|Updated: 22/01/13 | © 1999 - 2013 Cool Bunny Media | Da Cool Bunny sez 'Spank that Plank, Baby!'|
Winter & Mays is the debut album of yet another new jazz vocalist - they do seem to be coming off a production line like the old Ford Model T in America. And it has to be said that the new generation of women jazz singers seem to be from a fine vintage - Aimée Allen presents a stunning debut here, wrapped in the sympathetic sound of her band this is a voice that will find many fans in both the jazz and pop camps. Listen to the opening track Peel Me A Grape to hear what I mean. The dozen tracks are a mixture of classic songs and those written by Ms Allen [one a co-write with Pat Methany]. Ms Allen has one of the low pitched late night voices - aka sexy as hell and she could make the telephone directory a sizzling best-seller! But she is also a singer of some impressive technicality and feeling, and her songwriting is impressive, with a nice line in romanticism and direct honesty. As I previously mentioned the band fit around her voice like a glove, lifting her voice when required but happy to be in the background unobtrusively when needed. The musicians are: Pete McCann - guitar, Toru Dodo - piano, Craig Akin - bass, Jacob Melchior - drums and Victor Prieto - accordion. The songs are: Peel Me A Grape, Samba em Preludio, Eden Autumn And Noah Too, Stardust Reunited, Second Time Around, Bye Bye Blackbird/It Could Happen To You, We are In Love Again, That Day, I'll Get Along, Love Aloud, Fragile, and Two For The Road. Winters & Mays is one of the most impressive debut albums I have heard in some time, and one of the few that make it onto repeat play on my CD deck. Highly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: http://www.aimeeallenmusic.com
High Fiddelity are a German-based quintet led by composer/violinist Natalie Brunke and Tell Me! is her debut album after a long apprenticeship in music. While the eleven track album is nominally jazz, it is a mixture of ballads and acoustic pop as well. In fact for a quintet the musicians do seem to make enough sound for a much larger band, which is impressive enough, but then the icing on the cake is the lovely voice of Marina Trost, who has a voice that can embrace every musical style it is confronted with and glide effortlessly onwards. Along with the previously listed musicians the rest of the band are: Christian Doepke - piano, Karsten Gnettner - double bass, Martin Zenker - double bass, Bastian Jütte - drums and Frank Zscheile - drums. Ms Brunke wrote all eleven songs, and while all are in English they retain a European sensibility, the themes being serious and not as frivolous as much pop music. While I wouldn't describe Tell Me! as a dour album it has strong sense of gravitas and the songs punch above their weight as pop songs. The track titles are: My Life Is So Damn Beautiful (Since You Left It), Tell Me, Love Is All There Is, Desperation, Nordsee, Three Women Sitting On One Bed, It's Over, Learning To Fly, But Don't Go Anyway, I Got Used To You, Tomorrow (It Will Be There). As you can see from the song titles this is an album about relationships and moving on. In terms of the song lyrics I think this is a woman's album, but there will be many men who will fall in love with Marina Trost's voice. Tell Me! is an album that takes some time to grow on the listener but repeated listening will unravel its magic.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: http://www.nataliabrunke.de
When it comes to the instruments of the symphony orchestra I have never been a great lover of the cello - it always looks such a cumbersome instrument and it sounds so lugubrious as a solo instrument. That viewpoint has changed somewhat recently since I have received albums by cellists who have rethought how to use the instrument in a more imaginatively way. American cellist Wytold Lebing is the latest of these, and his new album When Fulvio Finds Celeste takes the cello and brings it into the modern age. Essentially, Wytold has two cellos - one is a cut down electric cello with extra strings called Fulvio, the other is a standard traditional cello called Celeste - hence the album title. Using looping techniques, multi-tracking and studio magic, Wytold has created nine tracks of soundscapes which can be interpreted as modern classical, jazz or ambient music. The track titles are: American Dreams, Catch!, Intrigue, Pause, Only What You Need, Lullaby, Going For It, Star