Monthly Archives: December 2013

Lisa Engelken – Little Warrior

(Little Angel Records)

Lisa Engelken is a truly refreshing and thoroughly entertaining singer, whose latest recording Little Warrior puts those qualities on full display. Engleken’s evocative delivery and choice of material takes several roads not traveled by many contemporary vocalists, and best of all, it works. In addition to several self-penned compositions, the menu of music here consists of contributions by Abbey Lincoln, Chick Corea, Ric Ocasek, Joanie Mitchell, Tom Waits and Wayne Shorter, among others. The musicianship elevates the project, with the talents of Bill Cantos on piano and organ, Sam Bevan on bass, Matthew Swindells on drums, Matt Heullit on guitar, Joel Behrman, Erik Jacobsen, and Mike Olmos on various horns, among others. Christie Winn, Jennifer Lee and Carey Winn provide backing vocals to the effort. This is a fantastic production.

Click to listen to a clip of “Undertow”:

Tracks: Foggy Bottom, Viva La Felicità, You Wear Those Eyes, Throw It Away, Housemate From Hell, Little Warrior, Undertow, Sea Journey, Cold Ble Steel & Sweet Fire, Blue Valentiens, All I Do is Dream of You.


Sketches – Volume One

(Baldhill Records)

Volume One, the debut from Brooklyn-based quintet Sketches is a work of contemplative, expertly executed music. The collective of accomplished sidemen produces each track through a collaborative approach that involved members bringing a piece or “sketch” of a song to rehearsal, with the group then building upon the initial idea. It’s a process that gives the music a sound that seems to be less set in stone and finished, but one, rather, that the listener hears evolving in the recording. Sketches, comprised of trumpeter Matt Holman, saxophonist Jeremy Udden, pianist Jarrett Cherner, bassist Martin Nevin and drummer Ziv Ravitz, is a dynamic band that truly captures the raw spirit of innovation that is central to jazz.

Click to listen to a clip of “Running With The Princess”:

Tracks: Trust, Dark, Cornerstone, Dust on the Porch, Shadow Search, Knew, Chain Letter CCC#1, Running With The Princess.


NYT: Yusef Lateef, Innovative Jazz Saxophonist and Flutist, Dies at 93

John Rogers for NPR/
John Rogers for NPR/

Peter Keepnews
NY Times

Yusef Lateef, a jazz saxophonist and flutist who spent his career crossing musical boundaries, died on Monday at his home in Shutesbury, Mass., near Amherst. He was 93.

Mr. Lateef started out as a tenor saxophonist with a big tone and a bluesy style, not significantly more or less talented than numerous other saxophonists in the crowded jazz scene of the 1940s. He served a conventional jazz apprenticeship, working in the bands of Lucky Millinder, Dizzy Gillespie and others. But by the time he made his first records as a leader, in 1957, he had begun establishing a reputation as a decidedly unconventional musician.

Source: New York Times

Kanji Ohta & the Jazz Family with Jimmy Heath – Our Jazz Family


To celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary in 2001, pianists Kanji Ohta and Toshiko Kiryu decided to invite some musician friends and family and throw a little jazz party. As documented on Our Jazz Family, the recently released recording of this event, it was and is quite a party. The package features Ohta and Kiryu jamming along with saxophonist Jimmy Heath, bassist Earl May, Jimmy Lovelace on drums and David Gilmore on percussion. The set is a lively rendering of tunes by Tadd Dameron, Bud Powell, Vincent Youmans and Heath. Nabuko Kiryu, daughter of the piano coupling, provides vocals on several of the project’s tunes. Listening to this fantastic snapshot of a moment gone by is truly a lovely way to spend an evening.

Click to listen to a clip of “For Minors Only”:

Tracks: East of The Sun, Tea for Two, On The Trail, For Minors Only, The Voice of the Saxophone, Strictly Confidential, There Will Never Be Another You, The Squirrel.

