Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Gospel According to Grace - Bob Stewart

With hundreds of performances worldwide, a shelf full of music awards, and praise from jazz legends like Phil Woods, Lee Konitz and Dave Brubeck, 18-year-old Grace Kelly has firmly established herself as a star on the rise in the jazz world. Her new release "Grace" marks a new direction for the accomplished saxophonist into the genre of gospel jazz.

The journey to make a spiritually driven disc began with a performance at a convention of 2,000 ministers from all over the world in 2010. It turned out to be such a great and uplifting experience for Kelly that she contacted gospel pianist and luminary George Russell, Jr., to be her main collaborator on a new record.

While mostly duets between Kelly and Russell, it also features cameos from celebrated percussionist Jamey Haddad and classical guitarist Peter Clemente.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Corea/Bollani, Pedicin Release New Music - Bob Stewart

Over the years, Chick Corea has been a pioneer in two-piano performance, partnering with Herbie Hancock, Gonzalo Rubalcaba and others in acclaimed concerts and recordings. "Orvieto" is the first release by the exciting duo of Corea and Stefano Bollani, a live set drawn from New Year performances at the Umbria Jazz Winter Festival. Chick and Stefano have been giving such concerts, mostly in the context of Italian festivals, for more than two years now. Bollani points out he has been listening to Corea's music since he was 11-years-old, taking what he could "from his style, his phrasing and his incredible rhythm." Corea, from his side, has been monitoring Bollani's playing for a few years, and has mentioned Stefano as a pianist who inspired him.

During a prolific career that spans more than four decades, tenor saxophonist Michael Pedicin has toured with such jazz greats as Maynard Ferguson, Dave Brubeck, Stanley Clarke and Pat Martino. He's recorded ten albums under his own name since 1980 and considers his tenth one -- "Ballads...Searching for Peace" -- to be his crowning achievement. The disc was inspired, in part, by Pedicin's main musical hero, John Coltrane. "From the time Trane did that "Ballads" album, I've always wanted to do a ballads album when I felt ready to do it."

Monday, December 12, 2011

New Gadd/DeFrancesco Project; New Budway Release - Bob Stewart

The name Cinque will be unfamiliar, but its membership includes some genuine musical legends. Joey DeFrancesco is considered by many to be the greatest exponent of B3 organ playing in jazz, while Steve Gadd has long been the first call drummer for Chick Corea, Al DiMeola, David Sanborn and others. Bassist Peter Cardinali's lengthy resume includes the likes of Oscar Peterson, the Brecker Brothers and Toots Thielmans. Cinque was Cardinali's brainchild. Also the head of Alma Records, he explains "I really wanted to start a jazz-funk band, and only with the top players. It was just a matter of assembling this musical dream team and giving them free rein." The bulk of the compositions on "Catch a Corner" were written collectively in the studio and recorded on the spot.

David Budway is one of the most versatile pianists on the New York music scene today and an award-winning composer. After a fifteen-year teaching career at Duquesne University in his hometown of Pittsburgh, he moved to New York to pursue his dream playing with some of the greats of jazz. Since then, he's been the pianist for groups led by jazz luminaries such as Stanley Turrentine, Clark Terry, Dizzy Gillespie and Joe Pass. On his new CD -- "A New Kiss" -- Budway is joined by a top-notch rhythm section consisting of bassist Eric Revis and drummer Jeff 'Tain' Watts. Special guests include saxophonists Branford Marsalis and Marcus Strickland and guitarist Ron Affif.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Jazz Masters Person & Rava - Bob Stewart

As a title, "So Nice" might imply a sleepy and quite possibly uninspired session calculated to avoid challenges. That notion is quickly dispelled by the sprightly and imaginative solo Houston Person takes on "Blues Everywhere" that kicks off this collection. Person, of course, is a master of understated elegance, a balladeer of the highest order. But he's equally capable of playing tough, soulful tenor with virile vigor. True to form, Person shows both his sides and delivers a program that alternates between creamy-smooth ballads and bluesier offerings with significant bite. With the amazing Warren Vache on cornet and Mark Patterson on trombone, the little big band sound here is stellar.

Since his return to ECM Records in 2003, Enrico Rava, grand master of Italian jazz, has made a number of recordings exceptional by any standards, with groups both national and international. "Tribe" belongs to the former category. The trumpeter is playing at a peak of lyrical invention, and his newest quintet is his strongest yet. Voted Rising Star Trombonist in the Downbeat Critics Poll of a few years back, Gianluca Petrella has a front-line relationship with Rava which recalls Enrico's affinity with Roswell Rudd back in the heyday of the New Thing. Rava has always encouraged younger musicians, and pianist Giovanni Guidi and bassist Gabriele Evangelista are young players of much promise. Drummer Fabrizio Sferra's resume includes work with Chet Baker, Paul Bley and Kenny Wheeler.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Jazzy Noel - Bob Stewart

Despite its time-honored traditions and universally familiar iconography, Christmas remains a holiday celebrated by each family and even each individual in their own personal style. Pianist/composer Geri Allen offers up her own interpretation with "A Child is Born" -- a new collection of traditional and original Christmas music that is profound and exuberant, spiritual and intimate. She refers to the disc as "a joyous Christmas celebration and remembrance of a childhood where love was always unconditional."

"Celebrating Christmas", preeminent pianist Marcus Roberts' majestic new disc brings an astounding level of artistry and insight to fifteen beloved holiday classics. Roberts is joined by Rodney Jordan on bass and his longtime drummer Jason Marsalis, together forming an exuberant trio that weaves familiar holiday melodies into the layered rhythms, tones and textures of traditional jazz, bebop and other touchstones of the genre.

From Grammy Award winner Harry Connick, Jr. comes a new instrumental holiday classic -- "Music From the Happy Elf" -- a companion disc to Connick's first picture book for children and the fourth edition of the ongoing "Connick on Piano" series; renowned contemporary jazz guitarist Chris Standring and singer/songwriter Kathrin Shorr celebrate the season with ten witty, charming and easy grooving originals on "Send Me Some Snow"; and Doug Munro and La Pompe Attack offer up a Gypsy swing holiday with "A Very Gypsy Christmas."

Monday, November 21, 2011

Etta's Swan Song, Murray's Cuban Ensemble - Bob Stewart

For over a half a century, Etta James has been a musical force and a major hit-maker, earning numerous accolades including six Grammy Awards, among them the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award, a Best Jazz Vocal Performance and two Hall of Fame Awards. She has crossed all musical genres and styles and has been cited as a major influence by a wide range of singers from Janis Joplin to Irma Thomas. Her new CD -- "The Dreamer" -- not only marks her first album in five years but it also will be her final studio recording before she retires. As Etta remarks, "I wish to thank all my fans who have shown me love and support over all these years. I love you all."

Over the course of four decades, composer and bandleader David Murray has created a body of work remarkable for its magnitude, importance, and breadth. He's been a part of more than 150 albums, been honored with a Grammy Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship, and co-founded iconic bands such as the World Saxophone Quartet. His newest project -- "David Murray Cuban Ensemble Plays Nat King Cole en Espanol" -- is based on two recordings, from 1958 and 1962, which found Cole singing melodies from Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Brazil and Argentina accompanied by ensembles of Cuban and Mexican musicians. To play his new arrangements, Murray assembled some of the best Cuban musicians to form his 10-piece ensemble. The result, jazz journalist Gary Giddens proclaims, "is one of Murray's most purely pleasurable albums...a sensational tour de force and high spot in his massive discography."

Monday, November 14, 2011

B-3 Bombers - Bob Stewart

Long before he became a world renowned jazz virtuoso, guitarist Pat Martino was a sideman in small combos that prominently featured the Hammond B-3 organ. He's never lost his affection for that particular group dynamic, nor his quiet flair for moving back and forth between the roles of supporting player and compelling soloist. On his new CD -- "Undeniable" -- recorded live at Blues Alley in Washington D.C. with an all-star band, Martino sounds perfectly content enhancing the rhythm section's soulful thrust while, at the same time, his post-bop, minor mode improvising is sleek and precise, and his use of sliding octaves colorfully underscore his stylistic ties to guitar great Wes Montgomery. Eric Alexander shines on tenor sax with Jeff "Tain" Watts propelling the band with his usual drive and Tony Monaco keeping the B-3 pedals to the metal.

