|Updated: 22/01/13 | © 1999 - 2013 Cool Bunny Media | Da Cool Bunny sez 'Spank that Plank, Baby!'|
There is a philosophy attached to Marc Enfroy's new album Unconditional and that is "When I Truly Love Myself, I Am Whole". Now, to British sensibilities that sounds rather narcissistic, but of course, this being a New Age album, to be truly fulfilled you need to be happy in your own skin. To that end this CD contains ten tracks of melodic instrumentals, led by piano and assorted keyboards and a variety of other instruments and sampled sounds. I understand that Mr Enfroy's previous albums have been neo-classical in style and this isn't altogether gone from this album, but it does have a contemporary feel and style, partially due to the production by "2002", who I understand are top-selling New Age artists in their own right. The track titles are: A Good Heart, Uniqueness, Unconditional, A Beautiful Soul, A Positive Spirit, Peacefulness, Confidence, Safe And Secure, Admiration, and Reaching Authenticity. Each title is shot through with positivety, as is the music. In general terms each track contains a sweeping melody line with layered instrumentation and discrete choral voices [here and there], bells and chimes. It is all very listenable and relaxing, and yes, if you meditate then it will probably help in that too. Marc Enfroy definitely has a way with a good tune and his performances here are very impressive. This is actually quite a charming album that will revisit your CD deck many times. Highly Recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.marcenfroy.com
Compared to rock music when the electric guitar is used in jazz it is invariably in a mellow fashion - by that I mean that all the histrionics, the effects pedals and over-egging that a rock musician brings to the instrument is kicked out and the guitar's natural ambience and tone is allowed to shine through. That is the case here with Fractals, by the Rick Stone Trio. Mr Stone is the guitarist, and it seems at times as if he is simply caressing his guitar and it is purring back at him. With an album title such as Fractals you would be forgiven if you expected to hear jagged, angular music, but in reality this is late night ambience, gently swinging, very melodic music. A trio format is always a very intimate musical setting and the rest of the trio here [Marco Panascia - bass and Tom Pollard - drums] provide a supple and pliant support for Mr Stone's guitar. The album contains eleven tracks, a mixture of original tracks composed by Rick Stone and a selection of classic songs from the American and Jazz songbooks. They are: Stella By Starlight, Fractals, Key Lime Pie, Darn That Dream, Scoby, Nacho Mama's Blues, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, Places Left Behind, Speed Bump, Ballad For Very Sad & Very Tired Lotus Eaters, The Phrygerator. In its quiet and assured way Fractals is a quintessential album, it showcases a very fine guitarist and his colleagues and also presents jazz in a coherent and perfectly listenable manner. The music is melodic, easy on the ear and brain and will sucker punch many listeners who will tell you they don't like jazz. On top of that Rick Stone is a nimble fingered axe man, with some very impressive technique in those fingers. This is a great album and if you enjoy guitar music you should check it out and support these musicians. Available from Amazon MP3, CD Baby, iTunes and other retailers for download or as a CD.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: http://www.rickstone.com
As album titles go First Melancholy, Then The Night Stretch is one of the more enigmatic that I can recall. Composer and pianist Rick Cutler has created eighteen tracks of equally enigmatic music that could be neo classical, improvisational jazz or soundtrack music - it basically depends on your mood at the time of listening. However you categorise the music one thing is a certainty, Mr Cutler is an extremely fine musician and composer, and the music doesn't really sound like anyone else's. There is a stark beauty to it - shorn of a rhythm section or other soloists, it seems at times like a musical statue, shimmering in cold light. There is also a stark, arctic quality to the music that seems to be battling the warmth of humanity throughout. The tracks are: Isle Of Words Forgotten, Gentle Nightmares, Charlotte's Roads before Her, Alien Landscape 1, Debussy, From Then Till Now, Measuring Eternity, Noise (For Tony Williams), Alien Landscape 2, Song For Noel, Indian Sunset, A Dance, Hymn, Thank You (For McCoy Tyner), Alien Landscape 3, Who Needs Words, A Song You've Heard Before, and Going Home. It wouldn't surprise me if this music is performed in art gallery installations rather than in jazz clubs - every track seems to have an inherent stillness more suited to that type of ambient location. First Melancholy, Then The Night Stretch is not for easy listening, it demands attention and intellectual engagement.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.humanrick.com
Two Guitars are Gus Wieland on guitars and vocals and Brian Conigliaro on guitar, harmonica and vocals, plus guest percussionist Eddie Torres. Bending Time is, I think, their debut recording and it's a mini album - you know, what in my youth back in the 60s we called an EP. It contains six tracks of acoustic guitar beauty - five covers of classic pop songs and a band composition. The covers include Black Magic Woman [by Peter Green and recorded by Fleetwood Mac and then Santana], Riverfest [a very upbeat and melodic original], Only Living Boy In New York [Paul Simon], Overjoyed [Stevie Wonder], She's Not There [Rod Argent] and Walk Away Renee [the old Four Tops hit]. On one level this sounds like a few guys playing in a coffee bar or bookshop, but on another level this is three musicians taking these pop songs and making them their own thanks to nimble fingers on the fretboards and skins and some original arrangements. It is a shame this is a mini album, the twenty-five odd minutes go by so quickly. For just three musicians the sound is very lush and intricate, and in terms of musical food very more-ish. Bending Time is a great musical calling card by Two Guitars and I look forward to hearing a full album sometime in the future.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.twoguitarsnow.com
The term 'showcase' is bandied about a lot when promoting just about every solo musician, but it really is the case here that Malicious Delicious is a showcase for guitarist Frank Butrey. In seventy-one minutes, this CD contains nine lengthy tracks that utilise almost every type of jazz style you can think of. From acoustic guitar magic to electric riffing that Carlos Santana would be proud of - Mr Butrey and his band burn up the bandstand with some seriously intense performances. The tracks are: Boisterous Voiceterous, Malicious Delicious Blues, Acoustic Afternoon, This End Up, Toast With A Ghost, Dimitri Birks & Dewey, Little Workshops, Dodges Denials & Delays, and Niece and Nephews. Alongside Mr Butrey there are nine musicians involved on various tracks, and these include: drums and percussion - Tony 'Stickman' Wyatt, Joe Ruscitto, Tom Lowery, Greg 'Ju Ju' Jones, Doug 'Pablo' Edwards; bass - Clifton Kellem, Leonard 'Hub' Hubbard, Warren Oree; soprano sax - Umar Raheem. As you can see, there is a strong rhythmic pulse throughout the album, and there is some incandescent playing throughout - not least from the bassists as well as the drummers. Malicious Delicious isn't an easy listen as an album - the music can be ferocious and unsettling one moment and gentle and sublime the next, it never settles for the easy course. But while this isn't easy listening it is challenging and experimental, Mr Butrey's obvious mastery of his guitars taking them into uncharted waters. If you want music to make you sit up and look at your loudspeakers in wide-eyed amazement then this is the album for you!
