Jazz and Bossa Radio

Jazz and Bossa Radio
Jazz and Bossa Radio

jueves, 3 de marzo de 2011

CD Review: John Beasley - Letter to Herbie


Those who don't yet know John Beasley are missing the opportunity to hear one of the best pianists and improvisers on the jazz scene today. Beasley is a master musician, with total command of the jazz language, and his playing is always intense in both emotion and technique.

John Beasley's 2009 album, Positootly (Resonance) was nominated, more than deservedly, for a Grammy Award for best jazz instrumental album. Even though Letter to Herbie, his previous album released in 2008, was not nominated for a Grammy, it might as well have been.

Both albums have striking similarities in the quality of the music and musicians; every one of them is at the top of their game on this album. What comes out of this group of jazz giants is music that keeps the mind engaged and always guessing what's coming up next; with constant tempo changes and creative, virtuosic improvisations.

Contrary to Positootly's collection of mostly Beasley originals, Letter to Herbie is dedicated to the music of Herbie Hancock. The swinging "Three Finger Snap" and the elegant "Here and Now" are the only John Beasley originals on the album, both featuring the rhythmic and harmonic complexity to stand beside Hancock's compositions.

Taking on the music of Herbie Hancock , one of the best pianists in jazz history, is not an easy task, but Beasley and his group do a superb job reinventing some of his masterpieces. Beasley's arrangements of "The Naked Camera" and "Vein Melter" are funkier and livelier than Hancock's versions, while the waltz-like arrangement of "Diana" and fast swinging tempo of "Eye of the Hurricane" are closer to the originals.

Letter to Herbie is an excellent tribute to an excellent musician.

Track Listing: 4 am; Bedtime Voyage; Chan's Song; Three Finger Snap; The Naked Camera; Eye of the Hurricane; Diana; Here and Now; Still Time; Vein Melter.

Personnel: John Beasley: piano, synthesizer; Christian McBride: bass; Jeff "Tain" Watts: drums; Roy Hargrove: trumpet; Steve Tavaglione: flute, clarinet, synthesizer; Michael O'Neil: guitar; Louis Conte: percussion.

CD Review: Jane Ira Bloom - Wingwalker


There is not a dull or cliché moment on Jane Ira Bloom 's fourteenth album, Wingwalker. Her sound has been described as futuristic, and there is certainly some of that on tracks like "Frontiers in Science" and "Live Sports." But, most of all, Bloom is a master composer and musician with a truly unique sound. All compositions on the release are by Bloom, except for the standard, "I Could Have Danced All Night."

Even though there are brilliant moments of improvisation all over the album, the emphasis is on the beauty of Bloom's compositions. Each composition has plenty of harmonic surprises, syncopations, tempo changes and richly, inventive solos by Bloom and pianist Dawn Clement. Bassist Mark Helias and drummer Bobby Previte provide an excellent rhythm background to Bloom's melodies, both of them swinging hard on "Airspace," "Life on Cloud 8" and "Rookie."

Bloom always plays with the conviction and energy of a seasoned musician, but her tone can also be warm and welcoming, on the almost lullaby, "Her Exacting Light"; the ballads "Adjusting to Midnight" and "Wingwalker"; and the a capella "I Could Have Danced All Night." There is an effective use of dissonance and space, with Clement's improvisations and chords on "Freud's Convertible," "Frontiers in Science" and "Rookie" echoing the sound of the great Thelonious Monk.

Wingwalker proves, once again, why Jane Ira Bloom is one of the most original and creative saxophonists in jazz today.

Track Listing: Her Exacting Light; Life on Cloud 8; Ending Red Songs; Freud's Convertible; Airspace; Frontiers in Science; Rooftops Speak Dreams; Rookie; Adjusting to Midnight; Live Sports; Wingwalker; I Could Have Danced All Night.

Personnel: Jane Ira Bloom: soprano saxophone, live electronics. Dawn Clement: piano, Fender Rhodes. Mark Helias: bass. Bobby Previte: drums.