Speaking of the B-3, Joey DeFrancesco remains the most comprehensive of jazz organ talent with the full spectrum of orchestral sounds and registrations at his finger tips and unparalleled musical sensibilities. Year after year, Joey D brings new life to jazz organ, a genre he almost single-handedly re-defined and brought into the new millennium. He has won the Down Beat Magazine Critics and Readers Polls as the top jazz organist every year since 2003. DeFrancesco's new release -- "40" -- finds him celebrating a milestone in his life and career as he turns 40-years-old. His original compositions and cover tunes here run the gamut from jaw-dropping virtuosity to funky R&B and tender ballads.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Guitars and a Tentet - Bob Stewart

"The sound of the West Coast Jazz that enjoyed great popularity in the 1950s...has been kept alive by several groups through the years. One of the preferred formats was the mid-sized group or small big band that was typified by Shorty Rogers and his Giants, the Marty Paich Dek-tette and the Dave Pell Octet. One keeper of the flame for this style of jazz is the Phil Norman Tentet. Their sixth album -- "Encore" -- is chock full of terrific music performed by some of the elite of the Los Angeles jazz scene (Carl Saunders, Scott Whitfield, Larry Koonse, Christian Jacob). The songs are first rate, the arrangements are sublime, and the blowing will knock your socks off." - Jersey Jazz-

At the ripe old age of 30, Israeli native Yotam is being quickly recognized as a leading new voice of jazz guitar. Since being selected as a semi-finalist in the 2005 Thelonius Monk International Jazz Guitar Competition, he's performed with jazz greats Benny Golson, James Moody, Curtis Fuller, Jimmy Heath and Frank Wess, to name just a few. On his new CD -- "Brasil" -- Yotam is joined by three of Brazil's brightest stars, legendary guitarist Toninho Horta, pianist David Feldman, and percussionist Vanderlei Pereira, interpreting some of that country's greatest composers, including Tom Jobim, Edu Lobo, and Chico Buarque. Yotam is also joined by special guests Roy Hargrove, Paquito D'Rivera and Cladio Roditi.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Pilc Trio, Afro Bop Alliance Return - Bob Stewart

Since their explosive touring days as the Jean-Michel Pilc Trio, Pilc, Francois Moutin and Ari Hoenig have grown considerably in stature both as leaders and sidemen. Pilc moved to New York City in 1994, continuing his steady rise as a major pianist on the European and Canadian circuits while also gaining a reputation in the U.S. as one of the most exciting and unpredictable pianist/composers in jazz. Bassist Moutin has since applied his lush tone, astonishing virtuosity and intelligent musicality in a host of settings, most notably as co-leader of the Moutin Reunion Quartet, a group which has successfully toured Europe and the United States to much acclaim in recent years. The skilled and iconoclastic drummer Hoenig, self-defined as a 'punk-jazz artist', has made several discs as a leader in the ensuing years, and is often in the press for his intense musical antics. "Threedom" is their first new recording together since 2003.

"Listening to the exquisite playing and arranging of the Afro Bop Alliance is always an experience. The mix they've achieved is so balanced you never feel the music is too Latin to be jazz, or too jazzy to be Latin." So says Paquito D'Rivera about the 2008 Latin Grammy Award winners for Latin Jazz Album of the Year. The all-star fueled Afro Bop Alliance returns for another powerful recording of dynamic new compositions. "Una Mas" features special guests Dave Samuels on vibes and percussionist Roberto Quintero.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Detroit and Minneapolis Represented - Bob Stewart

One of jazz's most acclaimed, distinctive improvisers, virtuoso saxophonist James Carter, returns to a favored format and simpatico colleagues with "At the Crossroads" -- his third release showcasing his long-standing Organ Trio. Enjoying consistently inspired play with fellow Motor City stars organist Gerard Gibbs and drummer Leonard King, Jr., Carter gets down in his inimitable way on a program boasting rollicking swingers, moving ballads, a gospel standard, and plenty of blues-drenched items. Special guests, also from Detroit, include vocalist Miche Braden, trumpeter Kenyon Harrold, trombonist Vincent Chandler and guitarist Brandon Ross.

Minneapolis-based pianist and composer Mary Louis Knutson has been called "one of the most exciting and innovative artists to happen to jazz in quite some time." Her warm, inviting tone, broad range of emotional expression, and distinctive compositions have brought her much recognition on the national music scene, performing with jazz greats like Dizzy Gillespie, Ernie Watts and Peter Erskine. Knutson's new CD -- "In the Bubble" -- showcases her tasteful playing and arranging as well her gift for composition. Twin Cities rhythm icons, bassist Gordon Johnson and drummer Phil Hey, are among Knutson's bandmates for this release.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Freddy's New One, Jordan's Friends - Bob Stewart

The songs sung by 2011 Grammy-nominee Freddy Cole speak of love and life in a voice that is as comforting as it is familiar. His is a well-seasoned sound which, while bearing a strong familial resemblance to his late brother Nat King Cole, is unmistakably all his own. It's steeped in the earthiness of the blues, yet possesses a silky sound as suave as the debonair man himself. On "Talk to Me" Freddy explores an interesting program of music by the R&B great Bill Withers, a sprinkling of standards and one tune composed by his son. Trumpeter Terell Stafford and saxophonist Harry Allen are special guests of Freddy and his quartet.

A release that its creator Stanley Jordan cites as his most realized project to date finds him in challenging company: fellow guitarists Charlie Hunter, Russell Malone, Bucky Pizzarelli and Mike Stern; saxmen Kenny Garrett and Ronnie Laws; N'awlins trumpeter Nicholas Payton and the renowned violinist Regina Carter. Christian McBride guests on bass when not handled by Stanley's long-time trio bassist Charnett Moffett. Truly, it's a collection of "Friends" whose benefits push Jordan into a heightened musical reality.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Remembering Bill Bell - George

It was about this time of year in 1994 that we lost Bill Bell. The KCCK personality was stricken during a meeting at the station and died a short time later at Mercy Medical Center at the age of 61. Bill had come to KCCK in 1984 and became known for his unique personality and short commentaries that he delivered during his jazz show. Before coming to Iowa, he had worked at top radio stations in San Francisco and Los Angeles and ran a recording studio in LA.

Click here for a full obituary.

Following his death, we ran a feature about Bill on our Local Color program. You can listen to that feature at www.kcck.org.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Guitar Man Benson; Keyboardist LeDonne - Bob Stewart

In a career that spans five decades, more than 30 recordings as a leader and 10 Grammy Awards, NEA Jazz Master George Benson has used his jazz roots as the foundation for an engaging mix of pop, R&B and other shades that add up to a style that appeals to a broad mainstream audience. Along the way, he has also established himself as a formidable jazz singer. But his new CD -- "Guitar Man" -- highlights Benson's unparalleled guitar playing, perhaps more than any other disc he's released in decades. The 12-song collection includes a mix of jazz and pop standards-some in a combo setting and some solo-and features veteran players Joe Sample on keyboards and Harvey Mason on drums.

Keyboardist Mike LeDonne has held court at the historic Smoke Jazz Club in New York City for probably more years than he cares to admit. But his new CD -- "Keep the Faith" -- finds him and his Hammond B-3 in the controlled atmosphere of the recording studio with his regular band mates Peter Bernstein on guitar and Joe Farnsworth on drums featuring Eric Alexander on tenor sax. LeDonne and company romp, stomp and burn through an imaginative set of pieces by Charles Earland, Michael Jackson and Horace Silver, along with a handful of originals which display LeDonne's considerable skills as a composer.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Poncho Salutes Chano & Diz, Haynes Has New Release - Bob Stewart

For more than three decades as both a leader and a sideman, conguero Pancho Sanchez has stirred up a fiery stew of jazz, gritty soul music, and infectious melodies and rhythms from a variety of Latin American and South American sources. Among the more prominent figures that inform his music are two of the primary architects of Latin jazz-conga drummer and composer Chano Pozo and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. Sanchez pays tribute to these two titans on "Chano y Dizzy!" -- his 25th recording as a leader. Joining Sanchez is multi-Grammy winning trumpeter Terence Blanchard, a New Orleans native who literally grew up amid the Cuban and Latin jazz scene and a longtime fan of the music's multicultural underpinnings.

The phrase "living legend" has been applied many times over many years. Few figures in American music today are more deserving of this appellation than drummer and bandleader Roy Haynes. Often cited among the greatest jazz drummers of all time, the 86-year-old's history of collaborations spans six decades and include those with Bud Powell, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane and Miles Davis. For his new CD -- "Roy-alty" -- Haynes is at the helm of his exciting Fountain of Youth band plus very special guests Chick Corea and Roy Hargrove.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Guitarists Extraordinaire - Bob Stewart

A bona fide guitar hero and masterful improviser, John Scofield has covered a wide spectrum of musical styles with rare authority over the last four decades. From funk and fusion to swinging standards, rock-fueled jams, lush orchestral collaborations, earthy blues and old-time gospel music, Scofield has imbued each style with his distinctive six-string voice, earning accolades for his triumphs along the way. On "A Moment's Peace", Scofield and his all-star crew of keyboardist Larry Goldings, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Brian Blade luxuriate in ballads associated with such legendary interpreters as Billie Holiday, Abbey Lincoln, Nina Simone and John Coltrane, plus five new originals by the guitar great.

Meanwhile, Bill Frisell, whom the Wall Street Journal calls "the most innovative and influential guitarist of the last 25 years," focuses his new CD -- "All We Are Saying..." -- on the music of John Lennon. "John's music has been with me, the band, everybody, the world...seems like forever," explains Frisell. "The songs are part of us. In our blood. There was nothing we really needed to do to prepare for this. We've been preparing our whole lives. The songs were there. All we had to do was play them. Everyone involved with this has their own personal, deep, long relationship to John Lennon's music. It connects us all and brings us together. I feel blessed having the chance to play this music with these people."