Website: Myspace

Anne Ducros – Either Way: From Marilyn to Ella


The glowing voice and beautiful delivery of singer Anne Ducros grabs you by the heart and doesn’t let go. Either Way: From Marilyn to Ella, the latest recording from the French born singer wraps your ears in luxurious sound. The effort features engaging arrangements of mostly classic compositions from the likes George Gershwin, Cole Porter,  Rodgers and Hart, Johnny Mercer and many others. Ducros and several bandmates contributed the title track. Helping to power this production is an outstanding group of musicians, including Benoit De Mesmay on piano, Emmanuel Bex on Hammond organ, Bruno Castellucci and Antoine Pierre on drums, Maxime Blesin on guitars and percussion and Gilles Nicolas on acoustic and electric basses. The combination of solid musicianship, gorgeous arrangements and Ducros’ vocal makes for a truly pleasing production .

Click to listen to a clip of “Either Way”:

Tracks: You’d Be Surprised, My Heart Belongs To Daddy, Summertime, Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most, Either Way,  But Not For Me, You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To, A Fine Romance, Thou Swell, I Wanna Be Loved By You,  I’m Through With Love, Diamonds Are The Girl’s Best Friends, Laura, Dindi, It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t  Got That Swing) .


The Chris Parker Trio

(GPR Records)

Drummer Chris Parker, pianist Kyoko Oyobe and bassist Ameen Saleem make beautiful music together as The Chris Parker Trio. Parker, a veteran of trios since he was 11 years old playing backup to exotic dancers, has assembled a unit that a true pleasure to hear. The trio moves nicely through ballads and swing tunes with the precision of a Swiss watch. The album is even divided between originals and covers of a variety of compositions from Ray Charles, Pat Metheny, Woody Shaw, Bruno Destrez, Cole Porter and Horace Silver, all of which are nicely arranged. Looking for a record to sit back and just enjoy? This is the one.

Click to listen to a clip of “Six Beauties on a Rooftoph”:

Tracks:  C’est Possible, Love for Sale, Wednesday Morning, Song for Bilbao, Waltz for Apple, We’ll Meet Again-Matane, In a Capricornian Way, I Want You, Six Beauties on a Rooftoph, Improptoph, Rockhouse.


AP: Master Jazz Guitarist Jim Hall Dies at 83

Photo:David Redfern/Redferns
Photo:David Redfern/Redferns

Jim Hall, one of the leading jazz guitarists of the modern era, whose subtle technique, lyrical sound and introspective approach strongly influenced younger proteges such as Pat Metheny and Bill Frisell, died early Tuesday at age 83, his wife said.

Hall died in his sleep after a short illness at his Greenwich Village apartment in Manhattan, said Jane Hall, his wife of 48 years who described her husband as “truly beloved by everybody who ever met him.”

Hall, who led his own trio since the mid-1960s, remained active until shortly before his death. Last month, his trio performed a concert at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Allen Room with guest guitarists John Abercrombie and Peter Bernstein. He had been planning a duo tour in Japan in January with bassist Ron Carter, a longtime partner.

In 2004, Hall became the first of the modern jazz guitarists to be named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, the nation’s highest jazz honor.

“Jim was one of the most important improvising guitarists in jazz history. His musical generosity was an exact reflection of his deep humanity,” guitarist Metheny, who performed and recorded in a duo with Hall, said in an email to The Associated Press.
Source: Associated Press

Suzanna Smith – Halfway Between Heaven & Love

(Ink Pen Records)

Bay-area vocalist Suzanna Smith makes a strong debut with Halfway Between Heaven and Love. Smith’s voice recalls that of great torch singers and yet has a very present day quality. There’s a concerted focus on new compositions on the recording, with the singer co-writing most of the tunes, which also have a yesterday/today vibe. The project is aided greatly by a lineup of talented musicians, including pianist Michael Coleman (co-writer with Smith on most of the tracks), upright bassist Brandon Essex, guitarist Ken Husbands, drummers Hamir Atwal and Jon Arkin, saxophonist Michael O’Neill and trombonist Rob Ewing. There are 3 nicely done covers on the project, but the originals comprise the bulk of the album’s material and highlight the fact that Smith is a great new contemporary voice in jazz.

Click to listen to a clip of “Paper Boat”:

Tracks: Lady Bird/Half Nelson, Paper Boat, Summer Me, Winter Me, The Man That Broke The Dragon’s Heart, Beautiful Love, Planes and Trains, Can You Give it Up, Comet, Monk’s Make Believe, I Would Give Anything, Hooray For Love, Alone Together, Soy Califa.


