Thursday, July 30, 2015

New Music Monday for August 3, 2015

Listen to this playlist on YouTube and Spotify!

     George Cables is one of the world’s greatest jazz pianists, one who helped define the sound of the instrument as we know it today. He’s been making unostentatious music at the keyboard for decades. His new release, “In Good Company,” though focusing on people Cables has known in the past, is not a tribute album but rather a series of personal reminiscences from the keyboard. On display on every track are those wonderful turns of phrases, interesting voicings and that gorgeous tone which characterizes Cables’ playing. With musical compadres Essiet Essiet and Victor Lewis, Cables explores the music of Ellington, Strayhorn, John Hicks, and offers a couple of his own intensely interesting compositions.
     Saxophonist extraordinaire Walt Weiskopf shifts into another gear and takes us along for the ride on the “Open Road.” As a tour de force collection of hard hitting originals, Weiskopf’s second release for Posi-Tone Records features the swinging rhythm section of pianist Peter Zak, bassist Mike Karn and drummer Steve Fidyk. All of the musicians do some heavy lifting behind the sensational melodicism and harmonic inventions of their fearless leader.
     Also this week, it’s the final release for the late guitarist Jeff Golub, “The Vault,” featuring saxophonist Kirk Whalum; veteran trumpet stand-outs Randy Brecker and Bobby Shew are featured with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra and St. Blaise’s Big Band, under the direction of Vince Mendoza, on “Trumpet Summit Prague: the Mendoza Arrangements Live”; and Eastern Iowa’s own Laranja, featuring guitarist Dan Padley, reedman Ryan Smith, keyboardist Michael Jarvey, bassist Drew Morton and drummer Justin Leduc, unveil “Thrills and Echoes.”

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

New Music Monday for July 27, 2015

Listen to this playlist on YouTube and Spotify!

     Norwegian trumpeter Mathias Eick pays tribute to the North American Midwest on a new CD of intensely melodic compositions which reflect thematically upon journeys and homecomings both literal and spiritual. The original inspiration for “Midwest” came during an arduous tour of the U.S. and Canada. “We’d started on the West Coast and were driving long distances every day. I was beginning to get very homesick. Then we reached the area called the Rural Midwest and I suddenly had the strange feeling I was home. Parts of the Midwest remind me strongly of parts of Norway…” In his music for the disc, Eick sketches an imaginary voyage from the village of his birth, over the seas to America.
     “All in the Family” brings together two members of Chicago’s Freeman family that have never recorded together until now. Legendary guitarist George Freeman, who celebrated his 88th birthday in April, played with the likes of Charlie Parker and Gene Ammons and was recently selected as Chicagoan of the Year by Chicago Tribune Arts Critic Howard Reich. The career of world-renowned saxophonist Chico Freeman, who is George’s nephew and Von Freeman’s son, has taken him from his early years with Chicago’s AACM to Earth, Wind and Fire to producing, performing and recording with legendary musicians in New York including Elvin Jones. Together, they present their musical legacy of Chicago jazz with a program of originals by both players.
     Also this week, legendary Grammy-nominee percussionist Sammy Figueroa unveils his fourth release as a leader, “Imaginary World,” featuring Venezuelan pianist and composer Silvano Monasterios; New Orleans keyboardist and composer Charlie Dennard offers up his second release, an organ trio affair, “5 O’ Clock Charlie”; and Sacramento-based pianist Jim Martinez blends a set of Vince Guaraldi compositions with some Guaraldi-esque pieces of his own on “Good Grief! It’s Still Jim Martinez.”

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

New Music Monday for July 20, 2015

Listen to this playlist on YouTube and Spotify!

     Pianist Donald Vega’s origins were in Sandinista-era Nicaragua, where he spent the first fourteen years of his journey. His mother then brought him to Los Angeles, where he would eventually meet drum icon Billy Higgins. Higgins nurtured Vega’s will to swing, to play jazz without a ‘Latin accent,’ turning him on to Bud Powell and Charlie Parker. In 2005 he began studies with pianist Kenny Barron at both the Manhattan School of Music and Julliard. More recently, he was the late Mulgrew Miller’s replacement in the Ron Carter Trio. For his third release for Resonance Records, “With Respect to Monty,” Vega celebrates the Jamaican jazz icon Monty Alexander with a hard-swinging compilation of Monty’s great, early compositions. His all-star quartet includes guitarist Anthony Wilson, drummer Lewis Nash and bassist Hassan Shakur.
     Winner of the 2012 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Drums competition, Jamison Ross is set to release his debut disc, “Jamison,” which not only showcases his prowess as a jazz musician who commands the drums, but also a gifted composer, arranger and, more pointedly, a singer. “When I won the Monk competition, no one there knew I could sing,” he says. “When I took the quest to record my first record, I was torn between my heart as a drummer and my heart as a singer. Ultimately, I was compelled to take a journey that incorporated my voice as part of my sound.” Infused with jazz, blues and genuine soul, the disc filters music from multiple sources through a contemporary approach, refreshing material by Muddy Waters, Eddie Harris and Les McCann and Carmen Lundy, while mixing in some of his own compositions.
     Also this week, legendary guitarists Larry Carlton and David T. Walker share the stage for the first time “@ Billboard Live Tokyo”; guitarist and composer Kenny Carr, who spent ten years touring the world with Ray Charles, unveils his fourth CD as a leader, “Idle Talk,” collaborating with longtime friends Donny McCaslin on reeds, Kenny Wolleson on drums and Hans Glawischnig on bass; and the Jazz Professors, with special guest Michael Philip Mossman, perform music inspired by the art of French Impressionist Claude Monet with “En Plein Air.”