Monday, September 19, 2011

Humphries Faith; Marsalis, Clapton & the Blues Bob Stewart

Drummer Roger Humphries has been on the jazz scene since 1962 when he joined Stanley Turrentine and Shirley Scott in Pittsburgh, then joined Horace Silver's quintet two years later and appeared on three of the pianist's classic recordings. Since then, he has provided the rhythmic beat for such greats as Ray Charles, Herbie Mann, Phil Woods, James Moody and Lee Morgan. "Keep the Faith" is the title of his brand new CD, just the third session on which he's been the leader. Humphries is in a classic jazz quintet setting with his regular group R.H. Factor, along with special guests including trumpeter Sean Jones.

New York City's premiere jazz venue got the blues last April when Wynton Marsalis and Eric Clapton performed together in Rose Hall for two sold-out shows dedicated to vintage blues. The extraordinary collaboration, billed as "Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton Play the Blues", paired these musical virtuosos with members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra as they brought to life a repertoire of songs selected by Clapton and arranged by Marsalis. The group combined the sound of an early blues jump-band with the sound of New Orleans jazz to accommodate the integration of the guitar/trumpet lead, a combination that gave the musicians the latitude to play different grooves, from the Delta to the Caribbean and beyond.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The American and Puerto Rican Songbooks - Bob Stewart

A collaboration that has spanned 18 years, the Tierney Sutton Band has garnered considerable critical praise throughout the world. The acclaimed vocalist is joined by instrumental virtuosi Christian Jacob, Trey Henry, Kevin Axt and Ray Brinker to form a partnership in musical unity. Together they have received three consecutive Grammy nominations, and received numerous nominations from the Jazz Journalists Association. With eight successful discs under their belt, they present their newest release -- "American Road" -- on which they devote themselves to reinventing the American songbook.

Many of the most cherished standards in jazz were born as popular songs which have served as a source of inspiration for jazz artists. They still do. Now, with "Alma Adentro: the Puerto Rican Songbook", saxophonist, composer and arranger Miguel Zenon brings that jazz tradition home-his homeland of Puerto Rico. The disc is comprised of ten pieces from a quintet of Puerto Rican songwriters, orchestrated by Argentine pianist, composer and arranger Guillermo Klein, and featuring Zenon's regular quartet augmented by a 10-piece wind ensemble. "This was not just about melodies and harmonies," says Zenon. "There was a deeper, more emotional connection here. I grew up with these songs and they all had a very special and lasting effect on me."

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Remembering 9/11 - George

When the news broke of the the first plane crashing into one of the World Trade Center towers in New York Sept. 11, 2001, we at KCCK were just finishing up our 6-9 a.m. news and entertainment block.

Because it was apparent that big news was happening, we did twice-an-our updates on the situation throughout the rest of the day. Late that afternnon, we did an extended summary of the day's events from a world, national, state and local perspective. News Director George Dorman produced and anchored with interviews and reports by news producers Paulette Cott and Deb Williams and Station Manager Dennis Green. Gordon Paulsen was at the audio board in Master Control.

Our report was awarded First Place among Large Market Stations for Spot News Coverage for 2001 by the Iowa Broadcast News Association in the IBNA's annual news contest. Click here to listen to the report..

Monday, September 5, 2011

New World Flavors from Roditi and Figueroa - Bob Stewart

The work of trumpeter Claudio Roditi has inspired such accolades as "one of the very best performers in jazz" from the All Music Guide, earned praise from the Los Angeles Time for his "intelligence and music focus," and led the Chicago Reader to comment that Roditi has "a New York grasp of swing, the Brazilian gift for graceful and pungent lyricism, and an innate sense of how best to combine them in any given piece." In addition to leading his own band on 20 or so albums, he's worked in the bands of McCoy Tyner, Herbie Mann, Paquito D'Rivera, and others. For his new disc -- "Bons Amigos" -- Roditi and his quintet focus on a program of songs from his homeland of Brazil.

It's not every day that a distinguished sideman becomes a successful leader in his own right. But that hasn't stopped legendary percussionist Sammy Figueroa from becoming one of the most exciting artists in Latin jazz today. After many years of playing with jazz masters like Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis, Figueroa formed his own band, the Latin Jazz Explosion. On the heels of two Grammy-nominated discs, he and his band unveil "Urban Nature" -- recorded in Miami and reflecting the rich scene of Venezuelans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and other cultures that are currently percolating there, creating a whole new sound for Latin jazz.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Carter's Big Band, Vuckovich/Hamilton Project - Bob Stewart

Throughout his illustrious career, the legendary Ron Carter has played it all-jumping in headlong as an integral member of Miles Davis' classic '60s quintet, anchoring the groove for almost every CTI Records session in the '70s, then launching into multifarious new projects, including his cello-infused, chamber jazz nonet and his piano-guitar-bass trio. But in his lifelong calling to find the right notes, Carter had never recorded a big-band album. So, the time was ripe for the 73-year-old maestro of the upright bass to break new ground. The result is the delightful and swinging disc -- "Ron Carter's Great Big Band" -- set into motion by esteemed arranger Bob Freedman and featuring an all-star cast of supporting musicians.

The New York Times says, "Larry Vuckovich is a fleet-fingered bebopper who can also play sultry, big-chorded blues." Nat Hentoff of Downbeat describes saxophonist Scott Hamilton as, "...one of those improvisers whose music defines swing." The two are partnered on Vuckovich's new offering -- "Somethin' Special" -- which honors the masters who inspired Vuckovich when he first began playing jazz. The recording grew out of a Northern California tour Vuckovich helped arrange for Hamilton and also features the pianist's hard-swinging East Coast rhythm team along with legendary West Coast tenor player Noel Jewkes.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Giacomo's Ode to Gil, Cedar's New Project - Bob Stewart

Gil Scott-Heron, who died in May, was an American poet, musician, and author known primarily for his work as a spoken word performer. He made music that reflected the turbulence, uncertainty and increasing pessimism of the early '70s, merging soul and jazz and drawing on an oral poetry tradition that reached back to the blues and forward to hip-hop. Giacomo Gates is an extraordinary vocal stylist, often credited as a contemporary Eddie Jefferson with a full-bodied baritone and blazing inventiveness. As bracing an innovator as he is an interpreter, Gates delivers the satirical and insightful lyrics of this true American original on "The Revolution Will Be Jazz: the Songs of Gil Scott-Heron."

NEA Jazz Master Cedar Walton has enjoyed an up-tempo career, which never seems to slow down. Maintaining a non-stop itinerary, Walton has accompanied a litany of jazz greats while also fronting his own successful groups since 1966. As a pianist, Walton doesn't rely on pet licks or pyrotechnical display, although he has an excellent technique. Rather he invents all the time, and makes his always imaginative work fit into the context of whatever he's playing. As a composer, Cedar is one of the finest in jazz whose works have been widely recorded with many now being recognized as jazz standards. For his latest CD -- The Bouncer -- Walton returns to his favored quintet format with poll-winning trombonist Steve Turre adding his luxurious, velvet tone to Vincent Herring's saxophone sound.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mingus and Wonder Re-Imagined - Bob Stewart

Gerald Veasley, the former bassist for Grover Washington, Jr. and the Joe Zawinul Syndicate, has released eight discs as a leader featuring original jazz, funk, and soul-tinged compositions. For his brand new CD -- "Gerald Veasley's Electric Mingus Project" -- he has re-imagined the works of acclaimed jazz composer and fellow bassist Charles Mingus. "We reacted to what was essential about Charles Mingus's music," explains Veasley. "We never had an impulse to update or improve it, but instead tried to capture the feeling, which to me is adventurous, surprising and passionate." The disc revisits seven Mingus compositions using modern electronic instruments as well as three narrations based on Mingus' own words and two original compositions from Veasley himself.

Chicago's dynamic Deep Blue Organ Trio returns with their fourth disc, this time bringing their singular approach and sound to the music of Stevie Wonder. Influenced deeply and early on by Wonder's compositions, artistry and cultural impact, guitarist Bobby Broom, organist Chris Foreman, and drummer Greg Rockingham bring reverence and musical honesty to their interpretations of nine Wonder gems on "Wonderful!"

Monday, August 8, 2011

Latin Flavors of Valentin and Monasterios - Bob Stewart

Dave Valentin enjoys a fine reputation as a composer, arranger, and band leader in addition to being the most celebrated Latin flutist today. After studying with the great Hubert Laws, the multi-Grammy nominee developed the unusual techniques that feature slapping the keys of his instrument so it sounds like a percussion instrument, and singing into the flute while playing, generating harmonies from a single flute. These techniques, and more, are all on display on his new CD -- "Pure Imagination"-- that features a half-dozen tunes written by his long-time friend and colleague, pianist Bill O'Connell.

