Jazz CD Reviews – May 2014

May 22, 2014

Sharon Marie Cline – This Is Where I Wanna Be – (self-produced)

From her base in Los Angeles, Sharon Marie Cline has been attracting local attention for a little while now, and with this, her third album, she must surely gain widespread approval. Sharon Marie vocal sound is soft, rich, and has a delightful huskiness. Her choice of material is broad, finding music that suits her style from American Song Book classics, Broadway shows, and elegant examples of the music of Brazil. sharon maria clineFrom that lastsource comes Love Dance and Corcovado; there are show tunes Happy Talk and Why Can’t You Behave?; and classic pop songs You Don’t Know What Love Is and How Long Has This Been Going On?. There are also two originals by the session’s keyboard player Rich Eames and Sharon Marie, a latterday pop song, Laughter In The Rain, and a swing era staple, If Dreams Come True. Throughout, the singer’s relaxed rhythmic poise is in evidence, a quality ably underlined by her accompanists who also include bassist Luther Hughes and drummer Jon Stuart. A very attractive set by an exceptionally good singer.


Viper Mad Trio – Buddy Bolden’s Blues – (Sound of New Orleans SONO 1076)

When this CD turned up I had no idea what to expect, and I imagine that I am not alone in that view. It was therefore a great delight to find three young musicians of today taking on material that has been in the jazz repertoire for . . . well, forever. The album title, which is also the opening number, is named for a man who was around a century ago and other tracks hark back to early times: Just Squeeze Me, Bucket’s Got A Hole in It, I’m Confessin’ That I Love You, Viper Mad. Viper-Mad-Trio-Buddy-Boldens-BluesBut these three musicians are not mired in the past, offering I’m Beboppin’ Too as a nod to later days in jazz. But whatever the period of the music’s origins, they have their own distinctive take and tell their stories with verve, spontaneity and wit. So, who are the Viper Mad musicians? Well, they are guitarist/singer Molly Reeves, trumpeter/singer Ryan Robertson and bassist/background singer Kellen Garcia, all of whom appear to have first ventured onto the musical scene in California. Teaming up in New Orleans, they engagingly display their love for the traditional side of jazz but so fresh is their approach that at no time is there a even hint that this is music of a bygone age. Swinging, toe-tapping music that entertains from first note to last.

Kate Ross – People Make The World Go Round (Kim Court Productions KCPKR-01)

It will be no surprise if this very talented lady is little known far outside Columbus, Ohio, but hopefully this, her first album, will change all that. Kate Ross is not new to jazz singing; she has been exercising her undoubted skills for quite some time now, and that experience shows in the maturity of her approach to her material. She has also had to struggle through problems linked to ongoing health problems, and that, too, doubtless adds to that sense of maturity.kateross Kate’s vocal sound is strong, her vibrato contained, and her rhythmic sense in keeping with the mood. Most of the songs Kate’s sings here are originals by either Art Bell or Dave Irwin. The latter is bassist on all tracks and others in Kate’s accompanying band include keyboard player Caleb Hutslar, guitarist Craig McMullen, and drummer Roger Myers. Kate’s interpretations of the songs is good although as always with previously unheard songs it is hard for the listener to judge against an established touchstone. Next time out, it will be good to hear Kate singing some jazz standards and maybe also a handful of classic pop songs. That said, Kate has set her own yardstick against which many other better known singers will have to measure their own work.


Schärli – Moreira – Feigenwinter – Castelo (TCB 32392)

This trio of highly talented instrumentalists bring to contemporary jazz stylistic elements that speak of other genres and musical cultures. Swiss-born Peter Schärli is a very well-established trumpeter, known worldwide for more than three decades for his melodic and always tasteful playing. Joining Peter in his new trio is pianist Hans Feigenwinter, also from Switzerland, who has been a musical collaborator for many years, recently in Peter’s sextet. The third member of the trio is Juarez Moreira, the internationally acclaimed guitarist and composer, who hails from Brazil. scharliAll eight tracks here are originals and all are melodically attractive; five are by Juarez, two by Hans and one by Peter and each offers ample space for the musicians to develop interesting and always engaging improvisations. Additionally, when not soloing the pianist and the guitarist provide sympathetic accompaniment to the others. Altogether, this is a very pleasing example of the best of contemporary European jazz attractively linked to musical thought from another continent. Do try to hear these artists and if you can’t do that live then this CD is your way to do it.

For more information on these artists go to their sites (linked above) or to Jazz Promo Services.

