Monday, April 29, 2013

New Music - Bob Stewart

Flanagan/Byard Rediscovered; Mouse Roars

Over the past few years, Resonance Records has established itself as a home for such notable rediscoveries as Freddie Hubbard's "Pinnacle" and Wes Montgomery's "Echoes of Indiana Avenue." Now two titans of jazz piano are captured on the new CD -- "Tommy Flanagan/Jaki Byard: The Magic of 2" -- a previously unreleased 1982 concert recorded at San Francisco's celebrated Keystone Korner. "It's a revelation, how well they played together," says Keystone's owner, Todd Barkan. "They had quite disparate styles, but they share such an incredibly large vocabulary and frame of reference that it makes their language coherent." Jazz historian Dan Morgenstern says the music is a "gift from the past that is both unique and stupendous. Alone and especially together, Tommy and Jaki show us what spontaneous creation is all about."

Chicago drummer Jack Mouse has spent decades performing with some of the greatest names in jazz, including Stan Kenton, James Moody, Billy Taylor, Bill Evans, Frank Wess, Clark Terry, and many others. Now he's finally gathered together a quintet of some of his longtime collaborators to put together "Range of Motion" -- an intriguing set of ten original compositions. With Art Davis on trumpet, Scott Robinson on woodwinds, guitarist John McLean, and two titan bassists splitting duties, Bob Bowman and Kelly Sill, Mouse's well-seasoned group aesthetic receives a long-overdue recording debut.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Soulful Morrison; Keberle's Catharsis - Bob Stewart

Anybody who has ever heard vocalist Barbara Morrison command a stage knows that she possesses an effervescent singing style that drips with soul and a ribald sense of humor. The Ypsilanti-born singer spent her early career working with blues legend Eddie 'Cleanhead' Vinson, who gave the young singer a secure grounding in the blues. She has performed at the Montreux, Monterey, Long Beach and North Sea Jazz Festivals, Carnegie Hall, and probably every Southern California jazz venue of the last 40 years. She's also been heard with Ray Charles, Dizzy Gillespie, Kenny Burrell, Jimmy Smith, and the Count Basie Orchestra, to name a few. For her new CD -- "A Sunday Kind of Love," -- Morrison is joined by that most soulful of tenor players, Houston Person, on a program of standards and bluesy classics.

Few musicians have navigated the richly varied avenues of New York City's abundant music scene with the same passion and adaptability as trombonist and composer Ryan Keberle. Since his arrival in 1999, he's drawn upon lessons learned playing alongside masters of a multitude of forms, from jazz legends to indie-rock ground-breakers, R & B superstars to classical virtuosos. He's worked in Maria Schneider's Big Band and the ensembles of Wynton Marsalis and Rufus Reid, as well as the "Saturday Night Live" house band. He debuted with his Double Quartet in 2007, and 2012 marked the debut of his latest group, the piano-less quartet Catharsis. Their first release-- "Music is Emotion" -- is highlighted by a handful of Keberle originals along with tunes by Strayhorn, Lennon & McCartney, and Art Farmer.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Stephens' Nepenthe; Weeds' Benefits - Bob Stewart

A nepenthe is an elixir that relieves one's worries and sorrows. In Homer's Odyssey, the nepenthe is a potion given to Helen to cure her woe. Saxophonist and composer Dayna Stephens finds his nepenthetic reprieve while performing. For his new recording -- "That Nepenthetic Place" -- the Brooklyn born, Bay Area raised reedman has convened an ensemble of musicians he has known from his early days in the youth programs of the Bay Area, the Stanford Jazz Workshop, the Berklee College of Music, and the Monk Institute in Los Angles. It includes trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, pianist Taylor Eigsti and alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw.
Cory Weeds is a busy man. One wonders how this club owner, record label owner and distinguished saxophonist accomplishes more in one day than most of us do in a year. He loves to present jazz to enthusiastic fans at his Cellar Jazz Club in Vancouver. He also loves to present jazz to the world through his Cellar Live record label. Most importantly, he has a deep passion for making the art itself. Listeners will hear this love, passion and commitment on his brand new disc -- "With Benefits" -- featuring fellow Vancouverite Bill Coon on guitar and the rhythm section of New York City's Peter Washington and Lewis Nash.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Terrason's Gouache; Branker's Uppity - Bob Stewart

Making a bold statement in the worlds of art or music demands the use of tools and mediums that strike the observer immediately. Painters like Henri Matisse have used gouache paint, a heavy opaque watercolor, for its strong, dynamic color and consistency for a striking visual effect. Highly regarded pianist and composer Jacky Terrasson has decided to mirror these pronounced effects with a well-selected assemblage of musical tools-songs and musicians-to appear on his new CD, "Gouache." Terrasson performs a number of originals alongside classics by Erik Satie and Sonny Rollins, which contrast with new classics from Amy Winehouse, John Lennon and Justin Bieber.
Anthony Branker is director of Jazz Studies at Princeton University. As a composer, his music has been featured at festivals, concerts and clubs all over the world. All About Jazz describes him as "...a serious composer who does a lot more than write tunes...his music is steeped in the deeper sources of jazz." While addressing such themes as intolerance, hate and prejudice, Branker's new CD -- "Uppity" -- strives to remind us of the power and resiliency of the human spirit as we continue the struggle for a truly tolerant and color-blind society. Along with his band Word Play, Branker has created a thoroughly musical work that will certainly be considered one of his more important projects to date.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Alexander's Ballads; Winkler's Nyro Songbook - Bob Stewart

It may have been Charlie Parker's alto that first brought the saxophone into the elite jazz club previously occupied by the trumpet, piano and drums but today it's certainly the tenor sax that has equaled them in popularity and, in many ways, become the 'glory instrument'. Thought of as hard driving and masculine thank to the pioneering work of Trane and others of his ilk, the instrument also has a softer side and is perfectly suited to rendering tunes at a slower tick of the metronome with sensitivity and tenderness. Eric Alexander makes his first foray into the hallowed halls of the 'ballad record' with "Touching" -- joining the ranks of such tenor balladeers as Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Dexter Gordon and countless others.

"Mark Winkler discovers what Miles Davis, Roy Ayers and Carmen McRae knew back in the '60s, that Laura Nyro wrote great songs, and he makes them hip all over again," according to Brett Fox of LA Jazz Scene. Going where no one has gone before, singer Winkler tackles the songbook the legendary '60s and '70s icon on The "Laura Nyro Project"  featuring arrangements by Eli Bruegemann, current musical director of for "Saturday Night Live," and jazz heavy hitters Eric Reed, Anthony Wilson, Bob Sheppard, Larry Koonse, Cheryl Bentyne, and even the Mills Brothers. Winkler covers Nyro's more well-known tunes and some choice album tracks, revisiting her songs that are melting pots of jazz, pop and soul and taking them to the 'jazz' side.