Among the most talented and resourceful figures in the exciting Miami Latin jazz scene, Venezuelan pianist Silvano Monasterios leads the way as a top-rated figure. Both as a performer and composer, he is among the most gifted today, and his piano playing and compositions have appeared on recordings by artists including Dave Liebman, Donald Byrd, Paquito D'Rivera, Randy Brecker and Dee Dee Bridgewater. With his new quintet, Silvano has recorded eight new and imaginative compositions for the CD "Unconditional." It showcases an artist with a complete understanding of his complex Venezuelan roots, who understands the Austro-Germanic-European compositional heritage, and who is steeped in the great American jazz tradition.

Monday, August 1, 2011

New Records from Rudd and Redd - Bob Stewart

Legendary trombonist Roswell Rudd has reached yet another milestone in his celebrated and remarkably varied career, his 75th birthday. Through the years, Rudd has shown an affinity for music and musicians from all over the world with a love for collaboration. He's played with luminaries Cecil Taylor, Archie Shepp and Steve Lacy. He's recorded with musicians from Mali, Mongolia, and Latin masters from Puerto Rico. His new recording -- "The Incredible Honk" -- is a collection of some of his recent adventures working alongside a number of ensembles, including Cajun legends Michael Doucet & Beausileil, Malian griots, and his own quartet.

Chuck Redd began his career as a young drummer with a well-earned reputation for his ability to swing with passion, making him a favorite of veteran jazzmen like Dizzy Gillespie, Tommy Flanagan, Ray Brown and Monty Alexander. He took up the vibes after a teacher played him a Modern Jazz Quartet record and he heard the sound of master vibesman Milt Jackson, instilling in him a desire to extend his abilities to that instrument. He had a long tenure with Charlie Byrd and the Great Guitars, a half-decade with Mel Torme and, more recently, work with Bucky Pizzarelli and Ken Peplowski. He's also made a name as the leader of his own groups, and for his brand new CD -- "The Common Thread" -- he's joined by jazz legends Bob Cranshaw, Mickey Roker, and Houston Person.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Headhunters and 'Bones - Bob Stewart

For many years, Jay Ashby and Steve Davis sat side by side in both the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band and Slide Hampton's World of Trombones, and no matter where they were, the two were constantly mistaken for one another. Chalk it up to an uncanny physical resemblance or their common roots in upstate New York, their shared musical influences, the fact that they both play large horns, or a combination of all these factors. Whatever the reason, it happens frequently enough to have inspired the title of their new CD, "Mistaken Identity." Very few two-trombone recordings have surfaced since the great J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding recordings of the 1960s. This new disc pays homage to these jazz masters while simultaneously taking a fresh look at the possibilities for two-trombone arrangements and repertoire.

"This album is a true fusion of jazz, salsa, New Orleans, hip hop, rap, African rhythm and its classical forms. This is the most fun we've had making a Headhunter CD and we're excited to see how people react to our new album, Platinum." So say percussionists Bill Summers and Mike Clark of the Headhunters, the legendary jazz-funk fusion band founded in 1973 by Herbie Hancock. The band went on to produce more seminal records on their own and has been acclaimed for its musical pioneering and innovative concepts. The new release also features saxophonist Donald Harrison and bassist Richie Goods, with guests including Patrice Rushen, George Clinton and original Headhunter Bennie Maupin.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Woods/Mays Duo; Monty's Milestone - Bob Stewart

Grammy-winner and multiple nominee Phil Woods is one of the top alto saxophonists alive, and he has lost neither his enthusiasm nor his creativity throughout his illustrious career. He's worked with a who's who of the jazz world, including Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie and Quincy Jones. Pianist Bill Mays has his own long-standing trio, plus he's worked with such artists as Gerry Mulligan, Sonny Stitt, and Art Pepper. After Mays joined Woods' Quintet a few years back, talk began of doing a duo recording. They came together last September to record "Phil & Bill", which includes a handful of off-the-beaten-path standards and a couple of Woods originals.

In a career spanning five decades, pianist Monty Alexander has distinctively bridged the worlds of jazz, popular song, and the music of his native Jamaica. With over 70 albums to his name, Alexander celebrates his 50th year in music with "Harlem-Kingston Express: Live." It presents his most "reggaefied" touring group yet which, for the past few years, has defined a bold new chapter in Alexander's lifetime journey of uniting jazz with reggae and a wide array of other Island musical idioms he holds dear. A majority of the disc was recorded live during the group's triumphant week at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola in New York City in June of last year, which the Wall Street Journal called, "an outrageously good time."

Monday, July 11, 2011

Clayton's Latest; An H2 Debut; Rapson's New Project - Bob Stewart

A 2010 Downbeat Magazine Critic's Poll Rising Star, pianist and composer Gerald Clayton has been steadily honing his craft since high school. With the release of his Grammy-nominated debut CD in 2009, Clayton began to make his mark as a leader in the jazz community. His dynamic sound has been praised by publications such as Jazz Times, the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times. His second disc as a leader -- "Bond: The Paris Sessions" -- features his trio mates Joe Sanders on bass and Justin Brown on drums, providing him with the vehicle to explore and expand on his own vision of the music.

"You're It" is the debut release from the H2 Big Band out of Denver, Colorado, a collaboration of trumpeter Al Hood and pianist/composer/arranger Dave Hanson. It features world-class soloists and players from the Mile High City and beyond, including veterans from the bands of Maynard Ferguson, Buddy Rich, Woody Herman, Artie Shaw and Toshiko Akiyoshi. Trumpet legend Bobby Shew is also in the spotlight, playing on all the tracks as either soloist, lead player, or section trumpeter. Hanson offers up a program of originals and his unique arrangements of tunes by Miles Davis, Clifford Brown and Cy Coleman.

John Rapson, Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Iowa, has unveiled his latest project -- "Mystery and Manners: the Improvisations of Vinicius and Nene" -- featuring Brent Sandy, Chris Merz and Drew Morton.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Wilson Salutes Chicago, New Snidero CD - Bob Stewart

Gerald Wilson, the reigning composer/orchestrator in jazz today, pays homage to his adopted hometown of Chicago on his new CD-- "Legacy" -- featuring his "Yes Chicago Is..." suite. Composers Igor Stravinsky and Giacomo Puccini also receive Wilson's musical tips of the hat. Wilson's son, guitarist Anthony Wilson, and grandson Eric Otis are also represented by a composition/arrangement apiece. Wilson's orchestra comprises many of the great jazz artists who have been his collaborators over the last four years, including Renee Rosnes, Lewis Nash, Sean Jones, Jeremy Pelt, Dick Oatts, Gary Smulyan, and Peter Washington.

Described as being "soulful, swinging and yet utterly modern," New York-based alto saxophonist Jim Snidero's music seems to encapsulate what is both unique and compelling about jazz. Called an "alto sax virtuoso" and "master musician" by Downbeat magazine, Snidero is a veteran recording artist with sixteen releases to date. He's also been a valuable sideman in the bands of Jack McDuff, Eddie Palmieri, and the Mingus Big Band over the years. Snidero exercises his composing chops on "Interface" -- penning all the tunes on the program and drawing an astonishing array of colors from the sax-guitar-bass-drums quartet combination.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Solo Metheny, Brecker's Venture - Bob Stewart

Following his Grammy-winning 2001 solo acoustic record, Pat Metheny began regularly playing the specially tuned baritone guitar he used on that album in the breaks between sound check and the show when he was on the road. "Almost every day as I worked through one well-know tune or another, various visitors or local crew people would come up to me and ask which record it was on, and I would have to say that I had never made a record like that," Metheny says. "And over the years, I have had it in the back of my mind that I should do an album of some of those tunes at some point." The guitarist has done just that with "What's It All About" -- marking the first time there is not a single Metheny composition represented. He focuses on music from the Beatles, Paul Simon, Jobim, Burt Bacharach, Henry Mancini and others.

Tom Harrell can write music of such melodic grace and melodic beauty that it can bring tears to one's eyes. Even his complex, up-tempo pieces retain singable ideas and attractive harmonies that are challenging without sounding pedantic. On his new CD -- "The Time of the Sun" -- Harrell and his quintet once again reaffirm their place at the top of the post-bop mainstream. Of course, Harrell's often beautiful, always rigorous solos are to the fore but Wayne Escoffery's tenor certainly plays no second fiddle here. Whether it be on ballads or driving pieces, the group's expositions, interactions and song development are exuberant and extensive, devoid of gimmicks, and are delivered in an energetic yet disciplined and sophisticated manner.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Exploring the Music of Cuba - Bob Stewart

Vibraphonist Stefon Harris, saxophonist David Sanchez and trumpeter Christian Scott bridge the cultural and musical divide between the United States and Cuba with their brand new collaboration, "Ninety Miles." Recorded entirely in Havana, with the help of some highly talented Cuban players, the nine-song set is an experiment that examines the fascinating chemical reaction that takes places when musicians from different cultures come together and converse in a common language that transcends mere words.