Jazz CDs reviewed – early October 2012

October 6, 2012

Dan Block Duality (Miles High MHR 8620)

A multi-talented jazz musician, Dan Block is in demand as sideman, orchestral player and arranger. On From His World To Mine (Miles High MHR 8612), he presents the music of Duke Ellington, choosing interesting and effective examples from Ellington’s huge contribution to 20th century music. Dan stays away from the familiar and instead plays his own arrangements of pieces many of which are Ellington’s lesser-known works. This CD therefore serves a dual purpose, that of presenting Dan as both soloist and arranger and in making the listener aware of how wide was Ellington’s (and Billy Strayhorn’s) mastery of music. Playing principally clarinet and tenor saxophone, Dan is ably aided by a fine accompanying group: Mike Kanan, James Chirillo, Lee Hudson, Brian Grice, Mark Sherman, Renato Thoms and Pat O’Leary.

On a recent album, Duality (Miles High MHR 8620), Dan takes a bold step in teaming himself with other leading lights of contemporary mainstream jazz in a set of mainly duets. His partners here are pianists Ted Rosenthal, a lovely Long Ago And Far Away, and Rosanno Sportiello, bass player Lee Hudson, guitarists Paul Myers, Saul Rubin and Matt Munisteri, vibraphone player Mark Sherman, taking a new look at Bix Beiderbecke’s In The Dark, and singer Catherine Russell on an unusual and highly effective take on Tadd Dameron’s If You Could See Me Now. There are two trio tracks, on one, the Ellington-Jimmy Blanton classic, Pitter Panther Patter, Dan is joined by fellow reed player Scott Robinson and Ted Rosenthal, on the other by drummer Tim Horner and Lee Hudson. In these duets, Dan plays clarinet, bass clarinet, and tenor and baritone saxophones.

Throughout these two exceptional sets, Dan Block vividly demonstrates his deep understanding of and love for all that has happened in jazz over the decades while remaining completely in touch with the style and taste of today.

Dan Block cover






Graham Dechter Takin’ It There (Capri 74117-2)

For his second album as leader, jazz guitarist Graham Dechter is again joined by his fellow rhythm section collaborators from the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra: pianist Tamir Hendelman, bassist John Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton. Individually, these are all superb musicians and their solo skills are in evidence throughout this outstanding set. Collectively, their experience of playing together at the CHJO rhythm section is vividly apparent. Graham’s choice of music reveals the respect he has for jazz guitarists of an earlier jazz age with selections from the pen or book of Wes Montgomery and Barney Kessell, while other jazzmen so recalled include Lee Morgan and George Coleman. Graham’s musical pedigree is notable: father, a composer, arranger, player in Hollywood; mother, singer; grandfather, music teacher, trombonist (with Stan Kenton). All of this background has been developed so that the guitarist brings to his interpretations a measure of confidence and maturity that far outweighs his years. This is an exceptional album, the ballad selections filled with depth and understanding, the up-tempo pieces overflowing with invention, and throughout these four masterly musicians never fail to swing.

graham dechter cd






Rich Halley 4 Back From Beyond (Pine Eagle 004)

Tenor saxophonist Rich Halley has the rare capacity to take elements from the post-bop jazz mainstream and color them with touches that hint at the exhilaration of early free jazz. Often performing his own compositions, Halley is regularly backed by bassist Clyde Reed and drummer Carson Halley. Their music retains hints of the jazz style of earlier years while never losing the feel of contemporary improvised music. Throughout his recordings, Halley displays imaginative ideas that he executes with considerable flair and polish. On this CD, Halley is teamed with trombonist Michael Vlatkovich, a like-minded colleague with whom he has recorded before. This is a set that is filled with imaginative and powerfully played jazz music that allies sensitivity with drama. The support from Reed and Carson Halley is astute and thoughtful, and they weave fluid, driving solos that are filled with fully realized ideas. This is exceptional music, extremely well played by all four of these fine jazz musicians.

Previous releases by Rich Halley on Pine Eagle Records are Live At The Penofin Jazz Festival (Pine Eagle 001), Children Of The Blue Supermarket (Pine Eagle 002) and Requiem For A Pit Viper (Pine Eagle 003).

Rich Halley CD cover






Stephanie Nakasian Show Me The Way To Get Out Of This World (Capri 74115-2)

More than just a jazz singer, Stephanie Nakasian is also a jazz singing teacher and her knowledge and understanding of the art is apparent in all that she does. On this CD, the latest of a dozen or so she has recorded in the past decade, Nakasian draws her repertoire from a wide range of sources, including the jazz world, classic pop, contemporary pop, and Latin. Deftly playing with time signatures, Nakasian brings unexpected variations on familiar themes, yet never strays far from the melodic magic that has made many of the songs timeless. These songs include Lucky So And So, Zanzibar, Nica’s Dream, So In Love, Ill Wind, You And The Night And The Music, Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most, The End Of A Love Affair and Lonesome Road. On this set, Nakasian’s subtle vocal charm is aided and abetted by Harris Simon, piano, Chris Brydge, bass, and Billy Williams, drums. The pianist is also a jazz music teacher at the College of William and Mary, which is where Nakasian also teaches. Their meeting there led to local gigs from which developed the idea for this wholly admirable album.