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.frankbutrey.com
Dreams are a funny thing - when I wake up I can never recall what imaginary dreamland I had been inhabiting that night while asleep [well, apart from that one about Cameron Diaz and the Cornish pasty... don't ask!]. But for Mary Jenson dreams are a vivid experience that remain long enough to re-experience in her waking state. And that is the theme of this album, Beyond - dreams and the human emotions and experiences they bring. Eleven tracks, some self-composed and the rest covers of classic pop and soul classics. Ms Jenson's own songs are Say My Name, Beyond, Flying Falling, Things My Mother Said. Among the covers are: Temptation [Tom Waits], Come Together [Lennon & McCartney], Too High [Stevie Wonder], Moon At The Window [Joni Mitchell], Anouman [Django Reinhart]. A fusion of Jazz and elements of World music, Beyond has a big sound thanks to the extensive list of musicians listed on the cover - far too many to mention in the space here, but these musicians bring much to the album, a diverse range of musical styles and some electric performances. And floating on top of or riding the crest of the music is Ms Jenson and her mellifluous voice. It really is a wonderful thing - light and floaty one moment and then bluesy the next. Beyond is poppy enough to enjoy without having to like Jazz, it is easy on the ear and a very approachable album.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.maryjenson.com
This is one of the most unusual jazz trio recordings I have ever heard - a jazz trio with only two musicians, the third member is a poet. Children of the Blue Supermarket is a live album recorded at the annual Penofin jazz festivals over the space of two years. Rich Halley performs on sax and percussion throughout, alongside Carson Halley on drums while poet Dan Raphael recites his sci-fi-flavoured street poetry. I think the music is improvised live throughout, so this is flying by the seats of the pants stuff, and very avant-garde and experimental. This is very vivid material and I have to admit not really my kind of thing - but the passion and commitment shines throughout from all three performers and one has to applaud the challenging aspect of the album. The tracks are: First Car I See Tonight, Breath Test, Sudden Memory, & Now A Word From Your Atmosphere, Children of the Blue Supermarket, The Cherry Tree At The Top Of The Stairs, Bent, Kleenex And Ziplocs, and NATO Report. I guess from the viewpoint of being in the UK, this is quintessential American art, and I think will resonate much more effectively to an American audience. But if you seek out the experimental, the avant-garde and rellish being challenged then this trio of artists and their album could be for you. Please visit the website listed below and sample any tracks there and if you like what you hear buy the album and support these artists.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.richhalley.com
I am not, I have to admit, a religious person, but I have always found something very exhilarating in the gospel music performed by American-African artists and audiences. Far removed from what an average Anglican church service is like, I can tell you. Redeemed is a full-throated gospel album by singer and songwriter Jaunita Fleming - full of rich and vibrant songs in praise of her God. There are a dozen songs on the album, with roughly half written by Ms Fleming and the rest taken from the gospel songbook. I described the album as being full-throated and I'm not kidding, there are eleven musicians in the band and five backing singers supporting Ms Fleming. Setting aside the gospel nature of the album for a moment, the music here is a rich stew of jazz and soul, and the musicianship is extremely impressive. Helped in a great measure by the involvement of multi-instrumentalist and producer Alva Nelson - a musician already featured more than once on this website. The songs are: Glory Glory Hallelujah, Redeemed, What The Lord Has Done For Me/I Love That Man, Our God Reigneth/You're So Good/Our Father In Heaven, Hallelujah Hallelujah Hallelujah Abba Father, I Belong To You, Hear My Voice Oh Lord/I Need Thee, Alive Alive/He's Alive Amen!, God Has An Army, Blessed Be Your Name, All The Way Lord, and Christmas Time. If you have a spiritual nature and find that gospel music speaks to you then I think you should check out Redeemed!
