Monday, August 27, 2012

Funkengruven & Vocalese - Bob Stewart

For over 25 years, the Canadian jazz-funk band, the Shuffle Demons, have been entertaining fans around the world. That band's high energy out-of-the-ordinary live show bills them as jazz, folk and world festival mainstays and has taken them on 15 cross-Canada and European tours, as well as through Asia, India and Australia. Now, the Shuffle Demons return with their first disc of new material in close to 20 years, "ClusterFunk", which alternates between serious jazz and groove funk played by seasoned professionals at the top of their game.

For over two decades, the Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet has been enchanting listeners and building a loyal audience across several continents with their tightly harmonized renditions of jazz classics. Their signature sound reminds the listener of such iconic vocal groups as Lambert Hendricks & Ross and the Manhattan Transfer, but they have put their distinctive stamp on 4- part harmony jazz with their own versions of inventive vocalese and other jazz genres. Their latest CD, "Hustlin' for a Gig", is a feast of original music, lyrics, and arrangements spotlighting the marriage of clever lyrics with a rich array of musical styles.

Monday, August 20, 2012

New Music - Bob Stewart

On "Without a Song", John Abercrombie pays tribute to formative influences, the recordings and musicians that shaped his early listening and his future directions. The period addressed is the 1960s, with specific references to key albums by Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane and Bill Evans. "...I had been talking for a while about doing an album that might pay homage to a particular jazz artist or composer," says the guitarist. "But in the end I preferred to look at the era when my own musical tastes were shaped." He and tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano convey their empathy with the original protagonists, while also bringing much of their own creativity into service.

"I feel like a page is turning," says bassist Marcus Miller. "The last of our heroes are checking out and we are truly entering a new era. Musically, we've got all these cool ways to play and share music, but the music is not as revolutionary as the media. It's time for rebirth." Miller was at the helm of one of the most impactful modern jazz masterpieces of the early '80s with some futuristic roots music he composed for Miles Davis' Tutu. Now with "Renaissance", Miller surveys the landscape of not just music but society as a whole. Fortified by a team of hungry young players that includes trumpeters Sean Jones and Maurice Brown and guitarist Adam Rogers, Miller is creating the soundtrack for this musical, cultural and spiritual revolution.

Also this week, the Brubeck Brothers Quartet, featuring bassist/trombonist Chris and drummer Dan, honor father Dave by reimagining a number of his best-known songs on "Lifetimes"; vocalist David Basse is joined "Uptown" by sax legend Phil Woods and the recently-departed pianist Mike Melvoin; and Welsh-born clarinetist Daniel McBrearty offers up an homage to his boyhood inspirations Armstrong, Basie and Goodman with "Clarinet Swing."

Monday, August 13, 2012

New Music - Bob Stewart

Bruce Barth, despite his professorship at Temple University, is no stodgy jazz egghead. He is a working musician with an abundance of technique, a seemingly bottomless well of ideas and is a composer of considerable skill with a contemporary and inventive approach. Early professional engagements included those with jazz masters Nat Adderly and Stanley Turrentine. He's been leading his own ensembles on disc since the late '90s. His new CD, "Three Things of Beauty",  features mostly originals by the pianist with along with a tune each by Gershwin and Coltrane. Joining Barth's trio on the front line is the masterful vibes player Steve Nelson.

Tenor saxophonist and Detroit native JD Allen is a member of the third wave of Young Lion mainstream jazz players. Upon his arrival in New York City, his apprenticeship included work with such notables as Ron Carter, Jack DeJohnette and Frank Foster. For his fifth release as a leader, "The Matador and the Bull", Allen is back with colleagues Greg August on bass and Rudy Royston on drums, both of whom have been his regular partners on the bandstand and in the studio since 2008. They go about their business with a minimum of muss and fuss; a robust and focused melodic articulation with great rhythmic drive. The tracks are short; they get in, make a statement, essay some variations, and get out-short and sweet and intense.

Also this week, reed man Michael Pedicin is captured in concert with his quintet "Live at the Loft"; pianist Joe Alterman unveils his second disc, "Give Me the Simple Life", featuring Houston Person and James Cammack; and trombonist Bill Cantrall offers up his sophomore release with his band Axiom, "Live at the Kitano."

Monday, August 6, 2012

Scott's Roots; Brazilian Trio's New Release - Bob Stewart

Award-winning trumpeter and composer Christian Scott unveils his compelling new CD, "Christian aTunde Adjuah", an inspired and provocative two-disc set featuring reflective ballads, light and dreamy soundscapes, and guitar-edged and rock-inflected cookers. The disc is arguably the most personal project to date for the young artist, which is reflected in the album title, which is Scott's new name, and the album cover, which shows him in the traditional attire of his culture of the Mardi Gras Indians of New Orleans. Scott says, "The photo represents the same general idea that the record does. It's about the willingness to forge new paths and to seek new terrain while excavating one's own past as a means of gaining a better contextual understanding of that path."

Brazilian Trio is a masterful amalgamation of musician/composer/arranger friends dedicated to perpetuating the artful blend of Brazilian classical music and jazz. The trio consists of pianist Helio Alves, bassist Nilson Matta and drummer Duduka Da Fonseca. Their eagerly awaited sophomore disc, "Constelacao", divinely showcases each player with an original composition apiece plus uniquely engaging renditions of fine pieces ranging from Brazilian composers such as Caymmi and Jobim to jazz stalwart Cedar Walton. "There are two hallmarks of Brazilian music," Matta explains, "melody and rhythm. But improvisation requires knowledge of the language of jazz. We're thinking in 2/4 but we use the info that we get from jazz. This way the music keeps growing. It's the new direction of playing Brazilian music."