Monthly Archives: August 2010

Inga Swearingen

First Rain
(Rhythome Music)

With a voice that stops you in your tracks, Inga Swearingen’s latest release, First Rain, is a compelling vocal music showcase. The album of 12 tracks features some wonderfully unique arrangements of original compositions and standards given a stripped-down acoustic treatment that blends so well with the singer’s lovely melodious tone. Swearingen is backed in this effort by guitarists Larry Koonse and Jeff Miley, bassist Dylan Johnson and drummer Darrell Voss. Violin and cello are also included on several tracks adding even more richness to the aural brilliance of this fantastic singer.  

Click here to listen to a clip of “Blackbird”.

Tracks: April Afternoon, Black Is The Color of My True Love’s Hair, Brick By Brick, Blackbird, Heart and Soul, Two Trees Rooted, Before The Journey, Indian Summer, Skylark, Visa från Järna, Ample.


Paul Carr

Straight Ahead Soul
(Paul Carr Music)

Veteran Houston-born saxophone Paul Carr says his objective is to reach the “soulful essence of jazz”, and he achieves just that on his latest recording, Straight Ahead Soul. The title describes quite well the feel of the album. In this effort, Carr is mostly featured on the soprano saxophone and the interplay between it and Bobby Broom’s guitar makes the songs as interesting, as they are enjoyable. The project also includes the great talents of Lewis Nash on drums, Allyn Johnson on piano, Michael Bowie on bass, Sam Turner on various percussion and Chelsea Green on viola, with singer Lori Williams contributing coda vocals to one of the tunes. The combination of these talents and Carr’s very warm and inviting sound make this an excellent recording.

Click here to listen to a clip of “Between Worlds”.

Tracks: Side Yard Tracks, Dreams of You, Straight Ahead Soul, Scrappy, Love Wants To Dance, Light and Lovely, Healing Song, Between Worlds, Blessed Assurance / We’ve Come This Far By Faith.


Esperanza Spalding – Then and Now

It was Sunday, September 2nd, 2006 and we were in Chicago on Labor Day weekend. Leafing through an entertainment newspaper that morning, we saw that Donald Harrison and his band were scheduled to perform at the Chicago Jazz Festival that afternoon, so we made plans and went down to check them out. 

After an opening song, Harrison, dressed in a white linen suit, introduced the band in that unmistakeable New Orleans accent of his. The drummer was John Lamkin, the pianist was Dan Kauffman and Christian Scott, Harrison’s nephew, was on trumpet. When he got to the bassplayer, who was this young woman with an exploding mane of hair, there was a substantial increase in applause–and whistles. The bassplayer was Esperanza Spalding. Harrison noted that she played in Scott’s band, but was sitting in with his band for the occasion. He also said, “You’re going to hear big things from her in the future. So remember that name.” 

I had a feeling that he was right, and everything she’s done since has only confirmed this intuition. What’s as amazing as Esperanza’s many talents, as bassist, composer, producer and all, is that she does not allow the hype, which many times gets downright silly, nor the very real milestones she’s achieved, to cloud her vision and progress as an artist.

There are folk twice her age who might not be able to handle the historic opportunity to perfom twice for a history-making President at the White House, and then again, at his Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony in Norway. But Esperanza has kept her eyes on her own prize and her latest recording, Chamber Music Society , is further proof of this fact.

I had the opportunity to meet Esperanza in February 2009 and she is as warm a person as she is talented. It’s been beautiful to watch her grace in handling her ascencion since that Chicago afternoon in August of ’06.  

If jazz has ever needed an “ambassador”, and that’s subject to debate, it could not have a better one for these times than this lovely, insanely-talented and inspiring young woman from Portland, Oregon.

Esperanza Spalding

Chamber Music Society
(Heads Up International Records)

Beyond all of the hype and attention regarding her looks or playing for the President or Nobel Prize ceremonies, or Prince, Esperanza Spalding is an artist of immense depth in a mad love affair with music that not even lofty accolades or occasions seem to equate. Her latest and much-anticipated recording, Chamber Music Society, is a further testament to this supposition and to her brilliance as bassist, singer, arranger and producer. Spalding enlisted the talents of Gil Goldstein to arrange strings and co-produce most of the album’s 11 tracks, nine of which she wrote. Their collaboration is a series of magical events that fit together in a colorful aural mosaic. Her wonderfully interwoven duet with the great Milton Nascimiento on “Apple Blossoms” is one such piece in the tapestry, as is her lilting exchange with vocalist Gretchen Parlato on Jobim’s “Intuil Paisagem”. Other guests on the project include drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, cellist David Eggar, percussionist Quintino Cinalli and pianist/keyboardist Leo Genovese. This is an exquisitely beautiful work of a rare and singular artist whose passion for the language of music is inescapably infectious.