Seven and Stop Wonder Start Do. For me the cello has always been what I call a broody instrument and while there is some of that on this album the sound is also quite vibrant and up, with some of the loops having almost a dance vibe going on. There is also a definite dialogue going on between the two cellos, tradition versus the future, and I don't think there is an easy winner. Wytold Lebing is a very deft musician, juggling the two sounds, mixing and merging them into something uniquely different. This is an album of sonic exploration as much as it is an album of music and it is encouraging to see someone with a vision of the cello in the future. Excellent album and highly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.wytold.com
I think this is Andréa Wood's debut album, and as you would expect it is an impressive artefact. Eleven tracks songs from the great American jazz book plus one of Ms Wood's own compositions. She even sings in four languages and embraces the musical stylings of America, France, the Caribbean and Brazil. That is quite a heady brew to stir into one's debut album. The sound is lush and at times exotic, thanks to the globetrotting musical influences. The track titles are: Comes Love, Pra Que Discutir Com Madame?, The End Of A Love Affair, Hold On To The Centre (House Of Jade), Someday My Prince Will Come, Syracuse, My Favourite Things, For The Meantime, Chega De Saudade, A Time For Love, I Only Have Eyes For You. Ms Wood has a sweet voice which she tends to push stratospherically on most of the songs - a level that is perhaps a little too high for my tastes, but she never really pushes it too high. The band backing her have a rich sound, post bop in style, richly innovating throughout. It is quite a big band, too many to list here, but they certainly act as the powerhouse lifting Ms Wood's voice upwards. Dhyana is an impressive album, rich in musicality and warmth.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.andreawoodmusic.com
Eclectic Eve straddles several musical genres, never settling long in any one before moving on. Christopher Lapina is a multi-instrumentalist and composer whose vision and sense of aural and musical exploration take him to some interesting places. The album is fascinating selection of tracks where Mr Lapina plays solo or uses a small number of musicians, but he ups the game by treating the audio and the musical instruments in subtle and unusual ways. I don't think that it would be an exaggeration to say that his view of music and sound isn't far removed with that of Brian Eno. And yet, while these twelve tracks feature exotic instruments such as prepared piano, synthesisers and suchlike, the music is always very accessible. Some of these tracks may be ambient soundscapes yet they still have melody and some lovely tunes. The twelve tracks are: Highland Return, Hand In Glove, Rolling Blue, This Time, Highland Variation #9, Before You, My Darling Esmerelda, Lucy Turns Eclectic, Highland Variation #1, Moon and Spoon, String Theory, She's Often Here. The musicians performing on the album include: Ron Baggerman - guitar, John Emrich - percussion, Phil McCusker - guitar, Dallas Smith - bass, Rob Holmes - sax, Suzanne Orban - cello, plus the Eclectic Choir. The album has a concept, the path of self-discovery that Eve [an everywoman] makes during her life. I think I'll leave the validity of that to the album's female listeners to judge. What my ears tell me is that this is an interesting and very musical album. If you like your music to be a little challenging and unsettling then Eclectic Eve may be for you. Highly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.eclecticeve.com
Richard Nelson is a jazz composer and guitarist and Pursuit is his latest album exploring the sounds and interactions of a large band and a quintet. Post-modern/bop in style, this album is moody and magnificent in equal turn - especially on the opening five track sequence by the Large Ensemble. These tracks - Portal (I), Innocence (II), Search (III), Azure (IV), Strive (V), - showcase the full range of the big band, from cacophonic disharmony on the first part to the more settled and blues-infused later sections. The quintet tracks are Abol Stream and Stillness, and these offer a more intimate sound compared to the previous tracks. The quintet musicians are: Tim O'Dell - saxes, Don Stratton - trumpet, Cassidy Holden - bass, Steve Grover - drums, and Richard Nelson - guitar. The large ensemble includes the quintet musicians at the core and also includes: Bill Mosely - flute, Pamela Jenkins - alto sax, Frank Mauceri - tenor sax, John Foss - trumpet, Sebastian Jerosch - trombone, Anita Jerosch - bass trombone, Jon Luoma - viola, Moira Wolohan - cello, and Russ Lombardi - conductor. Pursuit is an album of moods, the music ranges from discordant to mordant beauty, from blues-inflected ruminations to almost swing-like sections where the large ensemble play as one, while the quintet tracks offer a more intimate and alternate take to Mr Nelson's thoughtful music. This is an album of quality and sonic exploration, and if you like your jazz that way then this is the album for you.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.richardnelsonmusic.com
The one thing that strikes the listener on first hearing Me is how rootsy sounding it is - a smooth but sometimes edgy mix of jazz and pop - with perhaps a small hint of blues lurking deep in there. Mystéfy is a new artist to me and one I hope to hear more of in the future. Her voice is certainly distinctive, sharing a sort of laid-back charm with Maria Muldaur of Midnight at the Oasis fame. The dozen songs are all written by Mystéfy, with some a co-write with Tim Allhof, and they all share her own unique 'voice' and tend to be narrative in form. Born in Germany and resident in Canada, Mystéfy recorded this album in demo form at her Canadian home and then reworked and recorded it in a studio in Bremen, with German musicians, which I think worked in the album's favour. Both the sound of the album and the performances lack the studio overkill and sheen of many American recordings. The sound is more organic and natural to my ears. The song titles are: East Of The Sun, It's A Beautiful Day, Healing Hands, Creatures, I Close My Eyes, Sisters In Spirit, Magic Moments, Learn Just To Be, Art By Heart, Wait For Me, Big Secret, and We Are Through. The musicians that can be heard on the album include: Tim Allhof - piano and arrangements, Dieter Ilg - bass, Knuth Jerxsen - percussion, Raphael Zweifel - cello, Jörn Anders - flugelhorn, Volker Bruder - saxes, Oliver Spanuth - drums. Me is a quietly impressive album, in keeping with its style and substance, and Mystéfy has loads of charm - not least in the anti-copying message in the inlay plate, where she threatens to set the ghost of her grandpa on those who steal her music. That is a warning one should take note of!
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.mystefy.com
With what sounds suspiciously like a fanfare, Saxophonist Troy Roberts opens his new album with some seriously funky music. Chiver-town quickly locks down into a slow but tight groove, and as the opening move that is highly impressive. Nu-Jive is quite a mixture of funk, r'n'b, soul and jazz, and thanks to the international background of the musicians you also get some ethnic influences spicing up the mix. The musicians in Mr Roberts band include: Silvano Monasterios - keyboards, Eric England - bass, and David Chiverton - drums, and Sammy Figueroa and Jose Gregorio - percussion on one of the tracks. The nine tracks are: Chiver-town, Brotherlation, ..Nu-Jive Interlude.., Shavon, Liberty Nights, Oscar And The Shoe Box, Starus, Eclipse, and Mademfalselle - all written by Troy Roberts, with Shavon being a co-write with Eric England. While this is manifestly a jazz album and a fiery and spiky one at that, its sheer funkiness should make it appeal to a broader audience, and some tracks [after a remix] would go down well on the dance floor. The musicianship is very impressive, hard-nosed and yet gentle and soulful when required. The sonic palette is rich and resonates throughout, thanks to the versatility of the musicians. I think Nu-Jive is one of those jazz albums that could cross the barrier and appeal to the dance DJ culture as well. Highly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.troyroberts.com
