Monday, October 31, 2011

Pilc Trio, Afro Bop Alliance Return - Bob Stewart

Since their explosive touring days as the Jean-Michel Pilc Trio, Pilc, Francois Moutin and Ari Hoenig have grown considerably in stature both as leaders and sidemen. Pilc moved to New York City in 1994, continuing his steady rise as a major pianist on the European and Canadian circuits while also gaining a reputation in the U.S. as one of the most exciting and unpredictable pianist/composers in jazz. Bassist Moutin has since applied his lush tone, astonishing virtuosity and intelligent musicality in a host of settings, most notably as co-leader of the Moutin Reunion Quartet, a group which has successfully toured Europe and the United States to much acclaim in recent years. The skilled and iconoclastic drummer Hoenig, self-defined as a 'punk-jazz artist', has made several discs as a leader in the ensuing years, and is often in the press for his intense musical antics. "Threedom" is their first new recording together since 2003.

"Listening to the exquisite playing and arranging of the Afro Bop Alliance is always an experience. The mix they've achieved is so balanced you never feel the music is too Latin to be jazz, or too jazzy to be Latin." So says Paquito D'Rivera about the 2008 Latin Grammy Award winners for Latin Jazz Album of the Year. The all-star fueled Afro Bop Alliance returns for another powerful recording of dynamic new compositions. "Una Mas" features special guests Dave Samuels on vibes and percussionist Roberto Quintero.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Detroit and Minneapolis Represented - Bob Stewart

One of jazz's most acclaimed, distinctive improvisers, virtuoso saxophonist James Carter, returns to a favored format and simpatico colleagues with "At the Crossroads" -- his third release showcasing his long-standing Organ Trio. Enjoying consistently inspired play with fellow Motor City stars organist Gerard Gibbs and drummer Leonard King, Jr., Carter gets down in his inimitable way on a program boasting rollicking swingers, moving ballads, a gospel standard, and plenty of blues-drenched items. Special guests, also from Detroit, include vocalist Miche Braden, trumpeter Kenyon Harrold, trombonist Vincent Chandler and guitarist Brandon Ross.

Minneapolis-based pianist and composer Mary Louis Knutson has been called "one of the most exciting and innovative artists to happen to jazz in quite some time." Her warm, inviting tone, broad range of emotional expression, and distinctive compositions have brought her much recognition on the national music scene, performing with jazz greats like Dizzy Gillespie, Ernie Watts and Peter Erskine. Knutson's new CD -- "In the Bubble" -- showcases her tasteful playing and arranging as well her gift for composition. Twin Cities rhythm icons, bassist Gordon Johnson and drummer Phil Hey, are among Knutson's bandmates for this release.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Freddy's New One, Jordan's Friends - Bob Stewart

The songs sung by 2011 Grammy-nominee Freddy Cole speak of love and life in a voice that is as comforting as it is familiar. His is a well-seasoned sound which, while bearing a strong familial resemblance to his late brother Nat King Cole, is unmistakably all his own. It's steeped in the earthiness of the blues, yet possesses a silky sound as suave as the debonair man himself. On "Talk to Me" Freddy explores an interesting program of music by the R&B great Bill Withers, a sprinkling of standards and one tune composed by his son. Trumpeter Terell Stafford and saxophonist Harry Allen are special guests of Freddy and his quartet.

A release that its creator Stanley Jordan cites as his most realized project to date finds him in challenging company: fellow guitarists Charlie Hunter, Russell Malone, Bucky Pizzarelli and Mike Stern; saxmen Kenny Garrett and Ronnie Laws; N'awlins trumpeter Nicholas Payton and the renowned violinist Regina Carter. Christian McBride guests on bass when not handled by Stanley's long-time trio bassist Charnett Moffett. Truly, it's a collection of "Friends" whose benefits push Jordan into a heightened musical reality.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Remembering Bill Bell - George

It was about this time of year in 1994 that we lost Bill Bell. The KCCK personality was stricken during a meeting at the station and died a short time later at Mercy Medical Center at the age of 61. Bill had come to KCCK in 1984 and became known for his unique personality and short commentaries that he delivered during his jazz show. Before coming to Iowa, he had worked at top radio stations in San Francisco and Los Angeles and ran a recording studio in LA.

Click here for a full obituary.

Following his death, we ran a feature about Bill on our Local Color program. You can listen to that feature at

Monday, October 10, 2011

Guitar Man Benson; Keyboardist LeDonne - Bob Stewart

In a career that spans five decades, more than 30 recordings as a leader and 10 Grammy Awards, NEA Jazz Master George Benson has used his jazz roots as the foundation for an engaging mix of pop, R&B and other shades that add up to a style that appeals to a broad mainstream audience. Along the way, he has also established himself as a formidable jazz singer. But his new CD -- "Guitar Man" -- highlights Benson's unparalleled guitar playing, perhaps more than any other disc he's released in decades. The 12-song collection includes a mix of jazz and pop standards-some in a combo setting and some solo-and features veteran players Joe Sample on keyboards and Harvey Mason on drums.

Keyboardist Mike LeDonne has held court at the historic Smoke Jazz Club in New York City for probably more years than he cares to admit. But his new CD -- "Keep the Faith" -- finds him and his Hammond B-3 in the controlled atmosphere of the recording studio with his regular band mates Peter Bernstein on guitar and Joe Farnsworth on drums featuring Eric Alexander on tenor sax. LeDonne and company romp, stomp and burn through an imaginative set of pieces by Charles Earland, Michael Jackson and Horace Silver, along with a handful of originals which display LeDonne's considerable skills as a composer.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Poncho Salutes Chano & Diz, Haynes Has New Release - Bob Stewart

For more than three decades as both a leader and a sideman, conguero Pancho Sanchez has stirred up a fiery stew of jazz, gritty soul music, and infectious melodies and rhythms from a variety of Latin American and South American sources. Among the more prominent figures that inform his music are two of the primary architects of Latin jazz-conga drummer and composer Chano Pozo and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. Sanchez pays tribute to these two titans on "Chano y Dizzy!" -- his 25th recording as a leader. Joining Sanchez is multi-Grammy winning trumpeter Terence Blanchard, a New Orleans native who literally grew up amid the Cuban and Latin jazz scene and a longtime fan of the music's multicultural underpinnings.

The phrase "living legend" has been applied many times over many years. Few figures in American music today are more deserving of this appellation than drummer and bandleader Roy Haynes. Often cited among the greatest jazz drummers of all time, the 86-year-old's history of collaborations spans six decades and include those with Bud Powell, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane and Miles Davis. For his new CD -- "Roy-alty" -- Haynes is at the helm of his exciting Fountain of Youth band plus very special guests Chick Corea and Roy Hargrove.