When two of the most acclaimed modern explorers of Cuban music combine their prodigious talents on the music they love, musical magic happens. That is demonstrated in truly enchanting fashion on "Cuban Rhapsody" -- the duet recording by Hilario Duran and Jane Bunnett. They are both virtuoso players, arrangers, composers and bandleaders in their own right, and both are famed for their innovative take on contemporary Latin jazz and Cuban styles. The disc is best described as an exploration of Cuban classical music, and the results are both educational and accessible.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Burton Revives Quartet; Hubbard Live & Unreleased - Bob Stewart

Well known throughout his five-decade career for his quartets, beginning with his 1967 group featuring Larry Coryell, Roy Haynes and Steve Swallow, Gary Burton has returned to that configuration for the first time since the mid-'90s with the new disc, "Common Ground." The Grammy-winning pioneer of the four mallet technique of playing the vibes is not only delivering his first studio release in six years but is also introducing his latest band. "I've always liked the vibraphone-guitar sound," says Burton. "It's something that I discovered when Nashville country guitarist Hank Garland invited me in the '60s to record with him. The sound of the two instruments together has an ideal timbre and coolness." The young guitarist Julian Lage rejoins Burton's ensemble along with drummer Antonio Sanchez and bassist Scott Colley.

Though the world is poorer now that Freddie Hubbard is gone, it gets richer as previously unheard documentation of his art emerges for the public to savor on "Pinnacle: Live and Unreleased From Keystone Korner." Recorded at the famed jazz club in San Francisco in 1980, Hubbard's explosive and lyrical virtuosity as well as his flow of brilliant, spontaneous ideas are on full display. His band of West Coast all-stars includes pianist Billy Childs, drummer Eddie Marshall, saxophonist Hadley Caliman and trombonist Phil Ranelin.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Return to Forever Unplugged; Two Elianes - Bob Stewart

Pianist Chick Corea, bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Lenny White have done more in recent decades to redefine jazz-rock fusion and push the limits of its potential than any other musicians today. Together they formed the core of the classic lineup of Return to Forever, the legendary seminal electric jazz fusion band. After reclaiming the jazz-rock world in 2008 with the triumphant return of RTF, the trio decided to revisit where it all began, to get back to basics of their relationship. "Forever" is the name of the trio's new two-disc set, featuring a sampler of their unplugged 2009 world tour and a gig they did to kick off that tour at the Hollywood Bowl featuring special guests violinist Jean-Luc Ponty and original RTF guitarist Bill Connors.

Since the mid-1980s, pianist and singer Eliane Elias has grafted various elements of jazz, pop, soul and other elements to her deep Brazilian roots to create a hybrid groove that appeals to listeners of every geographical locale and cultural persuasion. Her new disc -- "Light My Fire" -- wields this universal sound to explore the various corners of the human heart-from romance and passion to the shared joy of being alive. In addition to four Elias originals, there are covers of familiar works by songwriters as diverse as Jim Morrison, Stevie Wonder and Paul Desmond. Backing her up is a crew of twelve high-caliber players including trumpeter Randy Brecker, bassist Marc Johnson, and guitarists Romero Lubambo, Oscar Castro-Neves and Gilberto Gil.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Flecktones Redux; Goens Debuts - Bob Stewart

Groundbreaking banjoist/composer/bandleader Bela Fleck has reconvened the original members of his band The Flecktones for a brand new disc -- "Rocket Science" -- marking the first recording by the initial line-up of the group in almost two decades. Pianist and harmonica player Howard Levy is back in the fold alongside Fleck, bassist Victor Wooten and percussionist Futureman. All manner of genres come into play, from jazz and classical to bluegrass and African music to electric blues and Eastern European folk dances, for a sound that Fleck has coined "blu-bop."

Following his Grammy-nominated 2009 debut, virtuoso guitarist Julian Lage returns with "Gladwell" -- the second effort by his offbeat, eclectic group. "We began playing with the idea of creating a story we could use as a guiding light in our writing process," Lage explains. "The result was the development of an imaginary and forgotten town known as Gladwell. As a metaphor, Gladwell presented us with a clear architecture, to compose songs that evoke feelings of people and places we hold dear." The disc reflects the Lage's wide-ranging musical interests, ranging from chamber music, American folk and bluegrass to Latin, world, and modern jazz.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

KCCK Relatives Remembered

With the arrival of Memorial Day 2011, some KCCK staffers' relatives, who are no longer with us, are being remembered for their service during war-time.

George Dorman's father, Jack Dorman, was in the U.S. Army for nearly four years during World War II. Most of that time was spent in northern Africa, where he was a crytopgrapher, encoding and decoding secret messages.

Bob Stewart's dad, Allan, served in the Army in Panama during WWII.

Craig Kessler's father, Donald F. Kessler, was a bombardier in the 15th Air Force in WWII (Italy, Germany).

And, student producer Tim Johnston's uncle, Lucien Levesque, was a paratrooper in the Korean conflict.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mouzon Finishes Long-Term Project; Alexander Doesn't Follow the Crowd - Bob Stewart

In his colorful and wide-ranging career, Alphonse Mouzon has long been considered one of the most skilled and versatile drummers in the music business. He was a member of the original versions of Weather Report and Larry Coryell's Eleventh House, and worked with Gil Evans, McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis and Jean-Luc Ponty. He's led a couple dozen of his own recording sessions ranging from funk to fusion, smooth to straight ahead. Yet it is doubtful that he's ever spent as much time on a project as on "Angel Face", which took him 11 years to complete. Mouzon wrote and arranged all of the songs and gathered together a summit of musical giants including Cedar Walton, Kenny Barron, Christian McBride, Bob Mintzer, Arturo Sandoval and Wallace Roney.

Eric Alexander is the rarest type of jazz artist: one who garners critical acclaim from every corner while firmly establishing his own voice within the illustrious bop-based jazz tradition. He has trained and toughed it out with some of the best musicians in the business, and is a player possessing both accessibility without condescension and intelligence without alienation. For his latest CD -- "Don't Follow the Crowd" -- Alexander was once again in Rudy Van Gelder's studio with his long-time collaborators Harold Mabern, Joe Farnsworth and Nat Reeves for a program of originals, standards and not-so-standards delivered with the prerequisite imagination and daring that has earned him a place among the elite jazzmen of today.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Grusin Live; Matta/Ben-Hur Pairing - Bob Stewart

If you've spent any time at all in a movie theater or in front of a TV set during prime time over the past four decades, chances are good you've encountered Dave Grusin along the way. In addition to a formidable body of work as a jazz recording artist, the pianist, composer, arranger, and winner of 10 Grammys and an Oscar has scored some of the most entertaining and enduring films and TV series of the past half-century. Grusin steps out from behind the various machinations of film and television work to take center stage on "An Evening with Dave Grusin" -- a live recording that captures him conducting and performing with a host of stars and backed by a 75-piece orchestra. The list of guests includes Gary Burton, Patti Austin and Nestor Torres.

Uniting their mutual love for both jazz and Brazilian music, two acclaimed stylists, guitarist Ron Ben-Hur and bassist Nilson Matta, have found common ground on "Mojave" -- their first recorded collaboration. With expert support from drummer Victor Lewis and Brazilian percussionist Café, Ben-Hur and Matta have conjured up a project that blends original tunes from all four players with compositions from some Brazilian masters. The pair are virtuosos thoroughly entrenched in the bebop idiom, yet both men are just as obviously in thrall to the rhythms and sophisticated melodic and harmonic shapes of classic Brazilian music.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Redman Debuts New Band, Parlato Returns - Bob Stewart

"James Farm" is a collaborative band featuring saxophonist Joshua Redman, bassist Matt Penman, drummer Eric Harland and keyboardist Aaron Parks. The band uses traditional acoustic jazz quartet instrumentation for its song-based approach to jazz and incorporates the members' myriad influences: rock, soul, folk, classical and electronica, among many others. The quartet has received critical acclaim since its debut at the 2009 Montreal Jazz Festival, where they played to rave reviews. Although this is the first time the quartet members have performed and recorded together in this exact configuration, Redman, Harland and Penmen have performed together in the past as part of the SF Jazz Collective.

Gretchen Parlato's 2009 breakthrough CD signaled the arrival of one of this generation's most inventive modern jazz singers. The recording garnered international acclaim, being voted onto year-end, "best-of" polls for Jazz Times, the Boston Globe, the Village Voice and NPR among others. Now with the release of her follow-up -- "The Lost and Found" -- Parlato demonstrates that she has staying power. It exposes a broad dynamic range in the young singer's repertoire, which features her original compositions paired alongside interpretations of material ranging from that of Simply Red and Mary J. Blige to Wayne Shorter and Miles Davis.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Jazz Under The Stars 2011 Schedule Released! - Dennis

The 2011 edition of the Corridor’s longest-running jazz series will include one of the most talked-about young jazz performers in the country, the legendary Blue Band, and more in four exciting August concerts.

For the 24th consecutive year, we're proud to present Jazz Under The Stars in Cedar Rapids Noelridge Park.

Here's the lineup:
•August 4 – Ariel Pocock
•August 11 – Funk Daddies
•August 18 – Dennis McPartland and The Jazz Underground
•August 27 – Bob Dorr and The Blue Band

Here's a little bit more about each artist:

August 4 – Ariel Pocock (presented in cooperation with West Music)
Ariel Pocock is just graduating from her suburban Seattle high school, but she has already garnered more awards and acclaim than many musicians twice her age. While still in middle school, she won the Lionel Hamption International Jazz Festival Young Performers Award. As a sophomore she won BOTH the Outstanding Piano and Outstanding Vocal awards at the Essentially Ellington Festival at Lincoln Center. She currently divides her time between her home in Washington State and studying jazz piano with the legendary Shelly Berg at the University of Miami.

