Monday, September 24, 2012

Elling's New York Project; New Music from Equilateral - Bob Stewart

"Having done so many projects about my love for Chicago," says vocalist Kurt Elling," I wanted to make something that spoke of my love for New York." The two cities define his career. Elling developed his craft in Chicago, and recorded several of his early discs there. But in fact, the singer and his family have lived in Manhattan since 2008 and "1619 Broadway-the Brill Building Project" is his response to that experience. At its peak, the building in the heart of midtown Manhattan served as the creative home for more than 160 tenants associated with the pop-music industry. Elling focuses on a handful of those classic writing teams, including Leiber & Stoller, Bacharach & David, Cahn & Van Heusen, and Goffin & King.
Closer to home, Eastern Iowa's own Equilateral has dished up another helping of exciting jazz on "Loud and Dark." As KCCK's Craig Kessler explains, "Although Equilateral has already issued two sparkling gems of earlier studio CD 'documents,' this wondrous band's art and music continues to evolve and expand. Individually, the members' artistic talents and merits can certainly stand on their own. But as a group, the mushroom cloud of musical explosion and the excitement generated from the compositions, the blowing, and the overall jaw-dropping ensemble performance continue to floor me!" The quartet includes saxophonist Chris Merz, trumpeter Brent Sandy, bassist Greg Mazunik and drummer Eric Thompson, "the finest unit that this area has ever produced."

Monday, September 17, 2012

Saxes Are Wild - Bob Stewart

Jerry Bergonzi's quintessentially modern tenor sax style melds the linear, chromatic approach of such greats as Joe Henderson and Wayne Shorter with the horizontal chordal techniques of John Coltrane. His manner of playing is utterly spontaneous and distinctive. With such contemporaries as Joe Lovano, Michael Brecker and Dave Liebman, Bergonzi has helped define the modern approach to his instrument. His quirky compositions always challenge the listener while keeping one foot within the bounds of tradition. His new quintet CD -- "Shifting Gears" -- features pianist Bruce Barth and trumpeter Phil Grenadier, and finds Bergonzi in fine form as a player and as a composer.

Saxophonist Jeff Coffin is a three-time Grammy winner, composer and active educator. Currently the reed man for the Dave Matthews Band, he's also known for his 14 years with the genre-defying Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. "Into the Air", on which Coffin reconvenes his one-of-a-kind band, the Mu'tet, reflects his experiences with the Flecktones and DMB while showing off his own unique sensibility. The Mu'tet takes its name from the word 'mutation,' clearly reflecting Coffin's idea that music must continue to change and mutate in order to grow. His compositions draw from the deep wells of African, New Orleans, funk, jazz, Gypsy, fusion and other styles.

Also this week, saxophonist Tia Fuller is joined by bassist John Patitucci, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and singer Dianne Reeves for her third release as a leader, "Angelic Warrior"; sax man Ralph Bowen convenes a quartet for his new disc, "Total Eclipse"; and pianist and Chicago native Max Marshall, who's performed with jazz luminaries like Terrell Stafford and Rufus Reid, reveals "Instant Comaraderie.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Bentyne's Porter Therapy; Electric Loueke - Bob Stewart

 When Cheryl Bentyne was recovering from cancer treatment and starting again to sing, it was to Cole Porter she first turned as her "saving grace." With his songs fresh in her mind from recently recording Let's "Misbehave: the Cole Porter Songbook", Bentyne connected with Porter's ability to "cover the human condition," healing along with the music she calls "perfect, joyous, a thrill to sing." Now, nearly a year after the diagnosis, followed by surgery and chemo, Bentyne-for 30+ years the reigning soprano with 10-time Grammy winning vocal group, the Manhattan Transfer-celebrates her new cancer-free status with 14 of Porter's most memorable tunes including two with the late saxophonist James Moody.

The acclaimed guitarist and vocalist Lionel Loueke's new disc -- "Heritage" -- finds him exploring a more electric sound with a new trio, featuring Derrick Hodge on electric bass and Mark Guiliana on drums. The veteran of bands led by Terence Blanchard and Herbie Hancock, Loueke is bringing jazz into vibrant contact with the sounds of West Africa, in particular his native Benin. The disc presents seven new compositions by Loueke, two by Robert Glasper, and one co-written by the two. Glasper, who also serves as the CD's producer, contributes piano and keyboards as well, and vocalist Gretchen Parlato provides background vocals.

Monday, September 3, 2012

New Music - Bob Stewart

Debuts From Vega and DeBriano/Ben-Hur and More...

While pianist Donald Vega is beginning to draw attention in jazz circle as Mulgrew Miller's successor in the Ron Carter Trio, he makes a bold statement as a composer and bandleader on "Spiritual Nature." Joined by the regal rhythm tandem of Christian McBride and drummer Lewis Nash, Vega explores the marriage of jazz, Latin and classical music on his auspicious debut. Classically trained in his native Nicaragua, Vega emigrated to Los Angeles at age 14 and began learning the language of jazz from mentor Billy Higgins and later with John Clayton. Bassist Al McKibbon, a member of Dizzy Gillespie's late-'40s band, subsequently took the young pianist under his wing and schooled him on the bandstand on the finer points of bebop.

The idea and inspiration for "Our Thing" was born last summer within the walls of a 12th century church atop the tiny village of Saint Cezaire, France, where guitarist/composer Roni Ben-Hur and bassist-composer Santi Debriano co-lead a much lauded annual jazz camp. The duo's eagerly awaited annual concert has become the centerpiece event of the festival held there each summer. The new release, featuring these stellar musicians on disc together for the first time along with percussionist Duduka da Fonseca, is , in essence, a continuation of the sublime musical conversations the pair have shared over the years in Saint Cezaire.

Also this week, "Hot House" is the latest duo outing from pianist Chick Corea and vibraphonist Gary Burton, this time opting for a repertoire drawn from some of their favorite composers from the '40s through the '60s; singer Kevin Mahogany, a highlight at this summer's Iowa City Jazz Festival, teams up the Dave Stryker Organ Trio on "Next Time You See Me"; and drummer Jae Sinnett offers up his 11th recording as a leader, "Still Standing", containing the first new music he's written in over five years.

Wednesday Night Special - Gordon

U of I Jazz Repertory Ensemble + U of I Latin Jazz Ensemble at The Mill 
The Jazz Repertory Ensemble is a big band devoted to performing the works of the jazz mainstream. Directed by Brent Sandy, this ensemble covers the range between early swing and progressive jazz. Students learn the conventions of performance practice for each era and the skills for stylistic improvisations. Members of JRE are selected by audition in the fall of each academic year.

The Latin Jazz Ensemble is a group ranging from 10-15 members dedicated to playing the music of the Caribbean and South America. Its programs each semester are often centered around one country or region, and regularly feature an expanded rhythm section. LJE records an album every other year, and presents an annual Latin Jazz Festival each December. This group is directed by James Dreier, a founding member of Orquesta Alto Maiz and is widely regarded as a resource for Afro-Cuban drum styles. Members of LJE are selected by audition in the fall of each academic year.

7 p.m. following JazzSet