Style: Modern Jazz

CD Review: Roxy Coss


With the exception of a few instrumentalists like pianist Mary Lou Williams, most women in the so called golden era of jazz were singers. That situation has changed in the last few years, with more and more extraordinaire female musicians entering the jazz scene. Bassist Esperanza Spalding, pianist Hiromi, drummer Cindy Blackman and saxophonist/clarinetist Anat Cohen are just a few examples of the quality of female jazz musicians today. Newcomer Roxy Coss should be consider for inclusion in that list.

Coss is a saxophonist and flautist with a round, rich tone, and a composer well-versed in the jazz tradition. Coss' self-titled debut is a collection of original compositions, each one reflecting the diversity of influences in her music. Tracks like "Lately" and "July" can be classified as smooth jazz, while the funky sounds of "The Slow Accent" lean towards jazz fusion; but on "The Cherry On Top" and "Wandering One," the music is reminiscent of the Miles Davis/John Coltrane recordings.

Like most tenor saxophonists there is a Coltrane influence in Coss' sound, especially in her scalar approach to improvisation. And just like Coltrane, Coss achieves a perfect balance of lyricism and intensity in her improvisations through a superb sense of timing, rhythmic and harmonic structure. As a flautist she is equally impressive in the Latin-influenced "A New Time."

Roxy Coss is a promising debut from a multitalented young musician.

Track Listing: Wandering One; Lately; A New Time; Enlightenment; The Slow Ascent; The Cherry On Top; I Think So; July.

Personnel: Roxy Coss: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute. Kate Miller: trumpet, flugelhorn. Ryan Brennan: guitar. Justin Kauflin: piano, Rhodes. Kellen Harrison:bass. Shawn Baltazor: drums, percussion.

Style: Modern Jazz

CD Review: Wayne Wallace - To Hear from There


Wayne Wallace continues to explore the infectious Afro-Cuban rhythms on To Here From There, the follow-up to his 2010 Grammy-nominated album, Bien Bien!< (Patois Record, 2009).

Wallace is a trombonist with vast experience that includes collaborations with artists such as Count Basie, Joe Henderson, Lionel Hampton, Sonny Rollins and Tito Puente. Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet plays like they were born in Cuba.

The danceable "La Escuela" with its piano montuno and the distinctive clave of the Cuban son is dedicated to La Escuela Nacional de las Artes en Cuba, where Wallace studied in the 1990s.

Wallace shares the spotlight with Jeff and Natalie Cressman, and Dave Martell, in a battle of master trombonists on the guaguancó "Serafina del Caribe." On "Ogguere," Wallace masterfully improvise over a 6/8 groove, a rhythm common in Afro-Caribbean music and similar to the fusion of jazz and Puerto Rican bomba done by trombonist William Cepeda.

Pianist Murray Low shines on "Descarga en Blue" and "Bebo ya llego," a composition honoring Cuban legend Bebo Valdes. Wallace displays a bright, striking sense of melody on his improvisations, especially in the cha-cha-chá "Los Gatos," and in Tito Puente's "Philadelphia Mambo."

To Hear From There also includes a dazzling rendition of Juan Tizol's "Perdido," sung by Kenny Washington, and the wonderful soneos and beautiful voice of singer Bobi Cėspedes on the Cuban classic, "The Peanut Vendor."

Track Listing: La Escuela; Serafina del Caribe; Perdido; Los Gatos; Descarga en Blue; Ogguere (Soul of the Earth); Lament; The Peanut Vendor (El Manicero); Yemaya (The Seven Seas); Bebo ya llego!; Philadelphia Mambo.

Personnel: Wayne Wallace: trombone, tuba, vocals; Murray Low: piano, vocals; David Belove: bass, vocals; Paul van Wageningen: trap drums, vocals; Michael Spiro: percussion, vocals; Kenny Washington: vocals (3); Bobi Cespedes: vocals (8); Jeff Cressman: trombone (2); Natalie Cressman: trombone (2); Dave Martell: trombone (2).

