Puerto Rico Jazz

Puerto Rico Jazz
Puerto Rico Jazz

lunes, 12 de diciembre de 2011

A Year in Review: The Best of 2011

Despite being completely different singers, there's a lot to connect Gretchen Parlato with the legendary Billie Holiday. Holiday was a singer with a phrasing deeply rooted in the blues, while Parlato is a jazz singer with the modern influences of R&B and pop music, but what draws them together is the uniqueness of their respective styles. Neither has the greatest vocal range, but the originality and pure feeling of their voices is what has set them apart from any other jazz singer. 75 years ago, nobody sang like Billie Holiday; today, nobody sings like Gretchen Parlato.

The Lost And Found is Parlato's third release, and possesses a more personal feel, with Parlato revealing herself as an accomplished composer. She also contributes lyrics to "Without A Sound," "The Lost And Found," "Henya," the folksy "Still" and Wayne Shorter's "Juju." Parlato also composed the music and wrote the lyrics for the bossa-influenced "Winter Wind," "Circling," "Better Than" and the funky "How We Love."

The Lost And Found also includes a remix of the title track to Parlato's In a Dream (ObliqSound, 2009), and pianist Bill Evans' "Blue In Green," one of the jazzier songs on the album, with lyrics by Meredith D'Ambrosio.

Parlato does wonderful versions of Mary J. Blige's "All That I Can Say" and Simply Red's "Holding Back The Years," two odd selections for a jazz album that reveal her modern and diverse musical influences.

Like any good jazz vocalist, Parlato is more than a singer, she is a musician. Rhythm and melody are just as important as lyrics in Parlato's interpretations. Her distinct, creative and sharp phrasing sounds, at times, like a saxophonist like on "Juju," or in the ostinato lines on "Winter Wind." On a mesmerizing version of Paulinho Da Viola "Alo Alo," Parlato turns into a percussionist—contributing all percussion and vocals on this song and, once again, showing her love for Brazilian music.

With The Lost And Found, Parlato continues to establish herself as one of the premier jazz singers of the 21th century.

Track Listing: Holdin Back The Years; Winter Wind; How We Love; Juju; Still; Better Than; Alo Alo; Circling; Henya; In A Dream Remix; All That I Can Say; Me And You; Blue In Green; The Lost And Found; Without A Sound.

Personnel: Gretchen Parlato: vocals; Taylor Eigsti: piano; Derrick Hodge: bass; Kendrick Scott: drums; Dayna Stephens: saxophone; Alan Hampton: bass.

Record Label: ObliqSound | Style: Vocal

Alone at The Vanguard is pianist Fred Hersch's first solo performance at New York's Village Vanguard, after his serious illness and coma in 2008. The release was recorded during the final set on the last night of his six-day run in 2010, and the solo recital format gives the disc an intimate, almost classical music feel, engendering a full appreciation of Hersch's emotional and technical intensity.

A three-time Grammy nominee, two as a pianist and one as a composer, Hersch possesses a remarkable ability to cross from classical to jazz with ease. His classical style and lyricism are present on "In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning," "Echoes" and "Pastorale," dedicated to composer Robert Schumann.

His superb interpretation of two originals, "Down Home," dedicated to Bill Frisell and "Lee's Dream," dedicated to Lee Konitz, as well as Thelonious Monk's "Work"—rhythmically reminiscent of ragtime—show Hersch's deep roots in the jazz tradition.

The performance also included the elegant samba, "Doce de Coco," the beautiful ballad "Memories of You" and, for an encore, a masterful version of Sonny Rollins' "Doxy."

Alone at The Vanguard is a clear statement that Hersch is back in top form, and that is surely good news for jazz.

Track Listing: In the wee small hours; Down Home; Echoes; Lee's Dream; Pastorale; Doce de Coco; Memories Of You; Work; Doxy.

Personnel: Fred Hersch: piano.

Record Label: Palmetto Records | Style: Modern Jazz

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).

Record Label: Patois Records | Style: Latin/World

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.

Record Label: Outline | Style: Modern Jazz

I discovered Carol Morgan when I reviewed her album Opening and I've been a fan ever since. Carol Morgan is one of those unique musicians with the ability to express diverse emotions in a single note. The intro of "I Love You" is a perfect example of her emotional and technical intensity. Listen also to her brilliant playing "Where are you?" where Morgan shows she is also a richly inventive improviser with a good sense of melody and swing.

