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.