Trying to identify the genre of music on albums is growing increasingly difficult as musicians now take their influences and sources from all over the globe and mix and match as if it was a Woolworth's 'pick 'n' mix'. Which, for me, is all good, it enriches the music and enhances creativity. Vincent Lyn's album is such an album - part smooth jazz, part new age, With some Latin and funk, and even some reworking of classical music. Utilising a septet-sized band, Mr Lyn has written several of the tracks to accompany music by Erik Satie, Freddie Hubbard, Oscar Peterson, Rachmaninoff and Paradisi. Eclectism is the theme of the album and it works very well on Heaven Bound. The musicians in the band are: Vincent Lyn - keyboards, Camila Meza - guitars/vocals, Joe Meo - sax/flute, Joe Sanchez - bass, Gill Hawkins - drums, Urbano Sanchez - percussion, Fernanda Capela - lead vocals. The fourteen tracks are: Stolen Moments, Old Coy, New York City Bossa, Heaven Bound, Gymnopedie No.1, Gymnopedie Waltz, Sintra, A Funny Thing Just Happened, Nigerian Marketplace, Island Carnival, Toccata In D Minor, Tonight, Little Sunflower, Prelude In C# Minor Op.3, No.2. As you can see from the tracklisting this is a very eclectic album and certainly showcases Mr Lyn's piano skills. The pure classical tracks do sit a little oddly alongside the jazz, but make for a showcase for this former actor's talents [in a previous life he made martial arts movies in Hong Kong with Jackie Chan]. Bottom line, this is a musically strong album and hopefully it won't be too diverse to find an audience. 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.vincentlyn.com
While you associate tobacco smoke adding to the ambience of jazz clubs and those highly atmospheric black and white photos of the jazz greats of 50's and 60s, one doesn't expect a tax on tobacco to fund arts projects such as the recording of a new album. But that is what has happened here, thanks to the taxman of Cuyahoga County, Ohio. The album is dedicated to American writer and jazz critic Harvey Pekar, and while I have no knowledge of who this is it does sound like tenor saxophonist Ernie Krivda has given the project his all. Blues For Pekar is an album of bebop, but it has a swinging lilt and a musicality that lifts it out of the usual noise of this style of music - and yes, perhaps there is a hint of swing in there too. The other musicians on the album are The Detroit Connection: Claude Black - piano, Marion Hayden - bass, Renell Gonsalves - drums, plus Sean Jones - trumpet and Dominic Farinacci - trumpet and flugelhorn. Blues For Pekar contains seven tracks, including tunes by Sonny Rollins, Jimmy Van Heusen, Dextor Gordon, and two tracks composed by Ernie Krivda. The track titles are: The End Of The Love Affair, More Than You Know, Valse Hot, Darn That Dream, Fried Bananas, One For Willie, and Blues For Pekar. Overall this album has a great musicality running through its veins, there is a warmth and vitality that should make this album approachable and listenable to even those who will claim that "Jazz just ain't their thing". So, Blues For Pekar is highly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: http://www.caprirecords.com
As you would expect from an album called Uncivilized Ruminations you are not going to be settling down to that 'Mantovani' Moment. In fact pianist, composer and bandleader Frank Carlberg's album is an explosion of avant-garde and post-bop jazz that will either have you nodding your head and going 'Cool' or running for the hills. The music on this album takes no prisoners, is not aware of the United Nations Peace Corps and will probably not be playing in an lift [aka elevator for my American friends] in the near future. This is in your face music that you are either going to savour or find unlistenable. Me? Well, I'm hedging my bets and sitting on the fence. A cop out, I know, but there are bits that I like 'cos they actually sound like recognisable music and pieces that sound as if they come from that cantina situated in a galaxy far, far away. The musicians playing with Mr Carlberg are: Christine Correa - vocals, John O'Gallagher - saxes, Chris Cheek - teno sax, John Herbert - bass, and Michael Sarin - drums. The nine tracks are: Lunatics, "It Was All About...", Old Age, Posthumous Success, Misanthrope, Don't Rush Me, Perfect, Prairie Dogs, Pygmy Hut. So, the music on this CD is cacophonic, pushing beyond the limits, highly emotional, on a different plain to anything I usually hear. There is really nothing else like this to compare it to - which is a good thing for the composer but not so good for the listener as most of us like to have something familiar to latch onto for safety before going on the equivalent of a roller coaster ride. Uncivilized Ruminations is not for me, but if you are a musical explorer of unusual inquisitiveness then I recommend this album to you - the performances are exhilarating and committed [in every sense of the word].