After the intro on "I Love You" Morgan and her Quartet go into a swinging groove that take us back to the beginnings of jazz in New Orleans, changing into straight ahead and then some cool jazz, all in the same track.

Morgan interpretation of the classic "April in Paris" has the reserved intensity of a Miles Davis. Joel Frahm, with his warm and welcoming tone adds some thoughtful solos on this one.

The Quartet goes into more experimental territory, exploring aspects of free jazz, in the haunting music of Ornette Coleman "Lonely Woman".

The gorgeous sax and trumpet harmonies on "Booker's Waltz" serves as an introduction to some of the most brilliant and intense improvisations by Carol Morgan, Joel Frahm and drummer Matt Wilson.

"Glyph" is an original composition by saxophonist Joel Frahm and one of the most interesting on the realease. Constant rhythm changes that are both surprising and exciting.

The album close with another original "Last Waltz", this time by bassist Martin Wind. A sublime, slower tempo composition that allows Morgan to displays her sophisticated and ellegant phrasing in a more relaxed context.

Without a doubt, of of the best albums of 2011.

Musicians: Carol Morgan - trumpet, Joel Frahm - tenor saxophone, Martin Wind - bass, Matt Wilson - drums and percussion

Tracks: I Love You, April in Paris, Lonely Woman, Booker's Waltz, Glyph, Where are you?, Last Waltz

Three young music virtuosos join forces in the Ninety Miles Project, one of the best albums of 2011. Grammy nominated vibraphonist Stefon Harris, New Orleans native, and also Grammy nominated trumpetist Christian Scott and Grammy winner saoxophone master David Sanchez.

Ninety Miles is the distance between the USA and Cuba, two countries with great political differences but with a greater love for good music.

Recorded in Cuba with cuban pianists Rember Duharte and Harold Lopez Nussa, Ninety Miles is also the result of the visit and exploration of Cuban music done by these three master musicians.

What came out of the fusion of these jazz masters is an explosive display of virtuosity and outstanding compositions with an eclectic blend of texture and sound. The contagious african and caribbean rhythms on "Nengueleru", "La Fiesta Va", "Brown Belle Blues", "Congo" y "E'cha", show us new looks and possibilities for the fusion of jazz and latin music.

Musicians: Stefon Harris - vibraphone, David Sanchez - saxophone, Christian Scott - trumpet

Yoko Miwa is a Kobe, Japan native, recently nominated for Best Jazz Act in the Boston Phoenix Best Music Poll 2011 who also studied at the Koyo Conservatory in Kobe and Berklee College of Music.

Live at Scullers Jazz Club is Miwa fifth release, recorded in October 2010. Accompanying Miwa, Greg Loughman on bass and Scott Goulding on drums.

For those unfamiliar with Yoko Miwa, like myself, this album is going to be a nice surprise. Even though she is a young pianist, Miwa plays with the confidence and fluidity of a seasoned jazz musician.

The trio swings hard on the Steve Allen composition, "This could be the start of something", closing with a energetic piano/drums call and response. The beautiful ballad "Wheel of Life" is one of Miwa two originals. The chord progression gives the listener a sense of circular motion. The other original, "Silent Promise" also a ballad, is one of the most intimate and sublime moments of the album and reminiscent of movie themes like Cinema Paradiso.

Miwa displays once again a good balance of harmonic lines and melodic runs on "Mr. B.G.", a tribute to pianist Benny Green. Miwa includes two odd selections, the ballads "Seasons of Wither" a song by Aereosmith Steven Tyler, discovered by Yoko Miwa on YouTube and "Who loves the sun" Lou Reed song from his days with Velvet Underground. The album speed up again with the swingin Art Farmer's blues "Mox Nix" and close with an excellent version of "A Festa", a Milton Nascimento composition recorded by Elis Regina's daughter Maria Rita.

Musicians: Yoko Miwa - piano, Greg Loughman - bass, Scott Goulding - drums

Tracks: This could be the start of something, Wheel of life, Mr. Big, Seasons of Wither, Who loves the sun, Silent Promise, Mox Nix, A Festa

In Samba pelo avesso, Carolina Ferrer brings a collection of wonderful original sambas in all it's variations, proving she is not only one of the best female singers out of Brasil but also an accomplished composer. Carolina interpretations of samba music is refreshing but deeply rooted in the brazilian music tradition. Songs like "Eu nao tenho nada", "Otilia", "Hoje sou sertao", "Nao vem" and "Facil de levar" are ideal for get up and dance or just sit down and enjoy Carolina beautiful voice and unique phrasing. Her tone is warm and welcoming and she has the ability to convey the emotions of every word.

