Monday, May 27, 2013

James/Sanborn Reunion; IC Jazz Fest-Bound Allen - Bob Stewart

Bob James and David Sanborn pay tribute to Dave Brubeck & Paul Desmond on their brand new disc, "Quartette Humaine", the first collaboration between the pair since their Grammy Award winning "Double Vision" release in 1986. On their second go-round, the old masters offer up an all-acoustic quartet recital propelled by drummer Steve Gadd and bassist James Genus. It's a poignant coincidence that the recording session occurred just a week after the passing of Brubeck, who the protagonists were thinking of as they gestated the new project. "I felt-and I still do when I listen to the Brubeck quartet-that they were taking us on an adventure, and some of the adventure was challenging," James explains. "Just when you thought you knew where you were going, they'd go somewhere different."

Far from new to the jazz world, saxophonist JD Allen has been a stalwart of the New York scene for more that a decade, lending his astute playing to a string of headline jazz names, from Betty Carter to Cindy Blackman. His own usually piano-less ensemble explores new territory with works that challenge preconceptions and expand the expressive potential of jazz composition. Eleven new pieces are highlighted on "Grace", a musical monument to his creative spirit featuring dexterous solos, melodic tapestries, imaginative textures and complex rhythms. Allen will take part in the Iowa City Jazz Festival in July.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

42 Years & Counting for Oregon - Bob Stewart

The second youth of Oregon continues to hold great surprises. The joy of playing together again, serving music, going into the recording studio with the same intensity of their early work, leaves one wonderfully amazed still to this day. "Family Tree" is a CD that expresses gratitude and reinforces once again the relationship between Oregon and their endless blanket of fans. In the band's own words, the disc "is dedicated to not only to the immediate families of each of us, but also to the extended family of listeners, producers, technicians, and all that have supplied the encouragement and help that have kept us thriving. Our dedication to the expansion and improvement of our music-making is the fruit of this care and the trust placed in us."

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Iowa City Jazz Fest Channel Launches June 1

Iowa’s Jazz Station, KCCK-FM, along with Summer of the Arts, will launch the “Iowa City Jazz Festival Channel” on June 1. The program stream will consist solely of artists performing at the Iowa City Jazz Festival, July 5-7.

The channel was created in recognition of the fact that how people listen to music has changed with the advent of on-demand services like Pandora and Spotify.

Craig Kessler & Bob Stewart interview Ariel Pocock at the 2012 Jazz Fest
“We’ve always given heavy play to Jazz Fest artists in the weeks preceding the Festival, and aired interviews and other features,” says KCCK General Manager Dennis Green. “But today, if someone wants to hear a particular artist or tune, they aren’t always willing to wait for it to show up in our rotation. They want it now. The Jazz Fest Channel is our way of making that content available whenever people want it.”

Programming on the Jazz Fest Channel will consist of recordings of the groups performing on both the main stage and side stages. Artist interviews and profiles, as well as schedule information and updates, will be carried as well.

The Iowa City Jazz Festival will take place July 5-7 on the UI Pentacrest. Headliners include Sachal Vasandani, Charlie Hunter with Scott Amedola, Christian Scott, Dr. Lonnie Smith, JD Allen, Fred Hersch and Pharoah Sanders.

A variety of local and regional bands will play on three side stages, including several high school and college ensembles. Their music, if available, will also be a part of the Jazz Fest Channel.

The Iowa City Jazz Festival Channel will “pre-empt” KCCK’s second program stream, The Iowa Channel, for a little over a month. The station is available by downloading the Iowa Channel app for IOS and Android, online at or at 88.3-2 on HD Radio.

KCCK’s main channel, 88.3 and 106.9 FM, and online, will broadcast all of the main stage performances live.

The Iowa City Jazz Festival is presented by Iowa City’s Summer of the Arts. Information is available at There is also a Jazz Fest Channel “button” for quick access from that site.

Monday, May 13, 2013

New Music - Bob Stewart

Redman & Strings; Locke & The Blues

Creating his own take on the classic jazz-with-strings album was the initial impetus for Joshua Redman's "Walking Shadows", a collection of ballads, both vintage and contemporary, that can be as eloquently moody and restless in feel as they are hauntingly beautiful and serene. With his friend and frequent collaborator, the pianist Brad Mehldau, on board as producer, Redman has retooled a familiar formula. The concept serves as a starting point, as foundation and inspiration, for Redman's exploration of an ambitiously eclectic set of tunes performed in a variety of configurations. "There are six songs with strings, there are quartet songs, a couple of trio songs and a duo song," explains Redman. "We tried to explore a variety of instrumentation and textures in the course of making the record."

"Lay Down My Heart", the third release from the prolific vibraphonist Joe Locke since signing with Motema Records in 2012, is an album of blues and ballads. In Locke's words, "This music is meant to provide respite for folks who work hard every day and need an opportunity so slow down and be reacquainted with that certain 'something' which eludes most of us in the midst of the whirlwind which is modern life. There is no high concept here, just some songs pulled from a deep well, which will hopefully serve to feed the soul." Surrounding Locke in this endeavor are long-time collaborator and bassist David Finck, label-mate Ryan Cohan on piano, and drummer Jaimeo Brown, who played with another great vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson when he was just 19-years-old.

Also in the mix this week is percussionist Ian Dogle with his eighth release as a leader and his most ambitious and far-reaching project to date, the two-disc set "Outside the Box-Jazz Journeys and Worlds Beyond"; pianist Stephen Anderson and his trio are joined by saxophonist Joel Frahm on their third CD, "Believe"; and pianist Jay D'Amico offers up a program of original compositions on his latest quintet project, "Tango Caliente.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Christian McBride's Two Bass Hits - Bob Stewart

Bassist Christian McBride birthed his acoustic group a few years ago by necessity of desiring a return to the hallowed Village Vanguard in New York. His then current electric band was not deemed appropriate by club owner Lorraine Gordon ("You can come back, Christian, but not with that rock 'n' roll band.") Thusly, Inside Straight was born and then named at their seminal gig at the Monterey Jazz Festival by the fans in attendance. The three-time Grammy Award-winner brings back another installment of this group on the new CD, "People Music." This sojourn is augmented by a couple youngsters on the rise-Ulysses Owens, Jr. and Christian Sands, who play on two tracks-the remainder handled with the usual aplomb my Messrs. Steve Wilson, Warren Wolf, Peter Martin and Carl Allen.
McBride also has a part on the new disc from Michael Dease, "Coming Home." As he writes in the liner notes, Dease's "staggering command of the trombone has rightfully made him the in-demand player that he is today." The trombonist has played in a host of great big bands over the years, including those of Illinois Jacquet, Jimmy Heath, Charles Tolliver, and Wayne Shorter. For his fourth CD as a leader, he's joined by reedmen Steve Wilson and Eric Alexander and pianist Renee Rosnes, while McBride is joined in the rhythm section by his drummer from Inside Straight, Ulysses Owens, Jr. The disc features five inventive Dease originals complemented by rare covers of songs by Oscar Peterson, Freddie Hubbard and Duke Ellington.