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: http://www.frankcarlberg.com
We live in a world where precocious talent is tantamount to being viewed as a freak show, thanks to the way 'the media' over hype the artist. For British readers I cite Lena Zavaroni back in the 70s as an example of what I mean. But here we have an album by fourteen year old vocalist Claire Dickson, recorded between the ages of twelve and thirteen. It is an impressive album, to be sure, taking on the great American jazz songbook is no mean task whatever the age of the vocalist. And yes, she can scat sing with a frightening intensity that could rival Ella in the future. That Ms Dickson offers such assured performances despite only being introduced to this music since she was eleven seems downright incredible. And yet, these songs of adult emotions and sophistication still need something more that youth and enthusiasm. Ms Dickson's voice is a voice full of potential - it is on the cusp of self-discovery, of exploring its potential and it needs time to mature. Like whiskey in an oak cask, a voice needs time to age and mature, to reflect a life lived to the full so it can empathise with the lyric. That isn't quite there yet on Scattin' Doll. It will come - in time. However, what Scattin' Doll is is a marker to an impressive new talent that can only improve with time and life. The track listing is: Caravan, Confirmation, Black Coffee, Love Me Or Leave Me, Midnight Sun, Phantom Doll, Just One Of These Things, My Man's Gone Now, and If I Were A Bell. The musicians, who provide superb backing to Ms Dickson's voice, are: Michael McLaughlin - piano, Greg Loughman - bass, Eric Rosenthal - drums, Gary Bohan - flugelhorn and cornet, Dan Fox - trombone, and Glenn Dickson - clarinet. So, Scattin' Doll is a well produced and performed visiting card from a new jazz artist who can only improve as she grows older. It will be fascinating to hear how she sounds in five years time.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.myspace.com/clairedickson
One of the perks of this reviewing game is finding albums that lift the spirits, bring a smile to the face and sound pretty damn great musically. Well, I think I've found one this time! Luna Blanca is a 'nouveau flamenco' band from Germany and they have a huge sound for four or five musicians. You could be forgiven for thinking that you are listening to a James Last party album at times... Led by guitarist Richard Hecks, El Dorado is mostly upbeat throughout with a strong 'feel good' vibe that will enliven any car journey or summer garden party [weather permitting here in the UK]. Mr Hecks was influenced by another German guitarist, Ottmar Liebert, who has been mixing flamenco and latin rhythms for some time now - having several OL albums in the collection I can tell you that Mr Hecks was a fast study and is every bit as good as his predecessor. Luna Blanca consists of four musicians: Richard Hecks - lead guitar, Helmut Graebe - piano/organ/blues harp, Bino Dola - rhythm guitar/2nd lead guitar, Clemens Paskert - bass/percussion/keyboards, plus guest musician Christian Landgraf - keyboards. All four musicians have a hand in composing the music, but Richard Hecks and Helmut Graebe jointly wrote the majority of the tracks. El Dorado contains fourteen tracks, all instrumental but some have vocal embellishments - the titles are: Los Ojos, El Dorado, Desperado, Medianoche, Guapa, Dos Guitarras, Summer Breeze, Hurry Up, Rio Mamore, Dreaming, Kolibre, Conquistador, Puesta Del Sol, Desperado (Radio edit). The more I play El Dorado the more I love it - the music just lifts the spirits and makes the world seem a little better than it is. Highly recommended and one of my albums of the year.