August 11 – Funk Daddies
Funk Daddies is a five-piece band consisting of some of the Corridor’s best-known musicians, playing the music of Tower of Power, Earth Wind & Fire, and all the great Motown artists. The lineup includes names familiar to any Iowa music fan: Ken Duncan, Drums; Billy Davis, Saxophones; Craig Erickson, Guitar; Denny Ketelsen, Keyboards; Ken Fullard, Bass.

August 18 – Dennis McPartland and The Jazz Underground
Drummer Dennis McPartland leads a new group whose name comes from the first place they played together: the rough-hewn lower level of a since-closed restaurant. Joining Dennis will be Indian Hills jazz director Dave Sharp on saxophone, singer D Pittam, Uni guitar professor Bob Dunn and Steve Charlson, bass.

August 25 – Bob Dorr and The Blue Band
Iowa’s legendary blues and party band celebrates its 30th anniversary with its first-ever performance at Jazz Under The Stars. Founder Bob Dorr says “our Jazz Under The Stars debut will definitely be a highlight of the 30th anniversary tour.” The Blue Band features Dorr on vocals and co-founder Jeff Petersen on guitar. The regular roster also includes Cedar Rapids’ own Al Naylor on trumpet, Steve Hayes on drums and Mark Linda on bass. However, an ever-rotating cast of Blue Band alumni regularly sit in, so anything can happen!

All concerts start at 7pm in Noelridge Park in Cedar Rapids.

In case of inclement weather, the concerts will move indoors to Parlor City Pub, 1125 3rd Street SE. For updates, listen to Jazz 88.3 over the air, online at www.kcck.org or follow KCCK on Twitter or Facebook for schedule updates.

Food and refreshments will be available for purchase at the concerts. But feel free to bring your own picnic, along with lawn chairs, and blankets.

We're very grateful to the Jazz Under The Stars Sponsors, who help us keep this great free series going! Pat McGrath Chevyland, Collins Community Credit Union, Rockwell Collins, Latta, Harris, Hanon & Penningroth, Shive Hattery Architecture Engineering, Northtowne Cycling & Fitness, West Music and Kirkwood Community College.

Papa John & the Big Phat Band - Bob Stewart

For ten years, saxophonist, pianist and Grammy-winning composer/arranger Gordon Goodwin has been driving a train that won't stop. He first assembled his Big Phat Band in 2000-an ironic starting point for an 18-piece big band, given that the fleeting neo-swing craze of the late '90s was just winding down. In the decade since their ambitious beginnings, the Big Phat Band has burned up stages and studios with an eclectic, intelligent and high-energy brand of music that marries the best elements of Ellington, Basie, John Barry and other big-band and orchestral jazz giants of the past 70 years. Their new CD -- "That's How We Roll" -- is a ten-song set of all-original material, save for an intriguing rendition of Gershwin's classic "Rhapsody in Blue."

If you lived in the greater Philadelphia area around 1980, you knew the name Papa John DeFrancesco. He was the dean of the Hammond organ at that time and an overlord of Philly's hard-bop-and-deep-groove bar-jazz scene. Famously, Papa John put aside his playing career to watch over his progeny, Joey DeFrancesco, who by age 17 would start touring as a member of Miles Davis' band. But by the mid-'90s, with Joey grown and on his own, not only did Papa John resume his nights out behind the B-3, he started recording. He's made another trip to the studio for "A Philadelphia Story" -- not only bringing Joey along for the ride on trumpet but also with his guitar playing son John.

Friday, April 29, 2011

KCCK Takes You to the NO Jazz Fest - Dennis

This Thursday and Friday, Iowa's Jazz Station takes you to the French Quarter with two afternoons of live broadcasts from the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

We're partnering with WWOZ-FM, to bring a little New Orleans to Iowa with performances from a variety of great jazz and blues players.

It'll be like having a spot right in front of the speaker. And best of all, no standing in line for the porta-pottie!

We recommend leaving work early, fixing yourself a hurricane (here's a recipe) and turning up the radio real loud. But, if you are stuck at your desk, plug in a pair of headphones and crank up the webcast or listen on your phone with the KCCK iPhone app.

Here's the schedule.

Thursday, May 5
2:45 pm - Charles Musselwhite
4:10 pm - Delfeayo Marsalis & the Uptown Orchestra
5:50 pm - Ruthie Foster

Friday, May 6
12:10 - Stefon Harris & Blackout
1:35 pm - David Torkanowsky's Fleur DiBris (with George Porter Jr. of the Meters)
2:55 pm - Stanton Moore Trio
4:05 on - James Booker Piano Tribute with Joshua Paxton & Tom McDermott
5:35 pm - Mingus Big Band

Performance times, and for that matter, performers themselves are subject to change.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Khan Reunites Eyewitness; Eick Debuts on ECM - Bob Stewart

For guitarist Steve Khan, his new release -- "Parting Shot" -- marks the first time since 1994 that he has reunited his band Eyewitness, with Anthony Jackson on bass, Dennis Chambers on drums, and Manolo Badrena on percussion. This time there is something different, though. They now combine the looseness of their improvisations while adhering to the tenets of Latin music and the clave. To achieve this end, Khan also brought aboard dear friends and masters of the idiom, percussionists Marc Quinones and Bobby Allende. The program of music offers seven new Khan originals and inventive interpretations of tunes by Thelonius Monk and Ornette Coleman.

Norwegian trumpeter Mathias Eick made his first appearance on ECM Records as a sideman at the age of 23. From the outset, critics responded very positively to his vaulting melodic improvisations, often drawing comparisons to one of his main influences, Kenny Wheeler. His new disc -- "Skala" -- extends the concept and the panoramic sweep of his 2007 debut as a leader. It calls upon the services of more musicians and there is more detail in the arrangements. The disc pools new and older compositions written by Eick inspired, he says, by music from classical to pop.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Stafford Channels Strayhorm; New Allison Release - Bob Stewart

Billy Strayhorn is widely considered to be one of the great composers of our time, and his three-decade-long collaboration with Duke Ellington furnished the American songbook with a number of timeless classics. Trumpeter Terell Stafford's sense of melody and uniquely expressive sound make him ideal for Strayhorn's repertoire. His new CD -- "This Side of Strayhorn" -- offers unique and refreshing interpretations of a number of Strayhorn's compositions. Stafford enlists his working quintet featuring saxophonist Tim Warfield, pianist and arranger Bruce Barth, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Dana Hall.

The release of "Action-Refraction" marks gifted bassist, composer and bandleader Ben Allison's first collection of music by other artists. He has turned his ear towards the music of some of his favorite artists, creating an inspired, atmospheric, and at times, art-rock mix tape featuring the music of PJ Harvey, Donny Hathaway, Thelonius Monk, Neil Young, Samuel Barber and Roger Nichols. The idea was sparked when Ben wondered how it would sound "to refract some of my favorite tunes through the prism of an electro-acoustic orchestra featuring two electric guitars, bass clarinet, saxophone, analog synthesizer, piano, acoustic bass and drums." Regular band mates Steve Cardenas, Rudy Royston, and Michael Blake are joined by keyboardist Jason Lindner and guitarist Brandon Seabrook.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Willie & Wynton Celebrate Ray, Jessica Channels 'Trane - Bob Stewart

Given the rousing artistic and commercial success of the first recorded collaboration of legendary troubadour Willie Nelson and jazz statesman Wynton Marsalis in 2008, it's not surprising that the pair would rendezvous again. The first meeting took place in the Allen Room of New York's Jazz at Lincoln Center in 2007. Their encore appearance was also staged at the heralded jazz house, this time for two sold-out nights at the Rose Theater in February of 2009, with special guest Norah Jones. Rather than rehash the previous material Nelson and Marsalis had first presented, the threesome paid homage to the music of the late Ray Charles for the disc, "Here We Go Again."

For her first trio outing in several years, pianist Jessica Williams digs deep as she channels the spirit of John Coltrane on "Freedom Trane." "John Coltrane has been my light through the darkness," she explains. "When there are questions, I'll ask 'what would Philly Joe Jones or Dexter Gordon do.' But when things are really weird, I can ask the 'Trane." She's joined by drummer Mel Brown and bassist Dave Captein on a set of originals along with compositions favored in performance by the saxophone legend.

De-Funding Public Radio Will Hurt Music, Education -- Dennis

The following is a guest opinion run in the Iowa City Press-Citizen on April 11, 2011. Read it on their site.

Much of the dialogue regarding proposals in the U.S. Congress to reduce or restrict funding for public broadcasting has focused on the impact those cuts will have on news and information stations such as Iowa Public Radio that carry National Public Radio programming.

While many public radio stations provide unrivaled news and public affairs programming, music also is an integral element of public radio's service. More than 100 stations, including our own KCCK, have full-time music formats. Music accounts for about one out of every three hours of public radio listening.