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

New Music Monday for July 13, 2015

Listen to this playlist on YouTube and Spotify!

     In a musical world where keeping a working band has been difficult for many bandleaders, drummer Steve Smith has managed to keep three bands working for the past three decades. His jazz-rock band Vital Information has been touring and recording for more than thirty years, while his straight-ahead groups Buddy’s Buddies, made up of Buddy Rich alumni, and Steve Smith’s Jazz Legacy have each been in existence for the last five years. Therefore, it makes perfect sense for the drummer to blend all three bands for a new studio disc, “Viewpoint,” with a band called Vital Information-NYC Edition. It includes saxophonist Andy Fusco and pianist Mark Soskin from Buddy’s Buddies and Jazz Legacy, guitarist Vinny Valentino from Vital Information, and bassist Baron Browne from all three bands.
     Organist Brian Charette takes it to the streets and brings it all back home with his ninth release as a leader, “Alphabet City,” so named for the area of Manhattan where he lives. While the compositional focus and musical crux of the CD rests squarely on the shoulder of Charette and his Hammond B-3, the additional contributions of guitar Will Bernard and drummer Rudy Royston also provide melodic highlights and the necessary rhythmic support to keep the session deeply in the pocket. Those who caught the trio at the Iowa City Jazz Festival this month can attest to tightness of the ensemble.
      Grammy nominee Wayne Wallace celebrates the ever-developing cultural   conversation between the U.S. and Cuba with “Intercambio,” the fifth, and strongest, release by his acclaimed Latin Jazz Quintet; British saxophonist Steve Kaldestad, who has now relocated to Vancouver, British Columbia, is joined by pianist Renee Rosnes and her trio for his third disc as leader, “New York Afternoon”; and “Butterfly Blue” finds vocalist Halie Loren drawing inspiration from blues and soul with a mix of jazz and Songbook standards, re-imagined pop songs and original pieces.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

New Music Monday for July 6, 2015

Listen to the playlist on YouTube and Spotify!

     Charenee Wade is not one to hold back or let fear stand in her way. The first artist ever to enter two Thelonious Monk Vocal competitions, she walked away from the second in 2010 with instant buzz and second place to her new friend Cecile McLorin Salvant. Known for expert vocal improvisational ability and her seriously swinging groove, Wade evokes a classic jazz sound akin to Betty Carter and Sarah Vaughan, two of her musical touchstones. Her new CD, “Offering: the Music of Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson,” pays tribute to another inspiration, the socially conscious poet and musician Gil Scott-Heron. She is joined in this endeavor by notable guests including guitarist Dave Stryker, vibraphonist Stefon Harris and bassist Lonnie Plaxico.
     Tenor saxophonist, composer and arranger Bob Mintzer recorded his first big band album in 1983. Five of his subsequent big band discs have been nominated for Grammys, one of which won the coveted award. Now comes Mintzer’s 20th big band release, “Get Up!,” recorded live last year at the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild in Pittsburgh. It’s something of a stylistic departure for the adventurous musician, as all nine selections utilize syncopated grooves that draw on Rhythm and Blues and funk traditions. Besides five original Mintzer compositions, the set is made up of the leader’s vibrant arrangements of classic tune by Weather Report, the Isley Brothers, Sam and Dave, and Sly and the Family Stone.
     Also this week, composer, arranger and bandleader Maria Schneider celebrates a long-awaited reunion with her vaunted jazz orchestra with “The Thompson Fields,” a homecoming nearly a decade in the making; trumpeter Terell Stafford celebrates jazz master Lee Morgan with “BrotherLee Love”; and one of America’s premiere gypsy jazz groups, the Seattle-based Pearl Django, stretches the genre in new directions with “Time Flies.”