Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Gospel According to Grace - Bob Stewart

With hundreds of performances worldwide, a shelf full of music awards, and praise from jazz legends like Phil Woods, Lee Konitz and Dave Brubeck, 18-year-old Grace Kelly has firmly established herself as a star on the rise in the jazz world. Her new release "Grace" marks a new direction for the accomplished saxophonist into the genre of gospel jazz.

The journey to make a spiritually driven disc began with a performance at a convention of 2,000 ministers from all over the world in 2010. It turned out to be such a great and uplifting experience for Kelly that she contacted gospel pianist and luminary George Russell, Jr., to be her main collaborator on a new record.

While mostly duets between Kelly and Russell, it also features cameos from celebrated percussionist Jamey Haddad and classical guitarist Peter Clemente.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Corea/Bollani, Pedicin Release New Music - Bob Stewart

Over the years, Chick Corea has been a pioneer in two-piano performance, partnering with Herbie Hancock, Gonzalo Rubalcaba and others in acclaimed concerts and recordings. "Orvieto" is the first release by the exciting duo of Corea and Stefano Bollani, a live set drawn from New Year performances at the Umbria Jazz Winter Festival. Chick and Stefano have been giving such concerts, mostly in the context of Italian festivals, for more than two years now. Bollani points out he has been listening to Corea's music since he was 11-years-old, taking what he could "from his style, his phrasing and his incredible rhythm." Corea, from his side, has been monitoring Bollani's playing for a few years, and has mentioned Stefano as a pianist who inspired him.

During a prolific career that spans more than four decades, tenor saxophonist Michael Pedicin has toured with such jazz greats as Maynard Ferguson, Dave Brubeck, Stanley Clarke and Pat Martino. He's recorded ten albums under his own name since 1980 and considers his tenth one -- "Ballads...Searching for Peace" -- to be his crowning achievement. The disc was inspired, in part, by Pedicin's main musical hero, John Coltrane. "From the time Trane did that "Ballads" album, I've always wanted to do a ballads album when I felt ready to do it."

Monday, December 12, 2011

New Gadd/DeFrancesco Project; New Budway Release - Bob Stewart

The name Cinque will be unfamiliar, but its membership includes some genuine musical legends. Joey DeFrancesco is considered by many to be the greatest exponent of B3 organ playing in jazz, while Steve Gadd has long been the first call drummer for Chick Corea, Al DiMeola, David Sanborn and others. Bassist Peter Cardinali's lengthy resume includes the likes of Oscar Peterson, the Brecker Brothers and Toots Thielmans. Cinque was Cardinali's brainchild. Also the head of Alma Records, he explains "I really wanted to start a jazz-funk band, and only with the top players. It was just a matter of assembling this musical dream team and giving them free rein." The bulk of the compositions on "Catch a Corner" were written collectively in the studio and recorded on the spot.

David Budway is one of the most versatile pianists on the New York music scene today and an award-winning composer. After a fifteen-year teaching career at Duquesne University in his hometown of Pittsburgh, he moved to New York to pursue his dream playing with some of the greats of jazz. Since then, he's been the pianist for groups led by jazz luminaries such as Stanley Turrentine, Clark Terry, Dizzy Gillespie and Joe Pass. On his new CD -- "A New Kiss" -- Budway is joined by a top-notch rhythm section consisting of bassist Eric Revis and drummer Jeff 'Tain' Watts. Special guests include saxophonists Branford Marsalis and Marcus Strickland and guitarist Ron Affif.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Jazz Masters Person & Rava - Bob Stewart

As a title, "So Nice" might imply a sleepy and quite possibly uninspired session calculated to avoid challenges. That notion is quickly dispelled by the sprightly and imaginative solo Houston Person takes on "Blues Everywhere" that kicks off this collection. Person, of course, is a master of understated elegance, a balladeer of the highest order. But he's equally capable of playing tough, soulful tenor with virile vigor. True to form, Person shows both his sides and delivers a program that alternates between creamy-smooth ballads and bluesier offerings with significant bite. With the amazing Warren Vache on cornet and Mark Patterson on trombone, the little big band sound here is stellar.

Since his return to ECM Records in 2003, Enrico Rava, grand master of Italian jazz, has made a number of recordings exceptional by any standards, with groups both national and international. "Tribe" belongs to the former category. The trumpeter is playing at a peak of lyrical invention, and his newest quintet is his strongest yet. Voted Rising Star Trombonist in the Downbeat Critics Poll of a few years back, Gianluca Petrella has a front-line relationship with Rava which recalls Enrico's affinity with Roswell Rudd back in the heyday of the New Thing. Rava has always encouraged younger musicians, and pianist Giovanni Guidi and bassist Gabriele Evangelista are young players of much promise. Drummer Fabrizio Sferra's resume includes work with Chet Baker, Paul Bley and Kenny Wheeler.