Click here to listen to a clip of “Knowledge of Good and Evil”.


Tracks: Little Fly, Knowledge of Good and Evil, Really Very Small, Chacarera, Wild Is The Wind, Apple Blossom, As A Sprout, What A Friend, Winter Sun, Intuil Paisagem, Short and Sweet.

Goodbye, Abbey Lincoln

One of our favorite singers, the great Abbey Lincoln, passed away today. She was 80 years old. Ms. Lincoln was the picture of style and dignity throughout her career. She leaves us with a distinguished body of recordings. Some of our favorites were from the latter albums of her career, including the albums, You Gotta Pay The Band, A Turtle’s Dream, and Who Used To Dance, but we especially liked her Devil’s Got Your Tongue, for her rendering of “Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year“. There’s a lyric in the mournful song that reads, “You have left us and where is our April of old”. There was something about the way she sang that line which was really affecting. At this moment, that line and that song are so appropriate. Abbey has indeed left us, but she’s given us a lifetime of beautiful work for which she will never be forgotten.

The family of Abbey Lincoln has asked that all donations be directed to The Jazz Foundation of America.


Bobby McFerrin

(Emarcy Records)

Vocalist Bobby McFerrin’s latest, Vocabularies, is the result of seven years of writing, arranging and editing. McFerrin’s manager had an idea for vocal ensemble music that would expand some things he’d done before. Classical arranger and composer Roger Treece joined the effort studying McFerrin’s vocal style and sounds to build a musical framework for the new project, while lyricist Don Rosler was tasked with translating a collage of languages, including McFerrin’s improvisations, into words. More than 50 singers, including Janis Siegel, Lisa Fischer, and Luciana Souza make up the choral tapestry of sound on the project. The result is soulful, operatic and awe-inspiring. This recording is an absolutely spectacular musical work. 

Click here to listen to a clip of “Say Ladeo”.

Tracks: Baby, Say Ladeo, Wailers, Messages, The Garden, He Ran To The Train, Brief Eternity.

Jazz In Vietnam

HANOI, Vietnam — For many visitors new to Hanoi’s Old Quarter, stumbling upon Minh’s Jazz Club is so unlikely it is almost as if it were fated. This section of the city is a maze of wrecked, meandering roads and narrow French colonial buildings where the streets retain the names of the wares they offer and the families who have lived there for hundreds of years. 

The location of the jazz club is an unlikely intersection of Hang Ma, where they sell spirit money and incense, and Hang May, the place to buy bamboo and rattan furniture.

Read The Full Story

Gerri Allen and Timeline

(Motema Music)

Recorded before a live audience at the Oberlin Music Conservatory in Ohio, pianist Gerri Allen fuses jazz and dance in a work that is an incredible listening experience. Tap dancer Maurice Chestnut’s blazing footwork adds a powerful percussive element to the already stellar musicianship provided by Allen and a solid rhythm section of Kenny Davis on bass and Kassa Overall on drums. The project’s seven tracks are comprised mostly of Allen’s compostions, with takes on works of McCoy Tyner, George Gershwin, Billie Holiday and Charlie Parker. The quality of the sound makes this a fantastic project even more spectacular, from start to finish.     

Click here to listen to a clip of “Philly Joe”.

Tracks: Philly Joe, Four by Five, The Western Wall/ Soul Eyes, LWB’s House, Embraceable You/Loverman, Ah Leu Cha, In Appreciation.

Walt Weiskopf

walt_weiskopfA conversation with saxophonist Walt Weiskopf about his career and latest music.


Icons Among Us (DVD)

(Paradigm Studio)

Icons Among Us is a documentary film series that covers the wide expanse that is jazz today. Filmed over a seven year timespan, this DVD is derived from the 4-part series which focuses on musicians in the current jazz scene from East to West. In addition to a serious discussion about the state of jazz there are plenty of great live performance to check out on the video. In a narrative style in which the musican are the only speakers, we hear a lively discussion about where jazz is headed from some of the biggest names in the artform today, as well as some names that are more known in jazz’s underground scene.  In one the film’s more poignant scene, the camera follow Donald Harrison back to his home in New Orleans after the devastation of Katrina, You’ll have to see the film to appreciate what happens while there. Icons Among Us is a brilliant film that will make aficiandos and novices appreciate and respect the music and the people who make it all the more.  

Note: Check out our conversation with the Icons Among Us producer, John Comerford and see a clip for the film here.