Monthly Archives: May 2016

Sarah King and The Smoke Rings

(Alex Levin Music)

Sarah King and The Smoke Rings are snappy quartet and excellent purveyors of Jazz Age, Swing-era music. King’s voice is genuinely tailor-made for the style, but with a very modern flair. Much the same can be said of the band comprised of its founder Alex Levin on piano, Ben Cliness on drums and Scott Ritchie on bass. There’s an honesty in their delivery of the music that makes it more modern day than tribute. The combination of these elements renders the music fantastic as they swing their way through works by Duke Ellington and Irving Mills, Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein, Juan Tizzol, Arthur Hezog Jr., George and Ira Gershwin and  Voncent Youmans, among others  .

Click to listen to a clip of “Jersey Bounce”:

Tracks: It Don’t Mean A Thing, Tea for Two, Jersey Bounce, I Won’t Dance, Smoke Rings, Caravan, Some Other Spring, Love Is Here to Stay, I Don’t Know Why (I Just Do), Up A Lazy River .


Jane Monheit – The Songbook Sessions: Ella Fitzgerald

(Emerald City Records)

Inventive arrangements and superb vocal delivery are the hallmarks of singer Jane Monheit’s latest production. Produced with the guidance of trumpeter Nicholas Payton, The Songbook Sessions: Ella Fitzgerald, is less an homage than an exhibit of the inspiration of Ella in the person one of great vocalists of today. Monheit is simply dazzling on this effort, more than meeting the challenge of the creativeness of Payton’s re-imaginings of the standards that are the menu of this recording. Among the tunes included are works by George and Ira Gershwin, Duke Ellington, Richard Rogers Cole Porter and Johnny Mercer. An Amy Winehouse song even melds into the wonderful mix. In addition to Payton on the horn, other players on the effort include Michael Kanan on trumpet, Neal Miner on bass, Rick Montalbano on drums and Daniel Sadownick on percussion. The music is great and Monheit is at the top of her game.

Click to listen to a clip of “Something’s Gotta Give”:

Tracks: All Too Soon, Somebody Loves Me, Chelsea Mood, Something’s Gotta Give, I Was Doing All Right/Know You Now, Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye, Where or When, Ill Wind, All of You, I Used to be Colorblind, I’ve Got You Under My Skin, This Time The Dream’s On Me.


Horace Bray – Dreamstate

(Horace Bray)

In addition to exhibiting his phenomenal virtuosity, Dreamstate, is a fantastic showcase of guitarist Horace Bray’s outstanding writing skills. Bray penned all of the tunes on this wonderful self-produced effort. The songs are of contemporary vintage built around the guitar’s resonant tone, with ample room for the other instruments elevating the sound. Bray uses colors and sound textures to great effect, with no gimmickry. The tunes are contemplative expositions that can be appreciated on a purely musical, as well as, artistic level. The arrangements are enhanced by a very talented rhythm section comprised of Colin Campbell on keyboards, Matt Young and Connor Kent on drums and Mike Luzecky on bass. The string ensemble playing arrangements by Drew Zaremba adds another element to the songs. This recording is solid throughout and Bray is a first-rate visionary artist.     .

Click to listen to a clip of “Laumeier”:

Tracks: Laumeier, Laumeier Outro, Living With Imperfection Sooth, Dreamstate, Mellifluous, Dirge Mallon, The Mind as Brittle Object, Semantic Satiation .


Kat Parra – Songbook of The Americas

(JazzMa Records)

Singer Kat Parra’s latest effort is an impressive musical excursion. Songbook of The Americas.features compositions primarily by women songwriters from all of the Americas, North, Central South American countries. Covered are tunes written by Maria Teresa Vera, Consuelo Velazquez and Betty Carter among others. Parra also wrote a number of the tunes and arrangements. She’s a singer of impeccable skill and delivery of the language, whether it’s Spanish or scat. Parra is joined by several guests on the project, including, the guitar-vocal duo, Tuck and Patti, singers Maria Marquez and Nate Pruitt on separate tracks. The backing musicians on the project include pianist Murray Low, drummer Daniel Foltz, acoustic bassists Aaron Germain and Sascha Jacobsen, electric bassist Marc van Wageningen and percussionists Michael Spiro and Raúl Ramirez, among many others. Parra is fantastic and this is a thoroughly entertaining production.

Click to listen to a clip of “Wouldn’t It Be Sweet (Au Privave)”:

Tracks: (Four) Ever More, Please Do Something, Wouldn’t It Be Sweet (Au Privave), Dare to Dream, Maria Lanòó, Veinte Años, Como La Cigarra, Bésame Mucho, Till There Was You, Dame La Mano, Mambo Italiano .


Alain Bédard Auguste Quartet – Circular Continuum

(Effendi Records)

Circular Continuum is an engaging exploration of composition and artistry. Bassist and bandleader Alain Bédard leads his Auguste Quartet through an eclectic set of original, contemporary works. Bédard is the primary writer on the most of the tunes which balance the task of aesthetic appeal with the interplay of texture provided by each instrument, so the tunes have a very contemplative feel, that allows you to hear the skillful work of each player. Handling the musical roles are Félix Stussi on piano, Samuel Blais on saxophones and Michel Lambert on drums, each of whom contribute original tunes to the project. The four have a great musical chemistry that really makes this project an admirable listening experience that should be heard.

Click to listen to a clip of “Circum Continuum”:

Tracks: Coupures, La Silva Major, Face Time Oracle, Circum Continuum, Chikako, Les Voiles, Oelo, Umami de Seine, Viral Faux Printemps, Noirceur Passagére, Garrisa, Le Gras Mollet .


The Atlantic: Without Jazz and Blues, There’s No Americana

Blues history celebrates mythical turning points. Robert Johnson going to the crossroads to sell his soul. Leadbelly being discovered in—and sprung from—prison by John and Alan Lomax. The 1913 arrest that set 12-year-old Louis Armstrong on his musical career.

J.D. Allen’s moment was less dramatic: It came in a classroom in Seattle, where he asked a student to play a blues pattern.

“He did a 12-bar form, but he did everything but the blues scale. He said, ‘That’s for kids. That’s for third graders,’” the 43-year-old tenor saxophonist recalls. “ I understood where he was coming from. When I was his age, I thought that type of music wasn’t sophisticated enough for a jazz musician. I had to do some investigation.”
Source: The Atlantic

Gregory Porter – Take Me To The Alley

(Blue Note)

Every new Gregory Porter production seems to be becoming a much anticipated event. Take Me To The Alley is definitely an event that turns out to be well worth the wait. Porter, with the help of co-producer Kamau Kenyatta, takes on the various aspects of love, but also finds a way into presenting social and spiritual matters without losing sight of the aesthetic of story in song. The writing is as exquisite as any of his previous works, as is the vocal work. The voices of Alicia Olataju is the perfect complement to Porter’s on several tunes on the effort. Backing the words are the talents of pianist Chip Crawford, bassist Aaron James, drummer Emanuel Harrold, alto saxophonist Yosuke Sato, and tenor saxophonist Tivon Pennicott. Trumpeter Keyon Harrold and organist Ondrej Pivec guest on various tunes. Porter delivers yet another masterful work with this recording.

Click to listen to a clip of “Fan The Flames”:

Tracks: Holding On, Don’t Lose Your Steam, Day Dream, Consequence of Love, In Fashio, More Than A Women, In Heaven, Insanity, Don’t Be A Fool, Fan The Flames, French African Queen.