CD Review: Shawn Costantino - Waltz for Anne


With the advantage of having access, these days, to what is currently going on in the 21st century jazz scene as well as the jazz tradition, it is not rare to find young musicians whose music conveys both the present and the past of jazz. That is certainly the case with Shawn Costantino, a saxophonist/flautist/clarinetist/composer with a style thickened by the sounds of bebop, cool jazz, hard bop, fusion, smooth jazz and everything in between.

Costantino plays with a warm, relaxed and soothing tone in the smooth jazz tracks "Don't Let Me Be Lonely," "The Touch of Your Lips" and "Song for Ryan." But on "The Transplant," "Waltz for Anne" and "Bailout," his tone and improvisations are freer, more aggressive and deeply rooted in the jazz tradition. The faster pace, harmonic sophistication and virtuosic improvisations on "Bailout" are reminiscent of 1950s hard bop.

The sound of the electric guitar and organ on James Taylor's "Don't Let Me Be Lonely" and the funk arrangements of The Beatles "Can't Buy Me Love" give the music a rock/jazz fusion feel. The Hindu-influenced, sitar-like intro in "Can't Buy Me Love" is a reminder of the connection and fascination of The Beatles with the culture and music of India.

Waltz for Anne is Shawn Costantino first recording as a leader, and surely a step in the right direction for this Boston native.

Track Listing: Can't By Me Love; Whatever You Do; Don't Let Me Be Lonely; The Transplant; Waltz for Anne; The Touch Of Your Lips; Song for Ryan; Bailout.

Personnel: Shawn Costantino: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, flute, clarinet. Andrew Synowiec: guitar. Lincoln Cleary: piano, fender rhodes, organ. Jens Kuross: drums. David Hughes: bass

CD Review: Roberta Piket - Sides, Colors


Some people describe music in terms of colors. Composers like Duke Ellington used them in song titles like "Black , Brown And Beige," "Black And Tan Fantasy" and "Mood Indigo," to describe the mood and feeling of his music,
Sides, Colors is a perfect title for this release by pianist Roberta Piket , as she demonstrates her different musical sides and colors. Piket shows her classical, lyrical side on "Billy's Ballad" and Bill Evans "Laurie," while the classical feel is accentuated by the addition of clarinet, flute and strings—a concept similar to Esperanza Spalding's Chamber Music Society (Heads Up, 2010).

Piket's avant-garde side is shown in the more adventurous "Shmear" and "Ugly Beautiful." Both sides, classical and avant-garde, are present on Sam Rivers' "My Friends and Neighbors." Piket even sings and does some nice scattting on Rodgers and Hammerstein's "If I Loved You"

"Relent," and the funky groove of "Degree Absolute," shows yet another side of Piket's music, this time venturing into jazz fusion. Whatever the style, Piket always displays a good harmonic, melodic and rhythmic balance in her playing and improvisations. Piket is a creative pianist, arranger and composer who likes to experiment with different textures, moods and colors in her arrangements and compositions. All the arrangements on Sides, Colors are by Piket, except "Billy's Ballad," arranged by drummer/percussionist Billy Mintz. Sides, Colors also includes two Piket originals, "Degree Absolute" and "Empty House," a beautiful ballad that effectively transmits a feeling of emptiness.

Track Listing: Laurie; Make Someone Happy; Billy's Ballad; My Friends and Neighbors; If I Loved You; Empty House; Shmear; Idy's Song and Dance (Song); Idy's Song and Dance (Dance); Relent; Ugly Beautiful; Degree Absolute.

Personnel: Roberta Piket: piano (1-7, 9-12), electric piano (8), organ (10,12), vocal (5). Johannes Weidenmueller: bass (1-5, 7-9, 11,12). Billy Mintz: drums, percussion (12). David Smith: trumpet, flugelhorn (1, 3, 4, 6). Charles Pillow: clarinet, bass clarinet, flute (1, 3-6). Anders Bostrom: flute, alto flute (1, 3-6). Sam Sadigursky: clarinet, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone (3-6). Fung Chern Hwei: violin (1, 3-5). Mikyung Kim: violin (1, 3-5). Charisa Rouse: viola (1, 3-5). Jeremy Harman: (1, 3-5).