Monday, August 30, 2010

Esperanza's Chamber Music & a Marsalis Celebration - Bob

Centuries ago, chamber music was the music for the masses -- the music in which people from nearly every segment of society could find meaning and relevance. A decade into the 21st century, Esperanza Spalding -- the bassist, vocalist and composer who first appeared on the jazz scene in 2008 -- takes a contemporary approach to this once universal form of entertainment with "Chamber Music Society." Backed by drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and pianist Leo Genovese, Esperanza creates a modern chamber music group that combines the spontaneity and intrigue of improvisation with sweet and angular string trio arrangements. The result is a sound that weaves the innovative elements of jazz, folk and world music into the enduring foundations of classical music.

The 2011 NEA Jazz Masters Marsalis Family gathered together last June at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., for a very special evening of celebration, appreciation, and performance as patriarch Ellis Marsalis received the Duke Ellington Jazz Festival's Lifetime Achievement Award. The concert featured performances from sons Branford on sax, Wynton on trumpet, Delfeayo on trombone, Jason on drums, poet Ellis III, and special guest, family friend Harry Connick Jr. The release of "Music Redeems" coincides with the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and proceeds from sales of the disc will benefit educational programming at the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music, the heart of the New Orleans Habitat Musicians' Village.

Also out with new music: Freddy Cole celebrates the life and music of his friend and mentor, Billy Eckstine, with "Freddy Cole Sings Mr. B"; contemporary jazz keyboardist Tom Grant unveils his latest, "Delicioso"; and composer and bandleader Chie Imaizumi's "A Time of New Beginnings" features an all-star band including Randy Brecker, Jeff Hamilton, John Clayton, Gary Smulyan, and Terell Stafford.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Reed Legends Unite - Bob

First meeting in the clubs of Los Angeles' Central Avenue in the early 1960s, and following separate but superlative careers, tenor legends Hadley Caliman and Pete Christlieb reunited in the fall of 2009 to perform a couple of concerts and record a new studio CD -- "Reunion" -- taking up where they left off some forty years ago. With original music by pianist Bill Anschell and the two headliners along with a couple of standards, the band creates a warm and swinging recording, a great document of two longtime friends and icons of American music.

Another legend of the saxophone, James Moody, follows up his "Moody 4A" release of last year with "Moody 4B", recorded in 2008 a day after the previous disc. As Ira Gitler writes in his liner notes, "While these sessions were not recorded before a live audience, the essence of Moody and the quartet (pianist Kenny Barron, bassist Todd Coolman and drummer Lewis Nash) comes through with elan and spirit. Again there are numerous pearls from the Great American Songbook as well as gems from the Great American Jazz Standards Library."

Meanwhile, saxophonist Matt Garrison unveils his first disc as a leader, "Familiar Places", featuring trumpet great Claudio Roditi and guitarist Mark Whitfield; guitarist Tomas Janzon is joined by jazz greats Tootie Heath and Art Hillery on his third release, "Experiences"; and Eastern Iowa pianist and composer Tim Daugherty and his quartet offer up a program of original tunes inspired by the aftermath of the Iowa Floods of 2008 on "River of Promise."

Monday, August 16, 2010

Saxes Are Wild - Bob

Jimmy Amadie was a hot jazz pianist in the 1950s, playing for such notables as Mel Torme and Woody Herman. His career was seemingly on the fast track until 1960, when an extreme form of tendonitis in his hands derailed his playing career for decades. After several surgeries and plenty of physical therapy, the former boxer from North Philly made his recording debut shortly before his sixtieth birthday in 1997. On his new disc, "Kindred Spirits", Amadie and his trio are joined by a trio of reedmen whom the pianist has always wanted to work with, Lee Konitz, Lew Tabackin, and Joe Lovano.