Stephanie Nakasian CD cover






Curtis Fuller  Down Home (Capri 74116-2)

During the past few years, jazz trombonist Curtis Fuller has made a small number of outstanding CDs. This late flowering as leader has added to his exceptional cv as a major jazz trombonist whose past accomplishments took him through spells with Art Blakey, John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie and Count Basie. On recording dates, it is not only the playing of Curtis Fuller that is featured, but also his skill as a jazz composer. This new release teams Fuller with his regular band, which is now in its seventh year: trumpeter Al Hood, tenor saxophonist Keith Oxman, pianist Chip Stephens, bassist Ken Walker and drummer Todd Reid. Most of the music here is written and/or arranged by band members and is finely crafted to allow the musicians to display their collective skills as well as their ability to play imaginative, glowing solos. This excellent album will appeal to all who love jazz in the post-bop mainstream. Similarly filled with exceptional music is 2010’s I Will Tell Her (Capri 74100-2), which is also by Curtis Fuller and what he regards as ‘his band of choice’.

Curtis Fuller CD cover






Maria Neckam Unison (Sunnyside SSC 1321)

Among the many jazz singers around today is Austrian-born Maria Neckam. Her crystalline vocal sound brings subtle appeal to a selection of her own songs that owe their intellectual origins to a wide range of sources. Included among the source material is a Rainer Maria Rilke poem, Solitude, and a poem by Persian mystic Hafez, Where Do You Think You Will Be?. Starting out in Vienna, Neckam’s musical education included spells at Amsterdam Conservatory and the Manhattan School of Music in New York. Stylistically, this educational process has taken Neckam through opera and rock, musical theatre and pop, music of the Far East and contemporary improv. Echoes of all these influences can be heard in Neckam’s songs – blending here, contrasting there – to provide a rich and always interesting vocal palette. Neckam’s collaborators on this CD include Aaron Parks, keyboards, Thomas Morgan, bass, and Colin Stranahan, drums, with featured horn players Lars Dietrich, alto saxophone, and Samir Zarif, tenor saxophone. There are also guest appearances by Nir Felder, guitar, Will Vinson, alto saxophone, Kenny Warren, trumpet, Mariel Roberts, cello, and Glenn Zaleski, piano.

Maria Neckam CD cover






Ithamara Koorax Got To Be Real (Irma Records IRM 922 CD)

Although most of Ithamara Koorax’s work cleaves closely to her Brazilian roots, she has a good ear for jazz and from time to time hints of this appear on CDs such as Ithamara Koorax Sings The Luiz Bonfá Songbook (King), Love Dance: The Ballad Collection (Som Livre) and Brazilian Butterfly (Irma). There are many attractions on these CDs and her interpretations of a largely non-jazz repertoire are elegant and eloquent. Ithamara is very much in a jazz mood on Serenade In Blue (Milestone) and Autumn In New York (Huks Music). On the former, she moves confidently towards the jazz genre, which is fully and successfully embraced with the latter where she swings elegantly through an always interesting set of mainly standards, backed by a tight-knit trio. Ithamara Koorax in NY CD coverThese sensitive interpretations of lyrics and inventive improvisations combine to make this a CD deserving of the high praise it has received. With Obrigado: Dom Um Romao (TCB), Ithamara memorably reflects upon a planned European tour on which she was to have worked with Dom Um Romao and the Peter Schärli Trio. Romao’s death intervened and it was decided to go ahead with the tour but that no attempt would be made to replace his remarkable talent. It was during this tour that the music on this CD was recorded by Swiss radio, and the result is some exceptionally fine playing and singing. Peter is an inventive trumpet player with a softly burning tone, and Ithamara’s singing leans slightly towards the mainstream that she embraced so well on Autumn In New York.

Ithamara and Peter are reunited for a delightful selection of songs on O Grande Amor (TCB), a 2010 session of mainly Brazilian songs intriguingly colored with subtle jazz improvisations from the trio that underline and uplift the singer’s effortless styling, the fiery core of Peter’s trumpet playing contrasting vividly with Ithamara’s glowing vocal sound. Ithamara Koorax CD coverOn 2012’s Got To Be Real (Irma), Ithamara is once again centered on Brazilian music, but with a repertoire that includes a few standards albeit colored with subtle overtones drawn from her musical heritage. In whatever mood, Ithamara Koorax is a singer to savor.



Reviews of some of these CDs are among the hundreds appearing in Jazz Journal, a monthly magazine that also features articles about international jazz musicians past and present.

You can learn more about any of these albums at the artist’s or the record company’s website.

If you want to buy them, go to Amazon.


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