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."