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.jaunitafleming.com
I have reviewed gospel diva Juanita Fleming before with her most recent album Redeemed, but here is an older album, Blessed Be Your Name, dating from 1997. As before, this is an old-school gospel album, with a funky/jazz/blues backing and Ms Fleming's exuberant vocals soaring over the band. It is actually quite a large group of musicians involved on this album - far too many to mention here save for keyboardist Alva Nelson who was to take a much more central role on Redeemed. The tracklisting is: Yoke Destroying Power, I'm So Glad (To Be With God), Blessed Be Your Name, He's Everlasting, We've Got The Victory, For Your Love, Don't Just Hang In, Cradle Of Love, When I Pray To The Lord, I Come To You, Thank You Lord, Blessed Be Your Name - reprise. And it is impressive to read that Ms Fleming also wrote most of the songs on this album. I have to admit that American gospel songs have a lot more appeal than hymns from the British Church of England hymnbook, and thanks to the excellent musicians and small choir supporting Ms Fleming this is an enjoyable album. I am not sure about availability of Blessed Be Your Name, so check out the website listed below for pricing etc.. If you are seeking a spiritual uplift to your soul then seek this album out and enjoy.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.juanitafleming.com
Peter Scherr is a bassist of long standing and I think this may be his debut album as a bandleader and composer. Usually based in China and strongly involved in encouraging creative music there, his album Son Of August was recorded in New York, where the rest of the musicians on this album live. Son Of August is one of those albums that straddles musical genres - post bop, improvisational jazz, rock, perhaps even a little prog as well. What that means to the listener is that this isn't easy listening - all ten tracks demand intense listening to match the intensity of the performances. The musicians are: Michael Blake - saxes, Mike Sarin - drums, Brad Shepik and Tony Scherr - guitars, and Peter Scherr - double bass and bass guitar. The tracks titles are: Tongue, August, August 2, Willing, Son of August, Assonance, Lucky 13, OK Chorale, Strangers, and Button. The music seems too dark and dissonant to me, very much 3:00 AM New York and you wonder what that noise outside the window is... I have to admit that this music didn't click with me very much, but I am only one set of ears and I am sure there is an audience for this album out there who will appreciate its magic more than I can. One thing I can say is that the musicianship is strong and focused, I'm pretty sure there wasn't much larking about while recording this. So, if you are looking for music of commitment and depth then you may find this just the thing.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.peterscherr.com
Roxy Coss is a jazz saxophonist and flautist and being a woman and playing these instruments in the jazz idiom is something of a rarity. So, depending on your viewpoint a ground breaker or something not worth mentioning. Well, despite there being quite a few women playing jazz now it is still thought of as a 'good ol' boys network', so perhaps it is worth mentioning after all. More importantly this is, I think, Ms Coss's debut album as band leader and sole provider of all the music on the album. There are eight tracks and most seem to go for the slow tempo and leisurely soloing format [the shortest track is 5:53, the longest 9:30] - I would even go so far to describe some of the tracks as being sombre sounding, especially track one, Wandering One. Based around bebop stylings though track three, A New Time, has a lovely bossa nova feel to it and is probably my favourite track. The quintet supporting Ms Coss are: Kate Miller - trumpet & flugehorn, Ryan Brennan - guitar, Justin Kauflin - piano & rhodes, Kellen Harrison - bass, and Shawn Baltazor - drums & percussion. The tracks are: Wandering One, Lately, A New Time, Enlightenment, The Slow Ascent, The Cherry On Top, I Think So, and July. There is a bit of a late night vibe to this album, more suitable for just chilling out to rather than parties and the like. It deserves to be heard rather than soundtracking an event. It is an impressive debut album and if you enjoy seeking out the new and up and coming then buy this album and be there at the start of a potentially glittering career.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.roxycoss.com
It is interesting to note how many musicians are now bypassing the conventional record labels and distribution and creating their own boutique record labels to market their music and recordings. That is the case with baritone saxophonist Brian Landrus - Traverse is one of two new albums he has released on his own label, BlueLand Records. The album is in jazz quartet format, with eight tracks of mostly self-compositions. In terms of style I guess you could call it bluesy post-bop with a hard edge. The track titles are: Traverse, Gnosis, Lone, Lydian 4, Soul & Body, Body & Soul, Creeper, and Soundwave. The trio supporting Mr Landrus are Lonnie Plaxico - acoustic bass, Michael Cain - piano, Billy Hart - drums. The music is pretty deep, multifaceted, perhaps a bit more cerebral than one would expect - a little bit glum to these ears, but emotionally involving. My tastes in jazz are more for Latin and Swing, this is just a bit too slow for me, but one can still feel the commitment and the concentration these musicians bring to bear on the music of Traverse. If you like to seek out the new and up and coming, enjoy the more cerebral jazz then I commend you to the website URLs listed below and audition any sample files there and if you like support these musicians by buying this album.
For some reason while listening to this new album by pianist and vocalist Marty Williams I was reminded of those classic Verve jazz songbook albums of the 50s and 60s where classic songs were reinterpreted by singers like Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. Here, Mr Williams provides the vocals and the piano and unshakeably impresses his own persona on these dozen songs. With a quartet of damn fine musicians backing him, this is quite a classy album. Mr Williams has one of those gruff, crackly voices which may at first be the opposite of the smoothness one expects, but actually brings a lot of humanity and feeling to the performances. This is a jazz album but it is equally bluesy as well, and a little exposure via soundtracking on a hit TV series would help no end in spreading the word. The quartet are: Eric Swinderman - guitar, Ruth Davies - bass, Joe Evans - bass, Ranzel Merritt - drums, but Mr Williams swinging and rolling piano commands throughout. The tracks are: Brother (Where Are You), Caravan, Come Together, Compared To What, Love For Sale, Mercy Mercy Mercy, Monk's Dream, On A Clear Day, Sunny, Sweet & Lovely, and The Look Of Love. The bottom line with Long Time Comin' is that it is an exuberant, upbeat and musically accomplished album with many highlights and enough variety in terms of source material [Ellington to Zawinul via Bacharach and the Beatles] to act as a great showcase for this splendid musician. What else can I say but highly recommended!
