Also now a resident of New York City, Jocelyn Medina conceived this album a few years ago but was then fortuitously diverted for several months. Those months were spent studying in India where she also taught and performed. This experience prompted Jocelyn to resume work on the album, but now dressing the songs already written in forms that reflected the music of India. All nine songs are Jocelyn’s compositions and lyrics and she also prepared the arrangements. Among the songs are Meant To Be and Simple, both based on Hindustani raga, and Two But Not Two, lyrically inspired by the Madhyamaka Buddhist concept of non-duality – sometimes called the dance of reality.Common_Ground_cover On this song, Jocelyn is joined by Hindustani singer Achyut Joshi. Some of what is heard here might be described as world music, an admittedly imprecise term. Coming closer to western jazz music in form is Sink Or Swim, the lyrics of which explore the east coast disasters left in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Jocelyn is accompanied by the rhythm section of pianist Art Hirahara, guitarist Pete McCann, bassist Evan Gregor, and drummer Mark Ferber. Joining the group on several tracks are Hadar Noiberg, flute, Steve Gorn, bansuri flute, Robert Levin, percussion and tabla player Samir Chatterjee, who encouraged Jocelyn to adapt her music to accommodate what she had absorbed during her trip to India. Jocelyn’s vocal sound is soft, her diction clear and she is always melodically pleasing.

For more about Jocelyn Medina, including booking details, go to Mouthpiece Music.

All albums are available at 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 – 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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