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.