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.martywilliamsmusic.com
The composer/musician Sajjad is a Bangladeshi-born Canadian who, as you would expect with that heritage, has a wealth of ethnic music influences within him. And these have been fused together on his magnificent debut album Where I Belong. From the opening title track we are on a heady trip that mixes Indian sub continent, African, Asian and Celtic rhythms and instrumentation into something extremely rich and exhilarating. Perhaps not quite as 'street' sounding as world music aficionados will want, but all these influences are mixed together into something very approachable to everyone. While Sajjad plays keyboards there are another seventeen musicians involved across the album. They are: Adam Langley, Johannes Linstead - guitars, Adam O'Connor - drums, Cyndi Richards, Donné Roberts, Jacqueline John - vocals, Deborah Quigley - Uillean Pipes, John Jamerson - keyboards/percussion/vocals, Kevin Fox, Mac Mehew - cello, Marlena Pellegrino, Lenore King - violin/viola, Michael Massaro - sax, Ron Allen - duduk/ethnic flutes, Ron Korb - Irish whistle/ethnic flutes, Tony Carlucci - trumpet/flugelhorn, Xiaoqiu Lin - Erhu. That makes for something almost orchestral, but leaves enough space for each musician to make their mark. The album contains ten tracks and these are: Where I Belong, In My Spirit, Eternity Falls (Pt 1), End Of Eternity (Pt 2), Moment Of Chance, Stay With Me, Unseen Sacrifices, No Walls Between Us, Far Away, Something Amazing. Unlike many new age and world music classed albums this one also rocks - perhaps not in the same way as a rock band would, but the music is loud, tight and gives your loudspeakers a good work out. Above all that though is the fact that the melodies are so good. Where I Belong is an album with immediate impact, it is powerful stuff with rhythms that the dance and techno crowd will also enjoy. This is an album of incredibly accessible music. Oh, I do love this album - every track packs an emotional impact, and yet is beautifully melodic too. An album of the year for sure, and perhaps one of the very best I have heard in the last five years. Highly recommended! Available from Amazon MP3, CD Baby, iTunes and other retailers for download or as a CD.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: http://www.sajjadmusic.com
One of the most immediate reactions on listening to the opening track of ...And Love Rages On! is that you will most likely recognise the woman's voice at the forefront of the choir - it is that of Miriam Stockley, the voice of ADIEMUS. A hugely successful project fusing choral, ethnic and classical forms of music by British composer Karl Jenkins, ADIEMUS have sold millions of albums over the last decade or two. Miriam Stockley has moved on and with new musical collaborators Richard Gannaway (stringed instruments and vocals) and Jay Oliver (keyboards, synths and samples). Together they have created something sounding like ADIEMUS but with much more emphasis on the ethnic musics of the world and minimal western classical music influences. Sharing composing credits, they have brought together a number of musicians and choirs from around the world to perform their music, and it is a rich brew. To be honest, with such a distinctive voice as Miriam Stockley leading the vocals it was always going to bear comparisons with her previous work, but I much prefer AOMUSIC's fusion of these elements. For a start it is much more upbeat and, dare one say it, hedonistic in its attitude to life. Utilising instruments, rhythms and language from many minority cultures around the world, the core trio of AOMUSIC have come up with something truly joyful and uplifting. There are nine tracks on the CD and they are: Gaiya Lo Mane, In Lake'ch (I Am Another You), Shen Deni, Ena Na Lena, Sheyu, Kumula Saleyo, Tio Da Ye, One Kaleo, and Ubuntu. The album cover promises a "Pan-Cultural Experience" and I can't argue against that - ...And Love Rages On! is ambient, world music and new age all rolled into one, and I can imagine some of the tracks finding their way into many a club's chill out rooms. Highly recommended, and an album of the year [2011 is turning out to be a rich year for great music!].
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: http://www.aomusic.com
Eddie Gip Noble is a professional musician who has spent decades in various bands for a whole host of chart acts - Johnny Guitar Watson, Gladys Knight and the Pips [mustn't ever forget those Pips!], Barry White, Shalamar, Patti Austin and Etta James. Some as a musician and others as the musical director. So when I say this gentleman is a real musician I mean it is in his blood. He has also written a large number of songs for Teddy Pendergrass, Hall & Oates, Bette Midler and countless more. In The Lite Of Things is his second solo album and it is a high spirited showcase of his keyboard and arranging skills - and on top of that it is a damn good listen! I think that Mr Noble plays most of the instruments on the album, via his keyboards, apart from vocals by Zuri, drums by David Williams and guitar by Jim Henken. In terms of style this is a fusion of soul, jazz, country, rock and good old fashioned 'old school' r'n'b. The general tone of the album is upbeat and happy, so it is a collection of tunes that will lift your spirits and is a good album for playing while driving. The eleven tracks are: Linus And Lucy, Run, Streets Of Philadelphia, Blackbird, The Girl Is Mine, Thousand Miles, Red Rain, Don't Want To Be Alone Tonight, Behind Closed Doors, Desert Rose, Let It All Out (Shout), Save The Best For Last. So, quite a delve into the recent classic pop songbook, and I have to say that Mr Noble's arrangements are impressive, giving many of these songs a new swing, and turning them into new smooth jazz classics. Not sure there is much more to add - highly recommended if you enjoy well played upbeat smooth jazz.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: http://www.eddiegipnoble.com
The music on this album harkens back to the days when gramophone discs and radio were in their infancy. It was a time when fame was measured by locality and region and world-wide communication was only just barely possible. The 1920s - a period where people quite literally went mad with relief that the Great World War was over. One of the benificiaries of that 'madness' was the expansion of popular music - American jazz in particular - via the new inventions of the radio and the gramophone. Musicians could break out of their localised fame and sometimes extend that beyond their home towns to statewide success - and if they were really lucky their music may even become a national hit. Hothouse Stomp brings together the music of four bands from the bedrock of black American jazz - Chicago and Harlem. Bandleader Brian Carpenter has lovingly recrafted music by these bands and recreated their sound for a modern audience. These bands are: Charlie Johnson's Paradise Orchestra, McKinney's Cotton Pickers, Tiny Parham and his Musicians, and Fess Williams' Royal Flush Orchestra. The Ghost Train Orchestra is a hand-picked group of musicians who have expertly captured the essense of this music and brought it back to life. I don't think any of the bands featured on the album ever made it to any great success, but they live on here as examples of early jazz. The tracks are: Ghost Train Orchestra, Mojo Strut, Stop Kidding, Gee Baby Ain't I Good To You? Voodoo, Blues Sure Have Got Me, Hot Bones and Rice, Dixie Stomp, Lucky 3*6*9, The Boy in the Boat, Slide Mr Jelly Slide, and Hot Tempered Blues. The Ghost Train Orchestra are: Brian Carpenter - trumpet, vocals, harmonica, Dennis Lightman - clarinet, Andy Laster - alto sax, Matt Bauder - sax, clarinet, Curtis Hassledking - trombone, Jordan Voelker - viola, saw, Mazz Swift - violin, vocals, Ron Caswell - tuba, Brandon Seabrook - banjo, and Ron Caswell - drums. I don't think a roots album can get any rootsier than this - the music is great fun, wonderfully performed and it leaves you with a happy buzz when the CD finishes. Highly recommended.