Ralph Alessi is among the most active innovators in New York City's downtown progressive jazz scene. Jazz Times magazine has noted that Alessi has "drop-dead trumpet chops" and calls his music " sophisticated and disciplined as post-modern progressive jazz gets." He's collaborated with Steve Coleman, Don Byron, Jason Moran, Fred Hersch and others over the years. "Cognitive Dissonance" is Alessi's sixth CD of originals. He's joined by drummer Nasheet Waits and bassist Drew Gress, with Moran and Andy Milne sharing keyboard duties.

Other new releases: saxophonist Ken Fowser and vibraphonist Behn Gillece unveil a program composed entirely of original compositions on their second release, "Little Echo"; reedman Kelly Jefferson unveils his third release, leading a quartet on "Next Exit"; and Japanese saxophonist Takao Iwaki, a student of George Garzone, debuts with Introducing "Takao Iwaki."

Monday, August 9, 2010

New Music - Bob

A San Francisco prodigy known for fire and fluidity in his deep-groove guitar work, Barry Finnerty was one of the top players on the New York jazz scene from the '70s through the '90s. His brilliant playing with the Crusaders, Miles Davis and the Brecker Brothers put him on the international map. In the late-'90s, he returned to the Bay Area to compose, perform and teach, writing a lot of music and two volumes of his acclaimed practice books. A versatile artist who describes his guitar style as a mix of George Benson and Jeff Beck, his prime influences, Finnerty digs into a wide range of moods and grooves on his first studio recording in a decade, "Blues for Trane."

Amina Figarova, a native of Azerbaijan who's now based in Holland, is a terrific player and one of the freshest composers and arrangers of her generation. A fine balance of her detailed scores and the personalized expressivity of her sextet make "Sketches" perhaps the best-realized of Amina's dozen releases since 1994. It is music rooted in the progressive mainstream styles of post-beboppers like Miles Davis, Horace Silver and Herbie Hancock, as updated for the current generation by modernists such as orchestra leader Maria Schneider, whom Amina especially admires.

Also this week, the Israeli-born pianist Tamir Hendelman, who moved to L.A. when he was 12 and has worked with James Moody, Benny Golson, Quincy Jones and others, releases his second trio release as leader, "Destinations"; singer Janis Mann, a native New Yorker now a favorite on the Los Angeles jazz scene, offers up her sixth disc, "Blow Away"; and saxophonist and composer Dave Anderson emerges from the fertile Seattle jazz scene with his debut CD, "Clarity."

Monday, August 2, 2010

New Music from Washburne, Bonafede - Bob

Chris Washburne has been called "one of the best trombonists in New York" by the New York Times, and was voted as a "Rising Star of the Trombone" in the Downbeat Critic's Polls of 2008 and 2009. He's performed with numerous jazz and Latin groups, including Tito Puente, Anthony Braxton and the Duke Ellington Orchestra. His own group, SYOTOS, was founded 20 years ago and has become what TimeOUT New York calls a "Latin Jazz institution. They've held the longest-running Latin jazz gig in the City's history, playing every week for 19 years. Members include alumni from the Puente, Eddie Palmieri, and Gato Barbieri bands. Their new recording -- "Fields of Moons" -- features the quieter side of the band, a collection of lilting lullabies, evocative ballads, and alluring songs of love.

After many releases ranging from trio to larger bands, featuring several jazz notables-from Joe Lovano and John Abercrombie to Lester Bowie and Enrico Rava-renowned Italian pianist and composer Salvatore Bonafede gets back to his roots with his newest trio CD, "Sicilian Opening." Joined by fellow Sicilians Marcello Pellitteri on drums and Marco Panascia on bass, the trio takes Mediterranean melodies dipped into the bittersweet colors of their home island and opens them up to a worldwide jazz audience.

Also releasing new music: violinist Christian Howes is joined by veteran jazz/blues/rock guitarist Robben Ford on "Out of the Blue"; Vancouver-based saxophonist Cory Weeds has B3 whiz Joey DeFranceso and drummer Byron Landham along for the ride on "The Many Deeds of Cory Weeds"; and the Indianapolis-based big band of trumpeter Mark Buselli and trombonist Brent Wallarab offers up its latest disc, "Mezzanine."