Jazz, classical, folk, world and eclectic music are offered in Iowa and around the country by public radio stations mainly because these niche formats are regarded as economically unsustainable in the commercial market. Chances are, whenever you have heard music on the radio that is something other than mainstream pop, rock or country, it's because you're listening to a public music station. In some communities, public stations are the only music outlet that is locally programmed, not controlled by a distant corporate owner.

Sadly, the potential impact of federal funding cuts will tend to have a much deeper effect on music stations than news outlets. Public music stations tend to be smaller than our news and information cousins. Therefore, federal grants can make up a much larger portion of our budget. In KCCK's case, Corporation for Public Broadcasting grants provide 20 percent of our cash budget -- nearly $110,000.

Now perhaps, if you aren't a jazz fan, you don't see a lot of value in having a jazz radio station in your community. But KCCK provides community benefits that go well beyond playing jazz on the radio.

We apply a community engagement model to our service. What this means is that we go into the community we serve, engage in a two-way dialogue about how we can help and then become an active partner in the solution.

Here's an example: In conversation with high school band directors, we learned that some incoming freshmen didn't have a strong background in jazz because their middle schools don't offer jazz band. This led KCCK to bring Kirkwood Community College and a group of jazz educators together to create a summer jazz band camp just for middle school students. Students who might not otherwise have even tried out for jazz band are now leaders in high school.

We've also created an exciting new music service that is not replicated anywhere in the world. The Iowa Channel is a program stream devoted exclusively to local artists, the majority of whom have never been played on the radio at all. The Iowa Channel gives listeners a steady diet of bands like Orquesta Alto Maiz, The Blue Band, The Nadas, SPT Theatre and many more.

You can listen online at http://iowachannel.org, download the iPhone app, or over the air on KCCK HD-2.

Loss of federal funds would have a devastating effect on KCCK and the community we serve. It would force us to lay off staff and certainly would spell the end of programs such as band camp and the Iowa Channel.

What can you do to help? Two suggestions:

  • Let your representative know you value local, public radio. Information is at www.170MillionAmericans.org, a website set up to harness the voices of the millions who interact with public broadcasting each month.
  • Support public broadcasting with a tax-deductible gift. Every dollar you contribute is one less dollar we need from the government.

With your help, we can keep public radio strong and maintain a strong and vibrant local music culture, for jazz and all genres of music.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Di Meola's World Sinfonia, Davidson's Legrand Project - Bob Stewart

Following the much ballyhooed "Return to Forever" reunion tour of 2008, guitarist Al Di Meola began refocusing his energies on his World Sinfonia band with a concert tour in 2009 and a live disc documenting the shows. Di Meola's rhythmically-charged flamenco and tango inspired originals revealed his knack for advanced harmonies along with his embracing of simple, beautiful, alluring melodies. And although he may be a romantic at heart, he showed he is still very much capable of flashing those legendary chops that graced his classic 1970s releases. On the guitar virtuoso's latest outing -- "Pursuit of Radical Rhapsody" -- the world music pioneer deals in more evocative and compelling sounds with his World Sinfonia ensemble.

French composer Michel Legrand has written some of the most memorable romantic music on film. Many of his songs have long since become jazz and pop standards. Since starting his career in the '70s, the French-American pianist and composer Roger Davidson has been as voracious in his musical curiosity as Legrand. His writing includes symphonies and choral music, small-group jazz, Klezmer, tango and a bounty of Brazilian-flavored songs. It was bassist David Finck who suggested that Davidson explore an album's worth of Legrand's songs. In "Umbrellas and Sunshine", Davidson and Finck offer a deeply original, intimate take of Legrand's music.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monty and One for All Live - Bob Stewart

In Hal Leonard's 2005 book -- "The Greatest Jazz Pianists of All Time" -- Monty Alexander placed in the top five of all time. In his homeland of Jamaica, he received the highest honor bestowed on an artist, Commander in the Order of Distinction. He has spent the majority of his career traveling the globe playing the great concert halls. The master pianist is at the pinnacle of his illustrious career with his newest CD -- "Uplift" -- which presents a handful of those never-before-released performances. Alexander displays a telepathic musical connection with his trio mates, bassist Hassan Shakur and drummers Herlin Riley and Frits Landesbergen.

Versatile virtuoso brass man Mac Gollehon returns to the jazz recording scene with "Mac Straight Ahead." One of the most recorded trumpeters in music today, Gollehon cut his jazz chops with the big bands of Buddy Rich and Stan Kenton and went on to become a member of mentor Lester Bowie's Brass Fantasy and Ray Barretto's ensemble. Gollehom reaffirms his jazz roots with this amazing outing that finds him in the role of a one-man brass section, overdubbing both trombones and trumpets to create the sound of a roaring big band. Special guests include baritone sax great Ronnie Cuber, bass trombonist Sam Burtis and drummer Victor Lewis.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Arriale's Convergence, T.K.'s Latin Bird, Lynch's Tribute - Bob Stewart

Pianist and composer Lynne Arriale has been sharing her prolific body of audio and video work all over the world since winning the 1993 Great American Piano Competition. Collaborations with Benny Golson Kenny Barron, George Mraz and Randy Brecker speak to her considerable skill and stature within the jazz community. She's also performed to packed houses at prestigious venues and jazz festivals around the world. Arriale strikes again with "Convergence" -- an eloquent new work exploring previously uncharted musical waters, featuring a new band of some of New York's most in-demand players-Bill McHenry on tenor sax, Omer Avital on bass and oud, and her stalwart new drummer, Anthony Pinciotti. The program includes six memorable originals and covers of tunes by the Beatles, Sting, Nine Inch Nails, the Rolling Stones and Blondie.

Born in the Bronx to parents from Jamaica and Trinidad, T.K. Blue began gigging around New York City in the mid-'70s with the Natives, a group led by South African pianist Ndikho Xaba. Through Xaba, he met Abdullah Ibrahim and joined his group in 1977. Since 1980, Blue has been a member of Randy Weston's band and currently serves as its music director. Blue's new CD -- "Latin Bird" -- takes the alto saxophonist back to his musical and personal beginnings. Charlie "Yardbird" Parker was a major early inspiration for T.K., and eight of Parker's compositions are ingeniously reworked in Afro-Cuban, Caribbean, Brazilian, and New Orleans second-line rhythms.

Grammy Award-winning trumpeter Brian Lynch pays tribute to a diverse group of jazz trumpeters who have flown below the radar of the general jazz public, including Tommy Turrentine, Joe Gordon and Idrees Sulieman, on his new disc, "Unsung Heroes."

Monday, March 14, 2011

Patriotic Ibrahim and Marie - Bob Stewart

Many things have changed since the founding of pianist/composer Abdullah Ibrahim's Ekaya. Starting in 1983, this mid-sized jazz ensemble, whose name means "home", presented Ibrahim's most powerful musical statements during an important time of protest against apartheid in his native South Africa. His new CD -- "Sotho Blue" -- shows a new side of the band as compositions of the past that had been intended as protest have taken on new meaning. Apartheid has been abolished and celebration, hope and meditative calm dominate where there was once angst. The pieces revisited seem minimalistic in contrast to stormier earlier incarnations. This doesn't detract from the music but only deepens its character.

The award-winning singer Rene Marie presents "Voice of My Beautiful Country" -- an ambitious celebration of Americana which glorifies the cultural diversity of the United States through her beautifully and emotionally charged interpretations of nationally loved anthems, from Motown and Tin Pan Alley classics to "America the Beautiful." With the new CD, Rene says, "I set out to embrace the many varied voices of this country. A person might think, 'What do a Jimmy Van Heusen song, a Temptations song, a Jefferson Airplane song and 'John Henry' all have in common?' To me, each song reflects a different facet of American life."

Monday, February 28, 2011

Mehldau Solos, Bann Debutes - Bob Stewart

The Los Angeles Times says, "(Brad)Mehldau's technical mastery can be enough to make your head spin, but the feeling is invigorating". The Financial Times gives four stars to the "enthralling album", as does The Daily Telegraph. And The Huffington Post says "what he is able to say musically as a soloist within the context of each song combined with his improvisations is simply masterful." They're all talking about "Live in Marciac" -- a new live two-CD/DVD set of a solo performance pianist Brad Mehldau gave in Marciac, France, in 2006. It includes original tunes by Mehldau as well as interpretations of songs by Kurt Cobain, Lennon/McCartney, Cole Porter, Radiohead and others.