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: www.lunablancamusic.com
The music of Jazz saxophonist Rich Halley is no stranger to The Borderland - having reviewed three of his previous albums. Mr Halley is very much into Jazz as an improvisational art form, so his albums are the complete opposite of the more prevalent smooth jazz that is currently so popular. It is fair to say that the music of the Rich Halley 4 [his current band] take no prisoners in their search for that improvisational high. Going well beyond post-bop and orbiting Planet Avant-garde be warned that this isn't easy listening jazz to soothe the savaged brow. On the other hand, what you have is a very impressive quartet playing cutting edge compositions written by Mr Halley or as collaborations with his band members. The music inhabits co-ordinates spatial and cosmic, going beyond the five year mission of the USS Enterprise in its search for celestial harmony. The musicians on this album are: Rich Halley - saxes/flute/percussion, Michael V Latkovich - trombone/percussion/squeak toys, Carson Halley - drums/percussion, Clyde Reed - bass. Back From Beyond contains ten tracks and these are: Spuds, Section Three, Reorbiting - For Sun Ra, Solanum, Opacity, Continental Drift, Broken Ground, The Mountain's Edge, Basalt, Back From Beyond. You have probably realised by now that trying to describe this music in mere words is extremely difficult - Jazz this extreme needs to be experienced and needs to be heard to be understood. However, if you, as a listener, enjoy walking on the wild side and trying something new you will find an extraordinary album of music performed by committed musicians pioneering new musical routes to the future.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.richhalley.com
I have to admit to a little secret - I have been a lifelong lover of electronic and ambient music since I was a teenager listening to the sainted John Peel on BBC Radio 1 back in the late 60s and early 70s. Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, Can and Brian Eno are the benchmarks I use when listening to modern electronica, and even now that is still the template for comparison. I am, however, pleased to say that some of the new musician/composers coming along now are meeting and perhaps even exceeding those benchmarks. Japanese composer/musician/painter/sculptor Takashi Suzuki has just released his debut album, Resonance, and it is an affecting piece of work. Spread over ten lengthy tracks, all entitled Resonance In Blue and numbered #1 through #10, it offers a variety of soundscapes that you can tell have originated from someone who was a visual artist - each piece has the feeling of having been sculpted from the aether and then painted with sound. Each track seems to be organically linked to the others, yet while retaining the structure of its partner it evolves into something different. Time is elastic here, some of the tracks are slow, determined, while some are slightly more upbeat and even have slivers of melody peeking through the cosmic spacescapes. The music can be glacial in speed and tempo, yet there is warmth and humanity there as well. I swear you can almost hear this music breath. While nominally the style is reminiscent of Eno's Discrete music of the 70s, Resonance is richer sounding, it yearns to explore its inherent world with humanity and, yes, romance. For me this is music that has soul. Resonance is an album of the year and I can't recommend it highly enough - but it is also the album to play to those who think electronic music is soulless and robotic. If they don't recognise the humanity that created this then they are lacking the same humanity within themselves.
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Music has to be the greatest gift Nature or God [depending on your beliefs] has bestowed on Mankind. It is the only universal language we have that transcends language and political barriers, it speaks to the heart and mind directly. It offers a subtlety of emotion that verbal communication rarely reaches and it tends towards raw honesty at all times. And that brings me to the album to hand here, Dawn Of Peace by Lynn Yew Evers. An album of eleven instrumental piano pieces that fall into the Solo Instrumentalist, Adult Contemporary/New Age or even Easy Listening categories. Put all that aside and what you have is a collection of gentle instrumentals, very melodic and with a semi-classical sound, thanks to using a grand piano of great mellowness. All the music was inspired by watching the sun rise over the artist's local park. Now that sounds like such a simple everyday thing, but as I sit here writing this we are just nudging into the beginnings of spring after a winter of grey skies. We take that old Sun so very much for granted and forget how much its bright light and warmth can rejuvenate and inspire us. The track titles are: Yew And I, Lyrical Mood, A Dying Art, Dawn Of Peace, Unspoken Tale, River Of Tranquility, Away From Home, Shade Of A Torn Daffodil, Portrait Of Love, Rain Of Spring, A Fleeting Moment. Ms Evers is an accomplished composer and pianist and this is a marvellous selection of melodies. Dawn Of Peace is certainly an album to bring peace and calmness to a troubled soul, and that's a rare quality. Recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.lynnyewevers.com
