Monday, August 29, 2011

Carter's Big Band, Vuckovich/Hamilton Project - Bob Stewart

Throughout his illustrious career, the legendary Ron Carter has played it all-jumping in headlong as an integral member of Miles Davis' classic '60s quintet, anchoring the groove for almost every CTI Records session in the '70s, then launching into multifarious new projects, including his cello-infused, chamber jazz nonet and his piano-guitar-bass trio. But in his lifelong calling to find the right notes, Carter had never recorded a big-band album. So, the time was ripe for the 73-year-old maestro of the upright bass to break new ground. The result is the delightful and swinging disc -- "Ron Carter's Great Big Band" -- set into motion by esteemed arranger Bob Freedman and featuring an all-star cast of supporting musicians.

The New York Times says, "Larry Vuckovich is a fleet-fingered bebopper who can also play sultry, big-chorded blues." Nat Hentoff of Downbeat describes saxophonist Scott Hamilton as, " of those improvisers whose music defines swing." The two are partnered on Vuckovich's new offering -- "Somethin' Special" -- which honors the masters who inspired Vuckovich when he first began playing jazz. The recording grew out of a Northern California tour Vuckovich helped arrange for Hamilton and also features the pianist's hard-swinging East Coast rhythm team along with legendary West Coast tenor player Noel Jewkes.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Giacomo's Ode to Gil, Cedar's New Project - Bob Stewart

Gil Scott-Heron, who died in May, was an American poet, musician, and author known primarily for his work as a spoken word performer. He made music that reflected the turbulence, uncertainty and increasing pessimism of the early '70s, merging soul and jazz and drawing on an oral poetry tradition that reached back to the blues and forward to hip-hop. Giacomo Gates is an extraordinary vocal stylist, often credited as a contemporary Eddie Jefferson with a full-bodied baritone and blazing inventiveness. As bracing an innovator as he is an interpreter, Gates delivers the satirical and insightful lyrics of this true American original on "The Revolution Will Be Jazz: the Songs of Gil Scott-Heron."

NEA Jazz Master Cedar Walton has enjoyed an up-tempo career, which never seems to slow down. Maintaining a non-stop itinerary, Walton has accompanied a litany of jazz greats while also fronting his own successful groups since 1966. As a pianist, Walton doesn't rely on pet licks or pyrotechnical display, although he has an excellent technique. Rather he invents all the time, and makes his always imaginative work fit into the context of whatever he's playing. As a composer, Cedar is one of the finest in jazz whose works have been widely recorded with many now being recognized as jazz standards. For his latest CD -- The Bouncer -- Walton returns to his favored quintet format with poll-winning trombonist Steve Turre adding his luxurious, velvet tone to Vincent Herring's saxophone sound.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mingus and Wonder Re-Imagined - Bob Stewart

Gerald Veasley, the former bassist for Grover Washington, Jr. and the Joe Zawinul Syndicate, has released eight discs as a leader featuring original jazz, funk, and soul-tinged compositions. For his brand new CD -- "Gerald Veasley's Electric Mingus Project" -- he has re-imagined the works of acclaimed jazz composer and fellow bassist Charles Mingus. "We reacted to what was essential about Charles Mingus's music," explains Veasley. "We never had an impulse to update or improve it, but instead tried to capture the feeling, which to me is adventurous, surprising and passionate." The disc revisits seven Mingus compositions using modern electronic instruments as well as three narrations based on Mingus' own words and two original compositions from Veasley himself.

Chicago's dynamic Deep Blue Organ Trio returns with their fourth disc, this time bringing their singular approach and sound to the music of Stevie Wonder. Influenced deeply and early on by Wonder's compositions, artistry and cultural impact, guitarist Bobby Broom, organist Chris Foreman, and drummer Greg Rockingham bring reverence and musical honesty to their interpretations of nine Wonder gems on "Wonderful!"

Monday, August 8, 2011

Latin Flavors of Valentin and Monasterios - Bob Stewart

Dave Valentin enjoys a fine reputation as a composer, arranger, and band leader in addition to being the most celebrated Latin flutist today. After studying with the great Hubert Laws, the multi-Grammy nominee developed the unusual techniques that feature slapping the keys of his instrument so it sounds like a percussion instrument, and singing into the flute while playing, generating harmonies from a single flute. These techniques, and more, are all on display on his new CD -- "Pure Imagination"-- that features a half-dozen tunes written by his long-time friend and colleague, pianist Bill O'Connell.

Among the most talented and resourceful figures in the exciting Miami Latin jazz scene, Venezuelan pianist Silvano Monasterios leads the way as a top-rated figure. Both as a performer and composer, he is among the most gifted today, and his piano playing and compositions have appeared on recordings by artists including Dave Liebman, Donald Byrd, Paquito D'Rivera, Randy Brecker and Dee Dee Bridgewater. With his new quintet, Silvano has recorded eight new and imaginative compositions for the CD "Unconditional." It showcases an artist with a complete understanding of his complex Venezuelan roots, who understands the Austro-Germanic-European compositional heritage, and who is steeped in the great American jazz tradition.

Monday, August 1, 2011

New Records from Rudd and Redd - Bob Stewart

Legendary trombonist Roswell Rudd has reached yet another milestone in his celebrated and remarkably varied career, his 75th birthday. Through the years, Rudd has shown an affinity for music and musicians from all over the world with a love for collaboration. He's played with luminaries Cecil Taylor, Archie Shepp and Steve Lacy. He's recorded with musicians from Mali, Mongolia, and Latin masters from Puerto Rico. His new recording -- "The Incredible Honk" -- is a collection of some of his recent adventures working alongside a number of ensembles, including Cajun legends Michael Doucet & Beausileil, Malian griots, and his own quartet.

Chuck Redd began his career as a young drummer with a well-earned reputation for his ability to swing with passion, making him a favorite of veteran jazzmen like Dizzy Gillespie, Tommy Flanagan, Ray Brown and Monty Alexander. He took up the vibes after a teacher played him a Modern Jazz Quartet record and he heard the sound of master vibesman Milt Jackson, instilling in him a desire to extend his abilities to that instrument. He had a long tenure with Charlie Byrd and the Great Guitars, a half-decade with Mel Torme and, more recently, work with Bucky Pizzarelli and Ken Peplowski. He's also made a name as the leader of his own groups, and for his brand new CD -- "The Common Thread" -- he's joined by jazz legends Bob Cranshaw, Mickey Roker, and Houston Person.