Living in Paris, France, Carolina is the best kept secret in brazilian music, hopefully with Samba pelo avesso, Carolina Ferrer will receive the atention she rightfully deserve.

Tracks: Eu nao tenho nada, Otilia, Tira gosto, Hoje sou sertao, Samba pelo avesso, Tanta, E outra coisa, Nao vem, Mais um verao, Facil de levar, Refem

To be the best you have to play with the best. Any good musician knows that and like he did in his first album Finding my Path, bassistAldemar Valentin surrounded himself with some of the best jazz musicians from Puerto Rico. Instead of a quartet, this time the format is a quintet with Norberto Ortiz on saxophone, Julito Alvarado on trumpet, Raul Maldonado on drums, Raul Romero on guitar (Romero played on Valentin's first album) and of course Valentin on bass.

Valentin outstanding compositions and well developed themes, mostly in the jazz fusion tradition, at times echoing the music of such greats as Pat Metheny, have a perfect balance of complex, dense textures and rhythms and accesibility. And allows this group of outstanding musicians to shine with inventive, ellegant improvisations on the tracks "Ficciones", "Santurce Triste", and "Amistad". For "Cacique Rebelde", a piece with a distinct latin influence, Valentin invited two special guests, percussion extraordinaire Paoli Mejias and master saxophonist Miguel Zenon.

Tracks: Ficciones, Santurce Triste, Cacique Rebelde, Amistad, Saga

Musicians: Aldemar Valentin - bass, Raul Romero - guitar, Julito Alvarado - trumpet, Raul Maldonado - drums, Norberto Ortiz - saxophone, Paoli Mejias - percussion (3), Miguel Zenon (3)

Maritima is Aline de Lima third release, and the follow up to her wonderful album Acai. On Maritima, this Brasil native, decided to produce and write most of the songs. The album was recorded in Paris, Rio de Janeiro and Maranhao, The result is a collection of exquisite and beautiful compositions that reflects the sound and tradition of her city Sao Luis de Maranhao. But Aline has been living in France for several years now, so her music has a distinct French music influence. In “Cri de Coeur”, a song composed for Edith Piaf, Aline sings in French and also plays the guitar.

Besides her soothing, beautiful voice Aline de Lima is an outstanding songwriter, “Flor de Brasilia”, “Fina Flor”, and “Infinito Blue” are just a few examples of Aline amazing ability as a songwriter to surround us with the beauty of her lyrics. Aline also wrote “Velho Novo Mundo” a beautiful samba dedicated to Paris. There are other influences on Aline’s music, like the reggae rhythms of “Upaon Acu” and “Fina Flor”, the Caribbean sounds of the marimba on “Empty Paradise” and the African rhythms of Cabo Verde on “Um Mar de Mar”. “Lua de Janeiro” and the haunting title track “Maritima” are closer to the sound of Aline de Lima first two albums.

