Monday, November 26, 2012

A Taste of Abbasi; Hamilton Drives DePaul Ensemble - Bob Stewart

"Producing so vivid a music that it can almost be tasted, Abbasi sounds like no one who has gone before him. His compositions are sheer genius." So says All About Jazz regarding New York guitarist and composer Rez Abbasi, who has emerged as one of the most creative musicians of his generation. His forays into hybrid jazz informed by Indian-Pakistani music have set him apart from the crowd. His newest venture and ninth disc as a leader, "Continuous Beat", finds him in a highly interactive trio with bassist John Hebert and drummer Satoshi Takeishi. Along with Abbasi's singular compositions, the trio interprets and recontextualizes tunes by Keith Jarrett, Monk, and Gary Peacock.

Drummer Jeff Hamilton is featured as performer and composer with the critically-acclaimed DePaul University Jazz Ensemble on the new CD, "Time Passes On." This dynamic, swinging set of big band arrangements was recorded live at Chicago's legendary Jazz Showcase last year. The intensity and brilliant performance of Hamilton and the Ensemble is beautifully captured, and the audience at the venerable jazz club adds to the electricity and excitement of the moment. The beautifully crafted arrangements from DePaul students, faculty and alumni include tunes from the Great American Songbook plus original tunes by Hamilton and members of the Ensemble.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Ninety Miles Live; Pharez For the People - Bob Stewart

Perhaps better than any politician or diplomat, musicians understand inherently that when we look at each other as individuals and focus on the similarities, the divide between us is actually quite short. Vibraphonist Stefon Harris, saxophonist David Sanchez and trumpeter Christian Scott first crossed that divide on their "Ninety Miles" disc of last year. Recorded during the same trip, their first and only live performance, "Ninety Miles at Cubadisco", took place at one of Cuba's biggest music festivals in Havana in 2010. With the help of some highly talented Cuban musicians, the trio further explores the chemistry of the earlier disc and takes their virtuosity to another level, conversing in a common language that transcends words.

After a long hiatus from recording, Chicago trumpeter Pharez Whitted returns with his second set of crackling originals, "For the People." Though deeply rooted in the tradition of Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan and Dizzy, Pharez looks only forward with a thoroughly vital sound and modern compositional approach. With his superb sextet, including guitarist Bobby Broom, saxophonist Eddie Bayard and pianist Ron Perillo, he further establishes his position as one of the top trumpet voices of his generation. As Neil Tesser of the Chicago Examiner states, "...few have managed to channel (Hubbard) as effectively as Pharez Whitted, who honors the late giant with his combination of intensity and technique, spank and sparkle, and that hot-cider tone."

Monday, November 12, 2012

Fret Phenoms - Bob Stewart

Although one of the most emotive interpreters of standards repertoire, guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel is also one of his generation's most prolific composers. The NEA Composer's Award winner asserts that it is his writing which helped develop what  has now become a singular voice in modern jazz. For his first quartet disc in more than ten years -- "Star of Jupiter" -- he's assembled a stellar band which includes pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Eric Revis and the dynamic young drummer, Justin Faulkner. Rosenwinkel's brilliant use of space is paired with deeply affective melodies and sensual grooves that evolve slowly and steadily.

Guitarist Ed Cherry is probably best known for his work with Dizzy Gillespie's ensemble for almost 14 years, followed by stints with Paquito D'Rivera, Henry Threadgill and Roy Hargrove. But his new CD, "It's All Good", hearkens back to his days with John Patton during the organist's 1990's comeback sessions. Cherry
unleashes a powerful trio date featuring the solid harmonic foundation of B3 whiz Pat Bianchi and the explosive metrics of drummer Byron Landham on a program of hard bop gems from Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Thelonious Monk and others.

Monday, November 5, 2012

New Music - Bob Stewart

Most jazz fans probably know saxophonist David Bixler from his many years in the  first alto chair of Arturo O'Farrill's Afro-Cuban ensembles. O'Farrill describes him as "a brilliant mind, an outsider looking in at all the restraints of what is normally called jazz, but like true observers not bound by any of them. His is an original voice-a beautiful and reflective antidote to fad oriented jazz." Bixler  deserves much wider recognition for his own recordings over the past decade. For his fifth release as leader, "The Nearest Exit May Be Inside Your Head", he's accompanied by trumpeter Scott Wendholdt, guitarist John Hart, bassist Ugonna Ukegwo and drummer Andy Watson on a program of ten originals.

Los Angeles-based composer and pianist Kait Dunton, who's been studying under pianist Alan Pasqua and composer Vince Mendoza, delivers her second disc of original music, "Mountain Suite." What started as a few measures of music composed in the Canadian  Rockies became a full suite of music brought to life by master interpreters Peter Erskine on drums, Bob Mintzer on tenor sax, John Daversa on trumpet and Darek Oles on bass. Using jazz as a springboard into creative realms of her own imagining, Dunton both refers to and defies idiomatic expectations of the genre. It swings,  but it also slips into more subtle, shadowy places.

Also this week, saxophonist Houston Person collaborates with legendary pianist Cedar Walton on "Naturally"; the South Florida Jazz Orchestra under the direction of Chuck Bergeron calls upon Brian Lynch, Wayne Bergeron, Greg Gisbert, Jason Carder and Alex Norris for a "Trumpet Summit"; and pianist, composer and arranger Jeff Holmes  offers up his debut small group recording, "Of One's Own."