Its IS name an anagram formed by the first letter of the last names of its members, BANN features the vibrant sounds of tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake, the dynamic Israeli guitarist Oz Noy, and the driving rhythm section of bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Adam Nussbaum. The quartet makes its recording debut with "As You Like" -- showcasing the groundbreaking electro-acoustic band's inventive sound in which Noy's progressive fusion guitar and Blake's jazzy leaps soar over the percolating rhythmic foundation laid down by Anderson and Nussbaum. BANN has been touring as a unit since 2007, appearing at jazz festivals and jazz clubs throughout Europe.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Disney Jazz and Miller's Symphonic Project - Bob Stewart

From the outset, it was inevitable that two of the major creative forces of the 20th century would find a productive way to overlap and inspire each other. Jazz-with its boundless appetite for new sounds and original melodies-and Disney, that bottomless font of images, words and songs, churning out fresh musical gems with uncanny consistency over the years. That Disney came of age at the end of the 1920s had a lot to do with it, a time when jazz and popular songs lived in close proximity. Ever since, the sound, rhythms, and feel of jazz have always informed Disney's creations. On the new CD -- "Everybody Wants to Be a Cat" -- artists like Roy Hargrove, Dave Brubeck, Regina Carter, Dianne Reeves and Joshua Redman explore a baker's dozen of classic Disney ditties.

Bassist/composer/producer and two-time Grammy winner Marcus Miller has been a student and a leader, creator and an interpreter, a master and a mentor in the art form of music from his teen years to the present. He continues this legacy with "A Night in Monte Carlo", a live audio document of an amazing concert he was commissioned to perform in 2008 in the "rich man's playground" of Monaco-a performance of music of his choice, much of his from his own pen, featuring his arrangements for symphony orchestra. It features Miller leading both his quartet and the Monte Carlo Philharmonic, with special guest Roy Hargrove on trumpet.

Monday, February 14, 2011

New Collaborations from Elling, Keezer; Salute from Alden - Bob Stewart

The New York Times is one of numerous publications to declare Kurt Elling as the "standout male vocalist of our time"...and the Washington Post says, "Since the mid-1990s, no singer in jazz has been as daring, dynamic or interesting as Kurt Elling." The legendary producer Don Was had expressed the desire to work with Elling, an opportunity which the singer found irresistible. The resulting collaboration -- "The Gate" -- points Elling in a new and satisfyingly emotional direction. He has found a way to make a deeply personal statement out of the music of King Crimson, Joe Jackson, Stevie Wonder and the Beatles-in addition to providing a new and vibrant understanding of Miles Davis, Bill Evans and Herbie Hancock.

Twice Grammy-nominated pianist and composer Geoffrey Keezer teams up with guitarist Peter Sprague in a set of all-new, original music on "Mill Creek Road." "Since moving to San Diego in 2006, I've had the fortune to collaborate with several world-class musicians..." says Keezer. "I first heard Peter Sprague performing with Billy Childs' jazz-chamber ensemble, and knew immediately this was someone I wanted to make music with. We formed this quartet in 2009 with SoCal guys Hamilton Price and Duncan Moore as an outlet to play creative, energetic modern music without anyone having to ever get on a plane." The result is jazz which is beautifully complex, fresh and contemporary.

Meanwhile, guitarist Howard Alden, who famously coached Sean Penn on how to play the guitar and soloed on the soundtrack for Penn's role as a Django Reinhardt-style guitarist in the Woody Allen film "Sweet and Lowdown" is out with a salute to the great gypsy swing legend on "I Remember Django."

Monday, February 7, 2011

Jazz Vocals, Experienced First Recording, Bill Frisell - Bob Stewart

Honest-to-goodness, real-life jazz singing is almost as rare these days as a nickel cup of coffee. There are far too few remaining practitioners of the honorable art of singing good songs with the lift, the swing and the subtle blending of music and emotion that characterizes the work of the best jazz improvisers. Jazz legend Ernestine Anderson is one of those rare beings. On her new release -- "Nightlife: Live at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola" -- she's joined by tenor saxman Houston Person for a set of blues, sultry torch songs and up-tempo cookers.

At 37, bassist/composer Matthew Rybicki may have waited longer that most to make his first recording as a leader. But from a cursory listen to "Driven" -- his auspicious debut -- it would seem that he picked the right time. The long-time New York City resident, who apprenticed with the likes of Wynton Marsalis, Terell Stafford and Wycliffe Gordon, is joined on his impressive first outing by such stellar players as pianist Gerald Clayton, trombonist Michael Dease and saxophonist Ron Blake for a program of Rybicki originals and two well-chosen covers.

Meanwhile, guitarist Bill Frisell collaborates with Brazilian singer and composer Vinicius Cantuaria on a new duo release, "Lagrimas Mexicanas."

Monday, January 31, 2011

Living Legends, New Sounds and Local Classics - Bob Stewart

With more than a half-century of experience in the jazz world, it would be safe to consider Phil Woods not only one of the music's living legends but a true aficionado of his fellow instrumentalists. So it speaks volumes that the first time he shared the stage with a then-14-year-old Grace Kelly, he was moved to remove his iconic leather cap and place it on her head-the first time he'd ever made such a gesture to a fellow alto saxophonist. Four years later, Kelly returns the favor with a new CD featuring and in tribute to Woods. "Man With the Hat" arrives just in time to inaugurate the alto great's 80th birthday year and consists of seven standards and originals penned by both Kelly and Woods.

Los Angeles saxophonist Tom Luer's "Project Popular" explores the work of some of the top rock bands and pop artists of the last twenty years, reinterpreting the now classic compositions for a modern jazz ensemble. Along with seven originals, the band tackles tunes from Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Prince, among others. With his wide-ranging and always grooving group of L.A.-based artists, Luer creates a nuanced and highly interactive recording while retaining the visceral power of the compositions that led to their popularity.

The latest from Cedar Rapids native Pat Daugherty and his band New York Electric Piano is the two-disc set "Keys to the City."

Monday, January 24, 2011

Shank's Finale, Urcola's Tribute - Bob Stewart

U.K. saxophonist Jake Fryer joins the legendary alto saxophonist Bud Shank and Shank's outstanding rhythm section of pianist Mike Wofford, bassist Bob Magnusson and drummer Joe LaBarbera for a stellar be-bop session on the new CD, "In Good Company." This was, sadly, the final recording of Bud Shank as he passed away the day after it was recorded. Shank's playing on the disc, while not as sharp as when he was in his prime, still has the ideas, fire and passion he was well know for, and Fryer shows he is in the same class as other true greats of the alto. The compositions are mostly originals by Fryer, along with a couple of standards.

Argentina-born trumpeter/composer Diego Urcola pays tribute to his heroes and contemporaries on his new release, "Appreciation." He shows his recognition not by imitation but through compositions inspired and dedicated to heroes and friends, including Freddie Hubbard, Hermeto Pascoal, Paquito D'Rivera, and Guillermo Klein. Urcola presents his originals with the help of an amazing ensemble, featuring pianist Luis Perdomo, bassist Hans Glawischnig, and drummer Eric McPherson.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Philly, San Fran and Seattle - Bob Stewart

Although we've heard them play together on a track here and there on Papa John's albums over the years, the Brothers DeFrancesco had never before recorded an entire project together--until now. Keyboardist Joey and guitarist Johnny come together on the new disc, "DeFrancesco Brothers." While Joey has consistently been winning Downbeat Magazine Critics and Readers Polls since 2002 and playing with a host of jazz greats, Johnny has been on the blues side of things, playing with the greats of that genre. The new CD showcases eight burnin' tunes that get back to their Philly Roots.

Whether adventuring into interior or outer space in her music, award-winning soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom continues to navigate her unique musical path with creative abandon. "Wingwalker" is her 14th release as a leader and reunites her with long-time bandmates Dawn Clement on piano, bassist Mark Helias and drummer Bobby Previte. After two years since Bloom's last CD, she brought the band together in June of last year to record 11 new compositions, written during time made possible by a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Also this week, San Francisco trombonist, arranger and composer Wayne Wallace is back with his Latin Jazz Quintet on "To Hear From There", the follow-up to their Grammy-nominated disc of last year which was named by Downbeat as one of 2010's best; Seattle pianist Randy Halberstadt returns with a quintet date, Flash Point, featuring his working trio along with trumpeter Thomas Marriott and saxophonist Taylor; and Seattle-based saxophonist Richard Cole further solidifies his position among the important voices on the tenor saxophone with Inner Mission, again utilizing the talents of long-time friend and trumpet giant Randy Brecker.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Sheppard Project, Organic Asherie - Bob Stewart

Bob Sheppard has long been one of the top reed players based in Southern California. Among his most important associations was his eight year tenure with Freddie Hubbard, along with work in the bands of Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Michael Brecker and others. "Close Your Eyes", just his fourth release as a leader, gives Sheppard an opportunity to present his own music with some of his favorite musicians, contributing two songs and arranging all nine performances. He's joined by pianist Alan Pasqua, drummer Antonio Sanchez, trumpeter Alex Sipiagen and guitarist Larry Koonse.

The innovative trio from New York City, Bernal, Eckroth & Ennis, blends the infectious rhythms and richly nuanced songwriting traditions of Brazil, Chile, Cuba and other Latin American countries with the spontaneous and exhilarating improvisation and group dynamics of jazz. Having immersed themselves deeply in the cultures from which they draw their inspiration, Chilean vocalist Natalia Bernal, keyboardist Mike Eckroth and seven-string guitarist Jason Ennis put their unique stamp on familiar Bossa Novas, boleros, tangos, Andean folk tunes, original compositions and jazz standards on "La Voz de Tres."