01. Maritima by Aline de Lima Musiciens: Ugo Castro Alves (guitar), Illya Amar (marimba), Luiz Claudio (percussions), Aline de Lima (vocals), Maëva Leberre (cello)
02. Upaon Açu by Aline de Lima Musiciens: Dada Viana (percussions), Rui Mario (keyboards), Aline de Lima (guitar and vocals)
03. Flor de Brasilia by Flavia Bittencourt (3) and lyrics by Aline de Lima (3) Musiciens: Ugo Castro Alves (10 strings guitar, acoustic guitar), Alvaro Lima (bass), Netinho Albuquerque (pandeiro, xequerê and reco-reco), Dada Viana (agogô, zabumba, shakers, berimbau), Flavia Bittencourt (guest singer), Aline de Lima (vocals)
04. Fina Flor by Aline de Lima Musiciens: Rui Mario (acordeon), Alvaro Lima (bass), Isabelle Pares (flute), Illya Amar (marimba), Dada Viana (percussions), Aline de Lima (acoustic guitar and vocals)
05. Empty Paradise by Aline de Lima Musiciens: Ugo Castro Alves (guitar), Dada Viana (percussions), Alvaro Lima (bass), Illya Amar (marimba), Maëva Leberre (cello), Aline de Lima (vocals)
06. Lua de Janeiro by Mario Lucio (1) and Aline de Lima (3) Musiciens: Isabelle Pares (flute), Ugo Castro Alves (guitar), Damilton Viana (percussion), Illya Amar (vibes), Aline de Lima (vocals)
07. Cri du Coeur by Henri Crolla and lyrics by Jacques Prévert (2) Musiciens: Isabelle Pares (flute), Aline de Lima (guitar and vocals), Alvaro Lima (bass), Rui Mario (acordeon), Illya Amar (vibes)
08. Infinito Blue by Aline de Lima Musiciens: Ugo Castro Alves (guitar), Alvaro Lima (bass), Rui Mario (accordion), Netinho Albuquerque (percussions), Dada Viana (percussions), Aline de Lima (vocals)
09. Madrugada by Marcio Faraco (3) and lyrics by Aline de Lima (3) and Marcio Faraco Musiciens: Robertinho Chinês (mandolin), Aline de Lima (acoustic guitar and vocals)
10. Velho Mundo Novo - Paris by Aline de Lima Musiciens: Netinho Albuquerque (samba percussions), Dada Viana (percussions), Ugo Castro Alves (guitar), Aline de Lima (vocals)
11. Um Mar de Mar by Mario Lucio, traduction in french by Africa Nostra Musiciens: Dada Viana (african percussions), Ugo Castro Alves (10 strings guitar and acoustic guitar), Illya Amar (marimba), Aline de Lima (vocals)

Tenor Saxophonist Ernie Krivda is one of the best kept secrets in Jazz. Not many people recognize his name because Krivda developed his career in Cleveland, instead of Chicago or New York, major cities often associated with jazz.

But once you hear his gorgeus tone, and astonishing fluidity of his improvisations you have to agree with Harvey Pekar when he said, "Krivda is one of the best tenor saxophonist in the world".
Krivda 2011 release, Blues for Pekar pays tribute precisely to jazz writer and critic Harvey Pekar.

A group of excellent musicians from Detroit accompanied Krivda on this venture. Pianist Claude Black, female bassist extraordinaire Marion Hayden and drummer Renell Gonsalves, son of tenorist Paul Gonsalves. Yes, the same Paul that revived Duke Ellington career in 1956 Newport Jazz Festival.

All of Krivda solos are deeply rooted in the blues and every track is a master class on how to improvise, starting with "The end of a love affair". Trumpeter Dominick Farinacci stands his ground on this one ending in a improvisation exchange with Krivda reminiscent of early New Orleans jazz.

On the jazz ballads "More than you know" and "Darn that Dream", Krivda demonstrates he is just as good as a balladeer. On these slow tempo pieces his phrasing evokes the sensibilities and sound of the first great tenorists Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins. As part of his improvisations on "More than you know" Krivda cleverly quotes lines of "Softly as in the Morning Sunrise".

Another special guest is trumpet player Sean Jones, who adds elegant solos on Sonny Rollins' "Valse Hot" and on Dxter Gordon "Fried Bananas". The album ends up with two Krivda originals, the swingin Monk like "One for Willie" dedicated to saxophonist/arranger Willie Smith and the cool title track "Blues for Pekar".

Saxophonist and flutist Jane Bunnett exploration of cuban music started back in the 1990's and she is a frequent visitor to Cuba. So Bunnett is not a newcomer to the world of latin music. In fact Bunnett received the 2002 Smithsonian Institute Award for her contributions and dedication to the development of latin jazz.

On her new release Cuban Rhapsody, Bunnett recorded with her long time musical friend pianist virtuoso Hilario Duran. Their music partnership goes back to 1990 when Bunnett went to Cuba to record her album Spirits of Havana. Bunnet and her husband Larry Cramer sponsored Hilario to move to Canada where he lives since 1998.

Cuban Rhapsody is a duo album, just piano and either flute or sax. In latin jazz music rhythm is essential, so here Hilario has the responsability of providing the rhythmic and harmonic support to Bunnett melodies and improvisations.

The music selection is superb, a collection of cuban classics beautifully played by these masters of improvisation. The duo format provide a lot of space for both Duran and Bunnett to display their improvisational talents.

Bunnett expressive tone on soprano sax shines on Miguel Matamoros "Lagrimas Negras", and on Ernesto Lecuona "Maria La O" and "Danza Lucumi". Bunnett brighter tone is equally gorgeous in the classics "Son de la loma", "Longina", "Almenra" and "Sherezada".

