Monday, July 29, 2013

New Music Monday - Bob Stewart

New Music Monday - August 12, 2013

The term "misfit toys" has become shorthand for any group of ill-fitting or otherwise wrongheaded castoffs from the straight-ahead world. It's also the perfect name for Iowa percussionist Dan Moore's latest ensemble on a project which has been in the works for the last decade. It's been a labor of love, born of a desire to visit the halcyon days of Moore's youth with the help of his musical partners, banjoist Paul Elwood and drummer Matt Wilson, and very special guest, clarinetist Robert Paredes, who passed away shortly after his work on the project. "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is" offers up gleefully demented deconstructed arrangements of '70s radio hits and B-sides from artists as diverse as Talking Heads, Stevie Wonder, Gilbert O'Sullivan and others.

Two short snippets recorded live with trumpeter Don Cherry bookend percussionist Trilok Gurtu's new CD -- "Spellbound." Even though the other pieces on the disc do not feature the jazz legend, they all are expressions of Gurtu's great admiration for his one-time mentor and friend who died in 1995. For Gurtu jazz has become an attitude, which has made it possible for him to overcome the boundaries between styles and genres. Jazz still forms the basis for his musical ouvre, though, and the trumpet has practically become a symbol for Gurtu's own musical vision. For the new disc, he builds a bridge between continents and cultures, using trumpet masters from Norway, Italy, Germany, Lebanon and Turkey, along with the young American Ambrose Akinmusire.

Also this week, pianist Mike LeDonne and his trio are captured live at Cory Weeds' Cellar Jazz Club in Vancouver on "Speak"; the Commons Collective out of the University of Northern Iowa unveils its debut disc, "Beginnings"; and saxophonist Jeremy Udden and trumpeter John McNeil debut their new quartet, "Hush Point.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Etienne's Gumbo; BWB's Return - Bob Stewart

Etienne Charles has been hailed as "a daring improviser" by JazzTimes magazine while Ben Ratlilff of the New York Times called him "one of the more ambitious soloists and composers" and "an auteur." The Trinidad-born trumpet phenom serves up a delicious bowl of musical gumbo with "Creole Soul", an exciting exploration of his music roots featuring sounds from the French, Spanish and English speaking Caribbean as well as North America. The disc highlights the myriad inspirations from Haitian Creole chants and blues to bebop and R&B while drawing on an array of rhythms including rocksteady, reggae, bel air, kongo and calypso.

Individually, they are three titans of contemporary jazz: Rick Braun, the gifted trumpeter/flugelhornist; Grammy Award-winning tenor saxophonist Kirk Whalum, the Memphis-born wunderkind who mixes Beale Street, gospel, the blues and bop; and Norman Brown, the Grammy-winning guitarist who brings a Louisiana lilt to his Wes Montgomery/George Benson-influenced six-string soulful strut. They came together eleven years ago as the supergroup known as BWB, recording a disc that made them one of the most sought-after groups at that time. This terrific triad has reassembled for a new CD-- "Human Nature" -- which puts their own spin on eleven selections made famous by Michael Jackson.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Walter's 20th Congress; Heckman's 3rd - Bob Stewart

For 20 years, Robert Walter has been pulling drawbars and pushing the limits of the Hammond B-3 organ. As a founding member of the Greyboy All Stars, he helped usher in the funk-jazz renaissance of the early '90s. For his new CD -- "Get Thy Bearings" -- Walter reconvenes his long-standing band the 20th Congress. It was a recent move from New Orleans to Los Angeles that jump-started the band, which hadn't recorded a studio disc in ten years. The outlet for the keyboardist's funkiest material since its inception in 1999, the group is rounded out by guitarist/bassist Elgin Park, reedmen Karl Denson and Cochemea Gastelum, and percussionists Chuck Prada and Aaron Redfield.

"Born to Be Blue is the much-anticipated 3rd release from acclaimed multi-saxophonist Steve Heckman. Praised by saxophonists as diverse as Stan Getz, Charles Lloyd and Pharoah Sanders, Heckman has assembled an all-star band that includes the renowned and highly versatile guitarist Howard Alden, pianist Matt Clark, multi-award winner Marcus Shelby on bass, and internationally know drummer Akira Tana. The result is a collection of profound beauty, subtlety and swing featuring gems from the Great American Songbook plus two inspiring originals by Heckman.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Cary Honors Abbey; Django All-Stars - Bob Stewart

Marc Cary has gained a reputation as one of the most creative pianists of our time, a bandleader with musical interests that encompass jazz, go-go, hip-hop, electronic music, Indian classical music and more. But Cary is also an incisive and sought-after accompanist, a fact famously borne out by his 12-year tenure with the great vocalist, songwriter and jazz icon Abbey Lincoln. "For the Love of Abbey", Cary's first solo piano recording, is the most personal and heartfelt of tributes, shedding light on Lincoln's remarkable body of work and honoring her extraordinary gift for melody and song craft.

The most meaningful tribute that can be paid to great jazz artists is not to simply pay homage, but to be inspired by that legacy to create new and vibrant music in that same spirit. From that perspective, the Django Festival All-Stars "Live at Birdland 2012" is an unbridled success. With the immortal Django Reinhardt as its life spring, the 14-year-old Django Reinhardt New York Festival as its central nervous system, and the Schmitt Gypsy family dynasty as its heartbeat, the Django Festival All-Stars bring the legendary Gypsy guitarist's legacy fully into the 21st Century. Schmitt family patriarch Dorado, a legendary Gypsy guitarist himself, and his son Samson are joined by the younger family members Bronson and Amati to create a veritable guitar dynasty, and are all featured prominently on the disc.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Frisell's Big Sur; Cool Cole - Bob Stewart

The region known as "Big Sur" occupies 90 miles of spectacular central California coastline and extends inland to the abruptly rising Santa Lucia Mountains. Over the past century, the rugged coastline and terrain, breathtaking vistas, and potential for communion with nature have attracted and inspired a multitude of creative types, such as Charles Lloyd, Henry Miller, Jack Kerouac, Ansel Adams, Hunter S. Thompson and the Beach Boys. Born of a Monterey Jazz Festival commission last year, guitarist Bill Frisell's "Big Sur" features an hour of original music that explicitly references the coastal-mountain environment. The commission included a residency at Glen Deven Ranch, the beauty and quietude of which provided Frisell with both inspiration and time to be alone with his muse.

If you ever wonder what jazz will sound like after all the modernist and post-modernist agendas fall out of fashion, you need look no further than the recordings of Freddy Cole. When Freddy sings, we are left with the music itself, stripped of ideologies, left with songs true to their own emotional prerogatives. Such is the case with Cole's new CD -- "This and That." Here, as in all his work, Freddy's supreme relaxation of delivery makes him the master of under-statement. With his usual rhythm section and guest artists Bootsie Barnes on tenor and Josh Brown on trombone, Freddy & Company get back to basics and let the music speak eloquently for itself.