Neither the artist or the record label seem to have an internet presence, so where you can actually find this album to buy is in the lap of the gods. I suggest you check out local jazz specialist shops and the usual internet sources: Amazon.com, iTune.com, CDBaby.com etc.
For me the receipt of a new album by The Glimmer Room is a highlight, if not THE highlight of any year in music. And their new album, A Diary Of Occurrences, doesn't disappoint. Described as an EP [remember the vinyl versions of those back in the 60s?] but in reality a thirty minute mini-album, it is an impressionistic electronic meditation on memory. The seven tracks consist of gentle, wistful - even melancholic - instrumental pieces, containing vignettes of melodies layered over loops and samples and then treated with restrained manipulation. As before on recent previous albums the music has an ingrained sense of understatement that is inescapably English [rather than British]. With only restrained rhythms to beef it up, the melodies waft between the loudspeakers like ghosts of a past England. Despite using all the accoutrements of electronic music, Andy C makes a good argument for electronic music as a natural successor to Classical Music - you know, the good stuff before certain 19th and 20th century composers decided that melody and harmony were so old hat and started buggering about with the tonal scales. It is quite possible that A Diary Of Occurrences is the loveliest thirty minutes you will ever hear, the audio quality is superb, and when the final notes are fading away you just want to reach out and press the repeat button. The tracks are: 1863, The View from The Summerhouse, Marianne Please Get Help, The Postern Gate, Sunex Amures, A Diary Of Occurrences, and We Walked With Marie Lairre. Damn, it's only February and I think I've already heard the album of the year - what can top this!
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: http://aframemedia.co.uk
I think this is the second album I have received of jazz clarinettist, saxophonist and bandleader Ken Peplowski. In Search Of... is an album of two 'mismatched' halves, containing music from two separate sessions dating between 2007 and 2010. The main body of the album is the 2010 session and features Shelly Berg on piano, Tom Kennedy on bass and Jeff Hamilton on drums, while the '07 sessions features Greg Cohen on bass, Joe Ascione on percussion and drums, and Chuck Redd on vibraphone. As for the music, well it seems to follow a rather swinging mix of post bop and blues. It actually makes for appealing listening and seems to be run through with good humour. The album consists of a mix of original tunes by the band members and a selection of material from the classic jazz and pop songbooks - they are: The Thespian, Love's Disguise, When Joanna Loved Me, Falsa Baiana, A Ship Without A Sail, With Every Breath I Take, In Flower, Peps, This Nearly Was Mine, No Regrets, Within You And Without You, and Rum And Cola. There is some wonderful playing by all the musicians involved here, and Mr Peplowski's clarinet and sax ride smoothly over every track in a magisterial fashion. The mix of slow and romantic tracks with the faster bop material makes for a varied and exciting album, and one that many non-jazz fans would probably enjoy as well. Finally, a mention of the great cover artwork and illustrations throughout the inlay booklet - it was created by the underground comix artist Bill Griffith, creator of Zippy The Pinhead [no, I don't think he made it to the UK]. So I recommend In Search Of... To anyone who enjoys classic jazz trio and quartet music.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.caprirecords.com
I've always found double album packages to be something of a problem - so often they have the core of a single great album spread across the two discs, alongside a lot of filler which usually doesn't amount to much. I have to admit that Midsummer by multi-instrumentalist Uwe Gronau is the exception to the rule. With thirty-five tracks spread across the two CDs one is presented with an embarrassment of riches. A mixture of electronica and acoustic new age, and a bit of spacey stuff throughout, the music is reminiscent of recent Tangerine Dream, but is uniquely Uwe Gronau throughout. Almost all of the tracks are instrumentals, save for Poems Like Islands, which is a mixture of German poetry and ambient synths, and Silence, the only song in the package. The key to the double album is variety - there is funky synth rock such as Royal Road, and there is solo piano such as Thought. Most of the tracks rarely exceed the three to four minute length, so short and sharp, and yet there is a wide-ranging variety in the music and in the instrumentation. It is almost as if the composer was trying to provide music for every mood. But overall it is the precision of the music and the delicacy of the performances that impress the most - listen to Watching The Sound to get an idea of what I mean. The two CDs are themed [if you will] by the descriptions of CD 1 being "more rhythmic" and CD 2 being "softer" - to me I would describe them as being upbeat and reflective, respectively. The publicity sheet suggests that the music is based on the ideas of German philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, and I'll leave it to more learned souls than I to debate that one. However, I can say that this is one of the most pleasurable albums I have heard in some while and contains some wonderful tunes - enough of them to justify the double album. I can't recommend this album highly enough to you if you enjoy melodic magic.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.uwe-gronau.de
When it comes to Jazz music the Latin variation always gets my vote for its sheer musicality and vivaciousness. It just gets the heart and soul leaping [and the feet too, of course!]. Having already reviewed some previous albums by trombonist Wayne Wallace I had a good idea of what to expect from his new album To Hear From There - and I wasn't disappointed. This new album contains eleven tracks of sunny side up heaven - a mixture of Wallace originals and Latin classics. Overall this is a very UP album, and I can imagine Latin dance fans will find much to enjoy here. The band are: Murray Lowe - piano and vocals, David Belove - bass and vocals, Paul van Wageningen - trap drums and vocals, Michael Spiro - percussion and vocals, plus Wayne Wallace - trombone, tuba and vocals. There are also guest vocals by Kenny Washington and Bobi Céspedes, and extra trombones by Jeff Cressman, Natalie Cressman and Dave Martell. Amongst the cover versions are Perdido, The Peanut Vendor, Philadelphia Mambo and Ogguere. To Hear From There covers most of the variations of Latin jazz: Tropical, Mambo, Cha-cha, Cuban Son, Latin Funk and even a bit of Salsa. This album is a rich stew and Mr Wallace's own compositions fit in well amongst the covers, and all the tracks showcase the considerable musicality of the people involved. I can only imagine that the recording sessions were great fun for that is the overall atmosphere of the album. This is digital sunshine and highly recommended!
