Chris Walden takes the big band sound forward with his latest effort. Full On! showcases Walden’s tremendous talents as a composer and producer. It’s also an excellent pairing of the big band sound with music that represents various eras. Included are the compositions of Leonard Bernstein, Jimmy Van Heusen, Sammy Cahn, Hank Williams, Stevie Wonder, Russell Ferrante and Jimmy Haslip. The fantastic band that delivers the music includes saxophonists Bob Sheppard and Brandon Fields, trumpeters Wayne Bergeron, Ron King and Kye Palmer, trombonists Bob McChesney and Alex Iles, pianist Alan Steinberger, drummer Ray Brinker, and bassist Kenny Wild, among many others great players. The project is nicely balanced between instrumental compositions and vocals with featured vocalists Siedah Garrett, Tierney Sutton, Melanie Taylor, Dorian Holley and Carol Weisman, all of whom deliver outstanding performances on their respective tunes. Arturo Sandoval also guests on flugelhorn for one of the tracks. It’s tempting to say that this is not your father’s big band, but perhaps it’s more accurate that this is big band for multiple generations.
Click to listen to a clip of “Arturo”:
Tracks: Bailout, I Can Cook Too, Lost In The Memory, Gatsby, Sir Duke, Bada Bamba, If I Only Knew, Only The Lonely, Arturo, Hey Good Looking, Out of Town, Ride Like The Wind .
Herbie Hancock enjoyed “A Great Night in Harlem” with a look to the past and the future as the legendary jazz pianist received a lifetime achievement award from the Jazz Foundation of America at a benefit concert at the historic Apollo Theater.
Actor Bruce Willis, introducing Hancock at Friday night’s concert, offered a glance at “the future of jazz” as he brought out 11-year-old Indonesian piano prodigy Joey Alexander to play a solo rendition of Thelonious Monk’s “‘Round Midnight.”
“When I was eight years old you heard me playing. You told me that you believed in me and that was the day I decided to dedicate my childhood to jazz,” Alexander told Hancock who was standing alongside him.
If you’re unfamiliar with the band Mostly Other People Do the Killing, the first sign that they might have an offbeat sense of humor ought to be the name. That hasn’t stopped plenty of people from being outraged at the group’s new album.
It’s called Blue, and it’s a reproduction of Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue, perhaps the most famous jazz album of all time. Not a tribute; not “inspired by”; not even a simple covers album. It’s a painstaking, note-for-note reproduction. The musicians have transcribed and reproduced each walking bass line, each cymbal tap, each Bill Evans piano flourish, each note of John Coltrane’s and Cannonball Adderley’s and Miles Davis’s solos.
What can be said about such a peculiar act? First, it’s not jazz. Second, it’s hilarious and important.
Guitarist Eric Johnson’s bluesy rock sound and guitarist Mike Stern’s jazz fusion voice meet in their first ever recording together to spectacular ends. Eclectic is the product of their experience touring together and the result is a fantastic. In addition to a great selection of tunes from each of these 6-string masters, the performances have a very live feel to them with all the musicians recording together which gives the effort an edge you don’t get with overdubs. There’s no competition here to play the loudest or the slickest, just each contributing what they do to make something great. The duo is backed by the rhythm section of drummer Anton Fig and Johnson’s bassist Chris Maresh. There are also guest contributions from Leni Stern on vocals and the n’goni (an African stringed instrument), Guy Forsyth on blues harp, as well as Austin soul singer Malford Milligan and Christopher Cross (of “Sailing” fame) on background vocals for one tune. Still, this is a guitar players’ album and one well worth checking out.
Click to listen to a clip of “Tidal”:
Tracks: Roll With It, Remember, Benny Man’s Blues, Wishing Well, Bigfoot, Tidal, You Never Know, Dry Ice, Sometimes, Hullabaloo, Wherever You Go, Red House .
