Monday, December 27, 2010

Flavors of the British Isles - Bob Stewart

Norma Winstone was long considered Britain's most distinctive jazz singer when, in 2007, she was honored as a Member of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth. She began her recording career in 1977 with the group Azimuth, and has appeared on discs by Kenny Wheeler and Eberhard Weber. Since the mid-'80s, she has been a recording artist in her own right. From the beginning of her life in jazz, Winstone has wanted to be part of the ensemble, rather than a frontwoman. She uses her voice "instrumentally" to interweave improvised lines with her partners and to participate in the blossoming harmony. "Stories Yet to Tell" is the newest release from her British-German-Italian trio.

The brainchild of Nova Scotia-based trumpeter Paul Tynan and baritone saxophonist Aaron Lington from the San Francisco Bay area, the Bicoastal Collective is a select grouping of musicians from across the U.S. and Canada. "Chapter Two" finds the ensemble in a quintet setting exploring improvised music inspired by the British Isles. England's eastern coast folk melodies and their treatment in composer Ralph Vaughn Williams' early 20th-century works, are adapted by Lington into a suite, and Tynan adds three compositions inspired by his own Irish roots.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Art of Guitar - Bob Stewart

Longtime Los Angeles-based guitarist Doug MacDonald is a native Philadelphian who was raised in Hawaii. As a sideman on both coasts and some stops elsewhere, his live performances are in the hundreds, including those with Stan Getz, George Shearing, Joe Williams, Sarah Vaughan, and Buddy Rich, among many others. Scott Yanow of Jazz Times describes MacDonald as,"...a fine bop-based guitarist in the tradition of Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel, and Joe Pass." His new release -- "It's a Blue World" -- takes him back to his roots leading a guitar trio.

Mix the styles of Pat Metheny, Mike Stern, and Stevie Ray Vaughan and you have the recipe for one of the hottest up and coming contemporary jazz guitarists around. B.D. Lenz has worked with Randy Brecker, Mark Egan, Will Lee and others on his previous six discs, and his music has been featured on over one hundred television shows globally. "Five & Live" is his newest release and features his regular cast of virtuoso band mates from a series of live recording dates.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

High School Musicians Rub Shoulders with Pros - Dennis

Amidst homework, final exams and holiday concerts at area high schools, the halls are also buzzing with the sound of jazz. Students at ten Corridor-area high schools are in final preparation stages to put their best musical foot forward as they record with a professional jazz educator for the Corridor Jazz Project.

The bands from Cedar Rapids Prairie and Washington recorded their submissions last week for The Corridor Jazz Project 2011. Linn Mar also has their tune "in the can." Other schools participating are West, City High and Regina in Iowa City; as well as Marion, Cedar Rapids Kennedy, Xavier and Jefferson.

The Corridor Jazz Project is a collaboration between Jazz 88.3 and the school districts of Iowa City, Cedar Rapids and Marion. Each school's jazz band is matched with a professional player and jazz educator, who rehearses and performs with the band as a guest soloist. Their song is recorded and all the tunes are put on a compilation CD. Schools can then sell the CD as a fund raiser.

This is the fourth year of the program, which the Iowa Bandmasters Association has called "the crown jewel" of jazz education in Iowa.

All ten bands will celebrate the release of the Corridor Jazz Project CD on April 5, 2011 with a concert at The Concert Hall at Prairie High School. The Corridor Jazz Project concert is also the only school music event that involves all ten public and parochial schools in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and Marion.

Watch the Prairie Jazz Band's recording session:

See photos from each school's recording session on KCCK's Facebook Page.

More information at

Monday, December 13, 2010

Vocals Past and Present - Bob Stewart

Lizz Wright spent her previous three releases defying categorization-contemporary jazz stylist? Neo-soul/neo-folk/Americana artist? None or all of the above? So it's no surprise that "Fellowship" would introduce yet another wrinkle into the mix: gospel. As the daughter of a Georgia pastor, Wright listened to and sang nothing but religious fare before fate and/or the Lord led her to Atlanta's jazz community in her college years. On this new release, Wright emphasizes a healthy stretch of the rousing gospel standards she grew up singing in the church, but borrows other selections from the decidedly secular catalogs of Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Gladys Knight.

Meanwhile, "Second Chance" is the final unreleased recording featuring jazz vocal legend Irene Krall and the Alan Broadbent Trio, recorded live at the Times Restaurant in Studio City, California. Christopher Loudon of Jazz Times calls her voice, "as pure and exquisite as Lalique crystal," and Scott Yanow of the All Music Guide describes her as, "a superb ballad singer who always put both plenty of emotion and subtlety into her often haunting interpretations." This collection comes from the apex in her development, the summer of 1975, and shows her at work in top form.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Loeb Joins Fourplay - Bob

After 20 years and a dozen CDs, in an industry that has undergone sweeping transformations in the past decade, Fourplay knows that the only thing that's certain, in music or any other business, is change. The latest proof of that axiom is the new face in their lineup-that of guitarist Chuck Loeb, who makes his compelling debut with the quartet on the band's new recording, "Let's Touch the Sky." Loeb completes the four-man crew that also includes the band's founding members: keyboardist Bob James, bassist Nathan East and drummer Harvey Mason.

Another new jazz release: Jelly Roll Morton opined that jazz is not a set repertoire but rather an attitude that can be applied to any piece of music. The UCF Jazz Ensemble, comprised of freshmen, sophomores, and a few juniors in the emerging Jazz Studies program at the University of Central Florida, recorded seven pieces with this attitude in mind. The resulting collaboration -- "Jazz Town" -- includes not only classics but also new works written specifically for the Ensemble.

Also new: Brazilian pianist Helio Alves offers up his fifth release as a leader, "Musica", with his trio and special guests Claudio Roditi and Romero Lubambo; saxophonist Michael Zsoldos debuts with "Off the Cuff", recorded live in the spirit of an old-school blowing session featuring standards and original work; and Dana Lauren, a semi-finalist at the 2010 Thelonious Monk Vocal Jazz Competition, is joined by saxophonist Joel Frahm and pianist Manuel Valera on "It's You or No One."