For me one of the most funky instruments in the jazz instrumental palette is the Hammond B-3 organ - it is almost a complete band in itself, but when tied to an inventive guitarist and a rock solid drummer then you have a magical affair. And that is the case with this, Japanese organist Atsuko Hashimoto's sixth album and the first for Capri records. Now, the B-3 is pretty renowned for being very much a masculine instrument and it is a wondrous thing to hear a petite Japanese woman rocking up a storm with it. With Graham Dechter on guitar and Jeff Hamilton on Drums, Ms Hashimoto has produced an album of eleven tracks, mostly a mixture of covers and a few originals, I think. The sound is fast and furious, with plenty of blues and jazz licks and a lot of rhythm. The few slower tracks pack an emotional punch too. I particularly enjoyed the duelling between organ and guitar, with Jeff Hamilton's drums providing the kick throughout. Tracks are: All Or Nothing At All, Soul Station, So In Love, Moon River, What A Wonderful World, Blues For Naka, You Are My Sunshine, Cherry, Your's Is My Heart Alone, The Good Life, Hallelujah I Love Her So. For three musicians they certainly create a big sound, full of heart and passion and it swings like hell having a day off from the fire and brimstone and enjoying party time! ...Until The Sun Comes Up is named in honour of the fact that whenever Ms Hashimoto and Jeff Hamilton get together they happily jam throughout the night until dawn. I think that says it all - if you like your jazz hot, funky and shot through with a dash of blues just buy this great album and enter nirvana. Highly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.caprirecords.com
It is a rarity to find an album that clicks with my ears from the opening notes of the first track, but that is what happened with Four Seasons In One Recess by keyboardist Carlo De Lorenzi. Track One, Key Lime Pie, begins with one of those funky Stevie Wonder clavinet riffs and I knew that I was hooked. Four Seasons... is a pop jazz themed album with a strong twist of funk and a dash of reggae running through it. If you remember The Crusaders and Bob James and the theme to Taxi then that is a place to start with this album. Mr De Lorenzi composed all ten tracks and plays a variety of keyboards and other instruments, with a varying number of other musicians and vocalists supporting him throughout. Most of all, this is an upbeat, happy album, great for parties and for driving, with enough street edginess running throughout to make it contemporary. The track titles are: Key Lime Pie, Ode To Raven, Change Of Pace, Edge Of The Rainstorm, The Calling, Baked Potato, Blue Sky Down, Back Flip, Rocky Harbour, and Door To The Heart. Basically, this is a happy vibes album, ideal for raising the spirits of the listener while showcasing some damn fine writing and performing skills by Carlo De Lorenzi and his musicians. This is an album I can, and will, wholeheartedly recommend to everyone. It's a bit pop, a bit jazz, even a bit rock, a bit latin, a bit funky - all mixed into one hell of a gumbo stew. Four Seasons... is one of the most commercial sounding albums I've had the pleasure to hear in a while, and I use the term commercial in the truest sense of the term - once heard almost everyone who loves music will want to buy it. So just buy it.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.carlodelorenzi.com
The immediate response I had on seeing the cover of this album was that someone was channelling Edith Piaf as their muse, and I don't think that I was too far out there. While Sanda Weigl was born in Bucharest, Romania and now lives in New York, she draws her inspiration from the music of the Balkans and the Romany gypsies in particular - the street music of her youth. Gypsy In A Tree is 'world music' through and through, mixing the music of the Roma with jazz and perhaps even a bit of Kletzmer. Supporting her on the album are New York-based Japanese musicians, which makes the eclecticness of the album even stronger. The band are: Stomo and Satoshi Takeishi on bass and percussion respectively, plus Shoko Nagai on accordion, piano and farfisa organ - there are a couple of guest musicians worth mentioning: Douglas Wieselman - guitar and clarinet, and Ben Stapp - tuba. The eleven tracks are all drawn from Romanian traditional sources and all have tongue-twisting titles that defy typing here, but you can find a listing at the website below. Sanda's voice is beautifully melodic and evocative of the Balkan region, and the playing of her band is just sublime. I mentioned Edith Piaf at the start as the cover photo references the Little Sparrow's image as a homage, and perhaps Sanda shares something of her vulnerability and determination. Then again, it may just be a bit of this albums' romance rubbing off on me... Whatever, Gypsy In A Tree is a wonderful world music album, rich in imagery and atmosphere, and evocative of a time long ago. Highly recommended and one of my albums of the year [so far].
