Akua Dixon boldly goes where few practitioners of the cello have gone. On her self-titled sophomore release, the classically-trained Dixon presents the cello in some musical contexts we haven’t much heard before and demonstrates the versatility of the instrument in the hands of a talented artist. Dixon makes the music swing, when needed, in a work of great musical range. Within the song list here are compositions by Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Richard Rodgers, Charles Mingus, Israel Lopez and Astor Piazolla. Dixon’s working string quartet of Patrisa Tomassini on first violin, Gwen Laster and Chala Yancy on second violin, alternately, and Ina Paris on viola join her throughout the effort. Special guests bassist Kenny Davis and violinist Regina Carter. The outstanding production also features the late violin master John Blake Jr., in one of his final recordings. Singer Andromeda Turre and Dixon contribute vocals to two of the tracks, adding more color to the project. This brilliantly conceived and executed musical endeavor is really worth checking out.
Click to listen to a clip of “A Gozar Con Mi Combo”:
Tracks: Haitian Fight Song, Alone Together, Freedom, It Never Entered My Mind, A Gozar Con Mi Combo, Moon River, Libertango, Lush Life, Besame Mucho, Poinciana.
Jamila Ford has earned her chops in part as a backing vocalist for other artist. The experience and confidence she earned serves her well. Her latest effort, The Deep End is a diverse production which showcases the facets of her daring artistry. Ford covers the gamut between classic pop and jazz standards, as well as Latin-flavored numbers. The arrangements on the effort are decidedly fresh and engaging.The musical backdrop is provided by the talented lineup of Mitchell Long on guitar, Peter Kuzma on piano, Leslie King on bass, Chuck Staab on drums, Pete Korpella on percussion and Anthony Bonsera on trumpet and flugelhorn. Ford vocals soar through the notes and leaves you wanting to hear more at the end of this 5-song EP, which is a great thing. Do check her out.
Click to listen to a clip of “Silencio”:
Tracks: All Blues, Gentle Rain, Silencio, Sugar, Wild is the Wind .
Pianist and composer Art Hirahara is an artist of immense virtuosity and artistry. Libations and Meditations is indeed a work that is musically pleasurable and spiritually contemplative. Hirahara is joined in trio mode by bassist Linda Oh and drummer John Davis. Listening to the trio mesh into these creations is deeply engaging. To hear the combo working out on the color-filled originals, primarily composed by Hirahara, adds to the grand experience. This is an outstanding production.
Click to listen to a clip of “Father’s Song”:
Tracks: With Two Ice Cubes, Father’s Song, Be Bim Bop, D.A.Y., Karatachi No Hana, Only Child, Dead Man Posed, Big Country, The Looking Glass, Bop Bim Be, Nereid and Naiads .
Arranger Vance Thompson artfully pushes the large ensemble envelope with his band The Thompson Five Plus Six and their debut recording Such Sweet Thunder. A core quintet which features Thompson on trumpet, Greg Tardy on saxophone, Keith Brown on piano, Taylor Coker on bass and Nolan Nevels on drums, is augmented by six additional horns to expand the sonic range. While the sound is bigger, this is not your archetype big band, with a song list that moves from swings to ballads. Thompson leads this exposition through some interesting territory, with nicely re-worked compositions by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, Thelonious Monk and Dolly Parton, exemplifying the versatility of the unit. This is a wonderfully done first effort.
Click to listen to a clip of “Four In One”:
Tracks: Pannonica, Isfahan, Little Sparrow, Ugly Beauty, Such Sweet Thunder, Prelude To A Kiss, Rockin’ In Rhythm, Four In One, He’s Gone Away .