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."