This music is the cuban equivalent to jazz. It also have african roots and is a perfect vehicle for improvisational ventures. But caribbean music has a classical element also. This classical influence is more evident in a musical form called Contradanzas. Danzas from Cuba and Puerto Rico fuses african music with the classical tradition from Europe, both essential parts of caribbean music. One of the highlights of the album is precisely a medley of five cuban contradanzas, where Bunnet and Duran exchange sublime improvisations.

Duran applies that same classical/caribbean fusion on his original composition "New Danzon". From start to finish, Cuban Rhapsody has a perfect balance of elegance and virtuosity.

Tracks: Lagrimas Negras, Son de la loma, Longina, Quirino con su tres, Contradanzas, Maria La o, Almendra, New Danzon, Sherezada, Danza Lucumi

Musicians: Jane Bunnett - flute, soprano sax, Hilario Duran - piano

Magos Herrera is the Cassandra Wilson of latin america. There are similarities in their warm, sultry tone, their bluesy feeling and strong command of the jazz language. What makes Magos Herrera different and certainly a unique voice in the jazz world today is her latin heritage that she proudly displays in all of her music.

The CD notes describes México Azul as a celebration of México's golden age of cinema and television. That was back in the 30's and 40's. A lot of good music came out of that era, and Magos did a good job in the song selection for this album.

México Azul starts with Herrera soulful interpretations of Alvaro Carrillo "Luz de Luna" and Agustin Lara "Noche Criolla". Both outstanding arrangements that fuse jazz with south american music.

The slow pace and almost Aria trumpet intro by Tim Hagans on Agustin Lara "Azul" gives a majestic feel to this romantic theme. Hagans also adds a superb trumpet solo to the jazz waltz arrangement and Herrera emotional intense interpretation of "Angelitos Negros".

Herrera profoundly resonant voice can be fully appreciated on Agustin Lara "Lamento Jarocho" an homage to the people of Veracruz, México. Magos Herrera phrases flow effortlessly on "Seguiré mi viaje", "Dos Gardenias" and in the beautiful bolero jazz "Que sea para mi".

The percussive voice intro on "Tres Palabras" is very similar to Gretchen Parlato style. The arrangement for this track is one of the jazzier of the release.

Even though Rafael Hernandez was not from México, he was Puertorrican, his compositions were among the best of that era. "Obsesión" is one of Hernandez classics that has been recorded all troughout latin america. The ballad arrangement on this one allows Magos Herrera to bring out the feeling of every word.

Herrera is without a doubt the best jazz singer out of Mexico, and with México Azul she is establishing herself among the best singers in jazz.

Flutist Kalani Trinidad is one of the brightest young stars in the Puerto Rico jazz scene today and the first Puerto Rican to win a Presidential Scholarship from Berklee School of Music in Boston. In his style Trinidad echoes the best of the great Puerto Rican flutist that came before him. One may hear on his music the finesse and sensitivity of a Nestor Torres and the inventiveness and intensity of a Dave Valentín.

The music on Trinidad debut album Crossing Bridges has elements of smooth jazz on compositions like "Ubiquitous Being", fusion jazz on "Noche en Madrid" and latin jazz on "Puertorro".

Trinidad improvises with spontaneity and ease on the almost lullaby tittle track "Crossing Bridges" and over the samba rhythms of "Momentum and "The Passage".

Kalani Trinidad expresiveness, intensity and limitless stack of phrases may be fully appreciated on "Puertorro", an outstanding composition that constantly changes between afro caribbean and south american rhythms. On this track, Kalani's father, Richard Trinidad plays the piano and Paoli Mejias plays the congas creating a rumba that is one of the highlights of this release.

Besides Richard and Paoli, Kalani recruited a group of extraordinaire musicians for his debut album that includes Alex Acuña on percussions, Alex Brown on piano, who also plays with Kalani in the group La Timbistica, John Benitez on bass and Henry Cole on drums. Marcos Lopez plays drums on "Momentum" and "Russo".

Tracks: Momentum, The Passage, Noche en Madrid, Crossing Bridges, Puertorro, Serenity, Russo, Ubiquitous Being

Musicians: Kalani Trinidad - flute, John Benitez - bass, Alex Brown - piano, Henry Cole - drums, Alex Acuña - percussion, Richard Trinidad - piano (5), Marcos J. Lopez - drums (1,7), timbales (5), Paoli Mejias - congas (1,5,7)

Gonzalo Rubalcaba is a well recognized and respected name in the jazz scene. His classically trained background, along with his knowledge of Jazz and the music of his native Cuba, make him an equally impressive musician either playing art or popular music.