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.barbesrecords.com
This album is one of those that is a marketing bod's nightmare - is it new age, is it world music or is it jazz? Well, Karibu is a bit of all three categories, and perhaps even more. It is a real stew of influences: Jazz, African, Latin, and also a little Caribbean and Kletzmer in there now and then. Elizabeth Woodbury Kasius is one very talented lady - a composer, arranger, keyboardist and vocalist. But more importantly she also knows when to stand back and let her musicians take the spotlight, especially percussionist Zorkie Nelson who sings on the African-inspired tracks. The music within this CD represents a musical journal of her travels around the world and the music and musicians she has discovered on the way - not direct recreations but filtered through her own experiences and tastes. The other musicians of Heard are: Jonathan Greene - clarinets & saxes, Rebecca Kleinman - flute, John Ehlis - guitar & mandolin, John Menegon - bass, Brian Melick - percussion, Jeffrey Parker & Dan Vidali - cello. The nine tracks are: Karibu, Malaika Mlongo, Adhiambo, Bica, La Lluvia, O Feche, Mbizerere, La Danse, and Aire. I must say that I found Karibu to be an impressive album, rich in musical diversity, restrained in its inherent musicality. Overall Karibu is a very smooth sounding album, something to listen to for pleasure rather for dancing. Highly Recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.heardmusic.netm
When looking at the cover illustration to the new album by keyboardist and composer Louis Colaiannia you could be forgiven in thinking that you are about to listen to an album of space music. But you are wrong, the music is spacious in its sonic dexterity and it has an etheral charm all of its own, but the music is grounded by the vocals of Jenna Ehrle, who also wrote the lyrics. There is a touch of the Enyas about A Moment Between Eternities, but the music isn't swamped by the sonic lushness and multi-tracked choirs, the instruments have more space to breath and perform. I guess this album is of the 'new age' genre, but it seems to transcend that and slide in and out of a gothic vibe as well. The musicians involved alongside Mr Colaiannia and Ms Ehrle are: Melvin Morford - bass, Jess Allen - cello, Bob Glassman - drums, Evelyn Rutenberg - flute, Bill Kerr - Guitar, and Rex Spease - sax and clarinet. The tracks are: A Moment Between Eternities, Tears For Dad, Desert Winds [my favourite track], Way of the Rain, Northern Lights, Sea of Stars, Spring Dawn, Sentimental Winters Night, and Journey Inward. Some of the sound and style also reminds me of British neo-classical rock band Karda Estra - notably the multi-layered keyboards, the dreamlike vocals, the use of cello etc.. A Moment Between Eternities is a lovely album, melodic and full of shifting moods - it should be ideal for relaxation and reflection. Recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.louismusic.com
Elements has to be one of the most extraordinary albums that I have heard since I started reviewing music on my website. Matthew Schoening is a cellist of subtle virtuosity, and his album is a live solo performance of improvisational music created by recording loops of his cello and layering these loops until it builds up into a near-orchestral sound and then playing over this. It sounds more amazing than I can describe it - one imagines from listening to the album blindly that banks of synthesisers and other electronic gubbins are doing the work. Which is essentially true in essence [apart from no synths used], but this is all produced live from a blank canvas at the time of the performance. Elements contains five sections [Water, Air, Fire, Earth, and Spirit] which are performed consecutively without any gaps. In terms of the music, I guess that it falls within the experimental, ambient, new age and any other alternative musical genre you care to think of. While it is 100% original I think that if you enjoy the music of Brian Eno, early Tangerine Dream, Roedellius, etc., then you will find this most interesting. I have never been a huge fan of the cello when used in its usual capacity, but Mr Schoening's brilliance in bringing out these astounding sounds and then mixing them together live while performing on top of this background has to be heard to be believed. I imagine that the process is not too dissimilar to the Frippertronics process that guitarist Robert Fripp utilises on his solo work, and it must be liberating to the musician to be able to create and explore musical soundscapes wholly under their control. While it may sound as if the music is highly technical - which it is - it is also extremely emotional and melodic, atmospheric and ephemeral. It must have been quite an experience for the audience who shared this performance, thank goodness this CD captures it very well. Highly recommended!
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.soloelectriccello.com
Hot on the tails of her debut album the vivacious Ms Leigh is back with a new album jazz and pop standards. Intimate Moments is a collection of ten tracks with Dorothy Leigh performing to pianist/arranger/producer Alva Nelson intricate and velvet gloved performances. Most of the ten songs picked for this album are familiar to all and I guess make up quite a bit of Ms Leigh's current concert and cabaret repertoire. The songs are: Wave, What A Difference A Day makes, Everything, What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life/In A Sentimental Mood, Nature Boy, Someone To Watch Over Me, Sophisticated Lady, I Wish You Love, Our Love Is Here To Stay, and When Sunny Gets Blue. With only the piano, and some very impressive performances there by Alva Nelson, the lyrics come to the fore and Ms Leigh's diction is so clear you can understand every word. I'm not sure if it is just my ears but Ms Leigh's vocals seem a tad huskier than on the previous album - which doesn't detract from the album, and in truth offers a more soulful performance. Intimate Moments is a fine sequel to A Second Chance, and it offers an impressive showcase for Ms Leigh as an interpreter of the classic songbook. The late great Jimmy Durante [a man with a unique vocal style himself] would describe Dorothy Leigh as a dame with a fine set of pipes, and I wouldn't argue with that.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.dorothyleigh.com
Of all the instruments musicians have at their disposal the acoustic guitar is arguably the most portable, visceral and emotive. It has a directness that few others have, capable of being intimate or sounding like an orchestra. In the hands of composer/guitarist Keith Driskill the guitar is a bringer of intimate moments, some wistful, some romantic, and some dreamlike. A Time Of Innocence contains nine tracks, all pastoral new age with a strong feel of traditional folk music. I'm not sure of the type of guitar Mr Driskill uses on the album, but it has that rich and full sheen of a twelve string to my ears. And I don't think any trickery was used, no doubletracking or what-have-you - so Mr Driskill has a set of extremely nimble and febrile fingers. The tracks are: Miracle Of Forgiveness, Lover's Farewell, Muir Woods, A Time Of Innocence, Moonlight Lullaby, Melancholy Moment, My Angel Friend, Fireflies, and Twilight. As you can see, most of the titles have a reflective and pastoral resonance to them and the music mirrors this, being mostly gentle melodies. The origins of the music seems to be drawn more from classical sources - you won't find any blues licks here. Overall A Time Of Innocence is a lovely, soothing and harmonic album, and well worth seeking out. The cd can be bought from Amazon.com, CDbaby.com, cduniverse.com and PositiveMusicandDownloads.com. MP3 version of the album and individual tracks are available from iTunes.com, CDbaby.com, Amazon.com, PositiveMusicandDownloads.com, LDSmusicnow.com and the website listed below.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.driskillmusic.com