Of all those rubbish ideas dreamt up by major-label record honchos frantically trying to balance their ailing books, the pop star – often fading, but not necessarily – sings jazz standards album feels the most desperate. Like sitcom writers who think sending their much-loved characters to Torremolinos for a feature-length “special” is the best way to re-oxygenate a programme whose days are numbered, the success rate of popster jazz is virtually nil.
Jazz is a serious and noble pursuit, with a culture and history of its own, fed by a pool of nuts-and-bolts techniques that can to outsiders feel as obscure and nebulous as the formula for Coca-Cola.
Anyone who has seen Kevin Washington play the drums knows that he is among the most versatile of jazz musicians – as adept at playing straight-ahead tunes as he is incorporating Afro-Latin rhythms or hip-hop into his sets.
“One minute I’ll be playing funk and you’ll think that’s all I do. And right around in like the next minute — just like that — I can play a bebop song so authentic, you’ll think that’s two different drummers,” Washington said. “People ask me that all the time, ‘how do you do that?’ I just do it. You’ve got to do your homework though.”
Washington has been dedicated to his art for much of his 39 years.
Saxophonist Steve Heckman leads an all-pro lineup in a diverse set on his latest effort. Search for Peace is the Brooklyn native’s fourth recording under his own banner and it’s a great continuance of the outstanding musicianship heard on previous works. Joining Heckman are guitar great Howard Alden, drummer Akira Tana, bassist Marcus Shelby and Hammond B-3 player Matt Clark. The production is a nice selection of covers that showcase Heckman and company’s range and agility, with the unit burning the joint down, or chilling things out with relative ease. Featured are compositions by Blue Mitchell, Grant Green, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Randy Weston and Vernon Duke, with a groovin’ Heckman piece added to the mix . A great work by an outstanding leader and bandmates .
Click to listen to a clip of “Hangin’ at Slug’s”:
Tracks: Fungii Mama, Grantstand, Search For Peace, Pannonica, Hi-Fly, Hangin’ at Slug’s, Melody for C, Autumn, Spiral.
First, wow. Occasionally, a voice comes along that stops you in your tracks, Alicia Olatuja possesses one of those voice. On her second recording, Timeless, you hear what incredible command she has of that voice. Combine that with a voice which resonates with the vibrato of classical, gospel, soul and jazz influences and what you have is a sound that passes through your ears and goes right to your heart. The selection of music on this effort is as about as impeccable as the singer, with a great balance of originals and covers of works known for their renditions by Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Michael Jackson and Judy Garland. Arranger-extraordinaire Laurence Hobgood add his touch to two of the album’s outstanding tracks. The band likewise is on point with the work of Ulysses Owens Jr. on drums, Jon Cowherd on piano and organ, Michael Olatuja on basses, David Rosenthal on guitar, Gregoire Maret on harmonica, Jason Michael Webb on keys and Jaleel Shaw on saxophone. Bassist Christian McBride has cameos on a couple of tunes. To hear this effort is to be witness to something truly awesome and inspiring.
Click to listen to a clip of “Speak The Words”:
Tracks: Truth In Blue, Human Nature, Serrado, Stay Gold, Love Me Still, Speak The Words, In The Dark, Somewhere Over The Rainbow, The One, Amazing Grace.
Sonic Halo is the fantastic teaming of a rising star on the saxophone with a rising star-turned-established leader on the instrument for an outstanding exhibition of craftsmanship. The project is also a conversation of cultures between Amsterdam-born Tineke Postma and her American mentor Greg Osby. The recording is an interactive collection of mostly original compositions rich with wonderfully interactive interplay between their voices, interchangeably on soprano and alto saxophones. Backing the duo in this effort are pianist Matt Mitchell, bassist Linda Oh and drummer Dan Weiss. The music is bright and uptempo, most with a beautiful ballad added to the sonic landscape. The project feels as much an exploration of the concept, as much as two peers getting together to play songs. It’ll be interesting to hear where the next expedition will take these two talents .
Click to listen to a clip of “Sea Skies”:
Tracks: Sea Skies, Facets, Source Code, Where I Come From, Nine Times A Night, Bottom Forty, Melo, Body and Soul, Pleasant Affliction .