Faith is the premiere release on his newly founded 5Passion (cincopasión or sincopation) label. This is a solo piano album, a setting similar to a classical piano recital. Just Rubalcaba and his piano, and of course there is no need for anything else.

Faith starts with "Derivado 1", a short piece with some dissonances that serves as an introduction to "Maferefun Lya Lodde Me", a praise in the lucumi language to the orisha Oshun (Lucumi is a Yoruba dialect spoken by practitioners of the Santería religion in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Dominican Republic).

All throughout, Rubalcaba demonstrates his clean and impeccable technique product of his classical piano studies in Cuba. On "Improvisation 1 and 2", based on the chord changes of John Coltrane's Giant Steps, Rubalcaba displays his virtuosity with fast piano runs and scalar improvisations reminiscent of Coltrane himself. The short phrases and use of dissonances also have some similarities to pianist Cecil Taylor.

"Derivado 2 and 3" are variations based on the second track "Maferefun Lya Lodde Me". The sophisticated dissonant chords and the effectve playing in the high notes of the piano evokes the sounds of another jazz master, pianist Thelonious Monk.

"Con Alma 1 and 3" are delicate and elegant interpretations of Dizzy Gillespie's composition, played with soul as the tittle suggest. Rubalcaba creates a perfect balance of emotion and virtuosity in the classically tinged piece "Preludio Corto # 2 (Tu Amor era Falso" and in the Miles Davis/Bill Evans classic "Blue in Green".

Rubalcaba attack is more aggresive and percussive in "Oro", an original composition that brings together classical and cuban music with touches of free jazz. Faith also includes three poetic and refined originals dedicated to Rubalcaba two daughters and son, "Joan", " Yolanda Anas" and "Joao". These compositions were recorded originally on his album Inner Voyage.

Tracks: Derivado 1, Maferefun Lya Lodde Me, Improvisation 2, Derivado 2, Con Alma 1, Preludio Corto #2, Blue in Green 1, Oro, Joan, Joao, Yolanda Anas, Blue in Green 2, Con Alma 3, Improvisation 1, Derivado 3

Musicians: Gonzalo Rubalcaba - piano

Peter Scharli's O Grande Amor is an unusual album. This is brazilian music played beautifully by a trio of swiss musicians. That fact alone is not so unusual, brazilian music is played by musicians all around the world.

The odd thing here is the format of this trio. Peter Scharli on trumpet, Thomas Durst on bass and Hans-Peter Pfammatter on piano. Something missing? Right, no drums and no percussions. Everybody knows the importance of the percussion on brazilian music. So it is a challenge for these master musicians, mostly for the pianist and bassist to keep the rhythm. And they did a wonderful job al throughout especially on the sambas "Sandalia dela", Baden Powell and Vinicius de Moraes' "Deixa" and "Zum Zum".

Peter Scharli gorgeous, rich sound and well constructed solos on trumpet is a perfect match with the trio secret weapon, Ithamara Koorax. Among all the great talented singers out of Brasil Koorax is without a doubt one of the best. Koorax is a singer equally comfortable singing traditional brazilian music or jazz.

Few singers conveys the emotion of Antonio Carlos Jobim lyrics like "Fotografia" and "O Grande Amor" or ballads like Ivan Lins "Setembro" with the tender feel and elegance of Ithamara Koorax. Koorax also brings the most out of each note on the slow arrangement of Ary Barroso "Pra Machucar Meu Coraçao".

One of the highligths of the album is Hans original "Wediletto", a composition that allows Koorax to show her amazing vocal range singing high notes in unison with Peter Scharli on trumpet.

Tracks: Fotografia, Sandalia Dela, Setembro, Wedileto, O Grande Amor, Deixa, Pra Machucar Meu Coraçao, Zum Zum

Musicians: Ithamara Koorax - vocals, Hans Peter Pfammatter - piano, Thomas Durst - bass, Peter Scharli - trumpet

Jazz is a music form based on improvisation, it is art created in the moment. So logically most of the best performings in jazz comes out in a live setting. When masters improvisers get together the result of that interaction is usually magical. That is the case with Walt Weiskpf Quartet release recorded live at Koger Hall, University of South Carolina in April 8, 2008.