This is the second volume in pianist Michael Dulin's Timeless series of re-imaginings of classical music. And instead of the expected 'jazzing' up of these pieces, Mr Dulin has respected the originals, made new arrangements and included his own very restrained synthesised backings to the music. Not being a musician or able to read music I can't really say how different the arrangements are to the original pieces - what I can say is that they retain the authenticity of the original composers, but they have been updated for modern ears and sensibilities by using a range of keyboards as well as grand piano. There are eleven tracks showcasing some of the most beautiful melodies of composers like Bach [Partita, Sicilian Song], Beethoven [Moonlight Sonata], Chopin [Alone, Nocturne in E-flat, Elle et Lui, Etude in E Major, Romanza], Rachmaninov [Andante, Without A Word], and Saint-Saens [The Swan]. I am sure that many classical music die-hards will think this album a travesty but I think you should listen to samples of this music on the artists' website and decide for yourself. Mr Dulin's performances honours the music and the composers above anything else, and his skills on the piano are impressive. Timeless II is a beautifully crafted album of classical music programmed for periods of reflection and/or relaxation. I think Mr Dulin should be congratulated on reminding us just how great these composers were in creating enchanting melodies that have stood the march of time.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.michaeldulin.com
Using the term 'pastoral' for describing music seems to have become passé or passed its sell-by date, yet it is the one term that most encapsulates composer/guitarist Robert Linton's new album most succinctly. Throughout The Autumn Light is a collection of ten instrumentals, mainly solo guitar with just one other instrument in support on most tracks. Quasi-classical in style, with perhaps a little 'folk-lite' flavouring, this is an extremely gentle and restful album. Mr Linton has a lyrical way of playing the guitar, where the music just seems to flow out from those fingers. The track details are: Throughout The Autumn Light, Drifting Reflections, Alongside The Silhouettes, Seasons Of Years Past, Glistening After The Mist, Shifting To The Fall, Winds Swaying The Trees, Moments Of Reverie, Sweet Dreams, and Evening Sunset. Many of the titles contain strong and poetical imagery, which adds to the impact of the music. Guest musicians include: Jill Haley - English horn, Jeff Oster - flugelhorn, Jeff Pearce - E-bow guitar, Stephen Katz - cello, Tracy Silverman - violin. Throughout The Autumn Light is a wonderful album, full of quietly drifting melodies, slowly shifting moods and lyrical performances. Anyone seriously interested in the acoustic guitar and acoustic music in general should buy this album as I think it sets a new benchmark in quality.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.robertlinton.com
Of all the instruments in a musicians' palette the piano is arguably the most versatile and can be the most mellow. For many new age/instrumental musicians it has also become the instrument of choice. As here for Irish pianist/composer Josh Johnston. The Shape Of Things is a collection of thirteen instrumentals, mostly composed by Mr Johnston, and this music is intended to inspire reflection in the listener. Reflecting the way the world is and how we are part of it, and perhaps how we can change the world and ourselves for the better. Pretty heavy stuff, when all is said and done, but on the other hand The Shape Of Things is a collection of beautiful melodies, with perhaps just a ghost of that Irish magic that music from that isle always has. However, I can tell you that you aren't going to hear anything resembling Riverdance or Clannad and Enya. The music on this album has a classical feel to it and is quietly impressionistic. While they would certainly be suitable for meditation or relaxing they have more substance and heft and should appeal to lovers of piano music. Track titles are as follows: Peace (Nightsong 1), FVX, Atlantic, Nightsong 2, Missed Her On The Road, Guest, Nightsong 3, Asylum Harbour, The Late Train, Nightsong 4, A Light In The Dark Of The Night, Cimiez, and Saving A Life. Josh Johnston is an accomplished pianist and composer - the album was recorded in one ten hour session in a church in Drigheda, Ireland, and there are no overdubs or editing. So that makes this album even more impressive.
You would expect from the title of this album by pianist Eddie Mendenhall that the music would would be of a mathmatical bent - but you would be wrong. What we have is an upbeat post-bop and quite swinging quartet sounding like they were having a lot of fun in the recording studio. And let's face it, if the band aren't having fun in the studio then we the listener won't find the result much fun either. Cosine Meets Tangent contains ten tracks - eight composed by Eddie Mendenhall and two covers [So Easy To Remember by Rodgers & Hart and The Great Triplet by band member Mark Sherman]. The rest of the band are: Mark Sherman - vibes, Akira Tana - drums and John Schifflett - bass. Mr Mendenhall has a muscular style on the piano, forthright and capable of great subtlety but not averse to giving it some welly when the music demands it. I think aficionados of piano-based jazz will find much to enjoy with this album - the self-composed tracks have verve and punch and will go down well in front of an appreciative audience. An impressive debut and a pianist and band to watch out for.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.mileshighrecords.com
The one thing you can rely on with jazz music is that it never stands still and there are always many musicians pushing the musical boundaries forward. Bassist and composer Michael Feinberg is one such musician, and his new album, With Many Hands, is a striking example of stretching what is jazz is into the realm of the avant-garde. With a band of like-minded musicians Mr Feinberg is pushing against barriers and stretching musical definitions with his music. The band are: Alex Wintz - guitar, Julian Shore - piano, Godwin Louis - alto-sax, Noah Preminger - tenor sax, and Daniel Platzman - drums. The track titles are: With Many Hands, Temple Tales [written by Daniel Platzman], NBD, The Hard Stuff, August, Fighting Monsters and Lost And Found. There is quite a bit of 'sturm and drang' with this music, but I found August was pretty reflective and allowed the musicians to calm down and play some lovely melodic solos. With Many Hands is a vibrant album, it takes chances and it's not afraid to push music into areas that some may consider to be unmusical. But that is what the experimental and avant-garde is all about. If you enjoy challenging music then I suggest you visit the website listed below and sample any tracks there, and if you like support these musicians and buy the album.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.michaelfeinbergmusic.com