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."