This is a quartet of superb musicians at the top of their form. Walt Weiskopf is a tenor saxophonist with a sound that conveys the sound of all the sax legends. One may hear some Coltrane, Rollins, Adderley and Dexter Gordon all throughout especially in the first track "Man of Many Colors". On the second track, "Little Minor Love Song" his tone and phrasing is reminiscent of Benny Golson and on the ballad "Blame it on my youth" Weiskopf plays with the lyricism of a Lester Young. Weiskopf improvisations always has a perfect balance of surprise and coherence. Weiskopf experience includes playing with the great pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi.

Bassist Paul Gill, who also played with Akiyoshi, and dummer Tony Reedus brings the energy and swing in the rhythm section. The release is dedicated to Tony Reedus who died of a pulmonary embolism upon return from a tour of Italy a few months after this concert.

Completing the quartet is one of the best pianist in jazz today, Renne Rosnes. Impossible to choose among all the impressive improviations by Rosnes on this album, so I won't. I recommend to listen and enjoy them all. Her crisp melodic breaks, intensity, dazzling high speed runs, and limitless stack of phrases are always surprising and exciting. Rosnes improvisations are a marriage of intellect and emotion.

Most of the compositions on this album are Weiskopf originals except, "Blame it on my youth" and Cole Porter "Love for sale"

Tracks: Man of Many Colors, Little Minor Love Song, Dizzy Spells/Jay Walking, Blues in the Day, Scottish Folk Song, Blame it on my youth, Love for Sale, Breakdown

Musicians: Walt Weiskopf - tenor saxophone, Renee Rosnes - piano, Paul Gill - bass, Tony Reedus - drums

CD Review: Burgstaller Martignon 4

Burgstaller Martignon project Bach's Secret Files is based on the premise that jazz was the classical music of the twentieth century. Both music forms are based on theme and variation. Early in the history of jazz, classical composers (Ravel, Debussy, Rachmaninoff) showed interest in jazz music. And more recently jazz musicians like Wynton Marsalis recorded classical music. Contrary to classical music, jazz evolved into a freer, improvise music. But the concept of improvisation is not a jazz invention, classical composers like Bach, Bramhs, Mozart and Chopin were also accomplished improvisers.

"River of the Night" is a Burgstaller original melody played over Bach's Praeludium in C minor. The piece start with a classical feel reminiscent of Miles Davis interpretation of Concierto de Aranjuez that slowly changes into a latin groove. "A Start to Something" is an interpretation of Praeludium XI in F major. The feel here is that of jazz waltz similar to Brubeck's Time Out.
"Ebarme Dich Have Mercy) from Bach's St. Matthew's Passion includes the sublime voice of soprano Brenda Feliciano. The piece ends with a montuno-like piano.

The latin influence on these musicians as shown in "Variation No. 1", a short classical piece played over cuban son rhythms, and Debussy "Reverie", starting closer to the classical tradition before erupting into a piano montuno, is not really a surprise if one knows their history. Grammy nominee pianist Hector Martignon worked with latin legends Ray Barretto, Tito Puente and Paquito D'Rivera. Bassist Hans Glawischnig played with Chick Corea and Ray Barretto.

Burgstaller tone on trumpet is gorgeous and expressive especially on the almost lullaby "Gymnopedie No.1" and "Piece en Forme de Habanera". The virtuosity of these group of musicians allows them to played with comfort either jazz, latin jazz or classical.

Mendelssohn's "Lieder Ohne Worte Opus 19, No.1" and "Lieder Ohne Worte Opus 38 No. 2" and Puccini's "E Lucevan Le Stelle" from the Opera Tosca, demonstrates Burgstaller Martignon group mastery of the classical language. Bach's Secret Files is a superb marriage of jazz and classical music.

Tracks: The River of Night, Praeludium XI in F major, Ebarme Dich, Aria, Variation No. 1, Gymnopedie No.1, Piece en Forme de Habanera, Lieder Ohne Worte Opus 19 No.1, Lieder Ohne Worte Opus 38 No.2, E Lucevan Le Stelle, Reverie

Musicians: Joe Burgstaller - trumpet, flugelhorn, Hector Martignon - piano, Hans Glawischnig - bass, John Ferrari - drums, vibraphone, percussion, Brenda Feliciano - soprano voice, Samuel Torres - latin percussion, Micheal Kannen - cello