56th Annual Grammy Nominations in Jazz


The National Academy for Recording Arts and Sciences announced nominees for the 56th Annual Grammy Awards. There were few surprises among the jazz nominees and some names that selected for review this year. We’re hoping that the third time will prove the charm for Gregory Porter in the Jazz Vocal Album category. Even though we expected his previous to receive the award, we think his latest effort, Liquid Spirit, makes an even stronger case. Cécile McLorin Salvant also received a nomination for her outstanding debut, Womanchild, and Lorraine Feather is a nominee for her beautifully done Attachments. On the instrumental side of things, we’re glad to see the recognition for Kenny Garrett and his Pushing The World Away, Gerald Clayton for Life Forum and Christian McBride for Out Here. Finally,  it’s great to see Roberto Fonseca and his debut Yo among the nominees in the Latin Jazz album category. Our best to them all. We’ll soon announce our favorite recordings of 2013, but for now, here are the nominations of jazz-related artists for the 56th annual Grammy Awards, the ceremonies for which will be held in Los Angeles on January 26th, 2014, and aired live on CBS at 8pm EST/5pm PST.

Best Jazz Vocal Album:
Andy Bey – ‘The World According To Andy Bey’
Lorraine Feather – ‘Attachments’
Cécile McLorin Salvant – ‘WomanChild’
Tierney Sutton – ‘After Blue’
Gregory Porter – ‘Liquid Spirit’

Best Improvised Jazz Solo:
Terence Blanchard – “Don’t Run”
Paquito D’Rivera – “Song For Maura”
Fred Hersch – “Song Without Words #4: Duet”
Donny McCaslin – “Stadium Jazz”
Wayne Shorter – “Orbits”

Best Jazz Instrumental Album:
The New Gary Burton Quartet – ‘Guided Tour’
Terri Lyne Carrington – ‘Money Jungle: Provocative In Blue’
Gerald Clayton – ‘Life Forum’
Kenny Garrett – ‘Pushing The World Away’
Christian McBride Trio – ‘Out Here’

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album:
Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society – ‘Brooklyn Babylon’
Randy Brecker, W_odek Pawlik Trio & Kalisz Philharmonic – ‘Night In Calisia’
Brussels Jazz Orchestra Ft. Joe Lovano – ‘Wild Beauty’
Alan Ferber – ‘March Sublime’
Dave Slonaker Big Band – ‘Intrada’

Best Latin Jazz Album:
Buika – ‘La Noche Más Larga’
Paquito D’Rivera And Trio Corrente – ‘Song For Maura’
Roberto Fonseca – ‘Yo’
Omar Sosa – ‘Egg_n’
Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet – ‘Latin Jazz-Jazz Latin’

Best Pop Instrumental Album:
Herb Alpert – ‘Steppin’ Out’
Boney James – ‘The Beat’
Earl Klugh – ‘Handpicked’
Jeff Lorber Fusion – ‘Hacienda’
Dave Koz, Gerald Albright, Mindi Abair & Richard Elliot – ‘Summer Horns’

Best Traditional Pop Album:
Tony Bennett & Various Artists – ‘Viva Duets’
Michael Bublé – ‘To Be Loved’
Gloria Estefan – ‘The Standards’
Cee Lo Green – ‘Cee Lo’s Magic Moment’
Dionne Warwick – ‘Now’

Best Traditional R&B Performance:
Gary Clark Jr. – “Please Come Home”
Fantasia – “Get It Right”
Maysa – “Quiet Fire”
Gregory Porter – “Hey Laura”
Ryan Shaw – “Yesterday”

George Bouchard Group – Listen To Your Dreams

(George Bouchard)

On his fourth recording as a leader, saxophonist/composer George Bouchard offers up a collection of pleasing original songs and performances. Listen to Your Dreams is thoroughly enjoyable production that finds Bouchard leading a sextet through an array of tunes that are a mix of ballads and uptempo jams. The New York-based educator and composer is joined by a sturdy line of players, which includes Dave Smith on trumpet and flugelhorn, Charles Blenzig on piano, Andrew Grossbard on tenor sax, Ian Petillo on drums and John Ray on bass. The group sounds great playing Bouchard’s terrific notes.

Click to listen to a clip of “Nothin’ I Can Do”:

Tracks: Listen To Your Dreams, I’m Your Baby, Elaine, Nothin’ I Can Do, It’s Raining In The Morning, Always The Best With You, Do You Miss Me? It Doesn’t Matter.