In these days of hi-tech electronic instruments the humble acoustic guitar is frequently overlooked. It is a wonderfully versatile instrument, warm-sounding, offering a potentially intricately layered sound, and on occasion it can sound like an orchestra. That is the case with guitarist Bob Ardern and his new album Wires Rosewood & Roots. A collection of a dozen self-composed instrumentals, they have the sound of traditional folk music, yet equally have the mellifluous sound of new age. Plus there is a little Jazz icing to spice it all up. The general mood of the album is upbeat and light-hearted - Wires Rosewood & Roots is an album of music celebrating life and humanity, and God knows in these recessionary times [right across the world] a little lightening of the spirit is a most welcome gift. The music on the album has been inspired such everyday things as the purr of a friendly cat, ice skating on a local pond, waiting while anti-virus software repairs a recalcitrant computer. While the album is mostly Mr Ardern and his guitar, there are a few musicians who appear on the occasional track - they are: Kev Corbett - upright bass/bodhran/cabasa, Alyssa Wright - cello, David Findlay - drone/bass/piano/percussion. The tracklisting is as follows: Dusty's Train, Skating, Palindrome, Scotch Rocks, Pray For Rain, Tea Rose, Flea's Reel, Waiting For MacAfee, Eleanor Of Aquitaine, Irish Mood, Out Of Work, Windrush. It goes without saying that Mr Ardern is master of his craft and this is a wonderfully listenable album and I can't help but give it a highly recommended rating. This album is avaialable for download from iTunes and as a CD or download from Bandcamp.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.bobardern.ca
Of all the instruments in the orchestra the harp is the one that could be classed as having the most feminine characteristics. It is the most romantic sounding of the string instruments, the most subtle in tone and adaptable to a wide range of musical styles. Peter Sterling is a harpist [or perhaps that should be harper] of rare skill and he uses his harp to create mellow and highly romantic soundscapes. Classified as New Age or Spiritual Patterns Of Reflection offers a space for the listener to relax, meditate, open themselves to musical nourishment. Essentially this is music that can help soothe a troubled soul. Mr Sterling is a multi-instrumentalist - as well as the harp he also played the keyboards, native flute and provided some of the vocals. The rest of the musicians on this album are: Dov - violin, Richard Hardy - silver flute, sax, penny whistle, clarinet, Bruce Becvar - guitar, Michael Reidinger - tablas, William Aura - bass, Crystal Bliss and Ani Williams - vocals. Patterns Of Reflection consists of sixteen tracks, all of them gently melodic and reflective pieces, all drawn from Mr Sterling's journey of spiritual exploration. The track titles are: Terra Nova, Onward & Upward, Little One, Honey Dew Drop, Child Of Light, The Emerald Forest, Tantra Of Love, Enchantments Awakening, Modern Times, Transmission 333, For Love And Honor, The Grail Quest, The Morning After, Waterfall Cascade, Parting Of The Way, Tulipe Time. The harp has a wondrous sound all of its own, and in the hands of someone like Mr Sterling that can take you to some interesting places in your mind.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.harpmagic.com
Candice Night is the vocalist with Blackmore's Night, the band that Rainbow and Deep Purple guitarist Richie Blackmore formed after he dissolved Rainbow. This is Ms Night's debut solo album, and the press sheet that came with the CD describes Ms Night's voice as a mixture of Karen Carpenter and Stevie Nicks. Well, that may be true but I think that I prefer to describe Ms Night's voice sounding like Candice Night. I don't really hear Stevie Nicks's 'witchy' warble there or the ultra smoothness of the late saintly Karen. The truth is that Ms Night has a wonderfully rounded voice all of her own, it is wildly romantic, ethereal, a little gutsy and extremely distinctive in its own right. Reflections contains ten tracks, mostly soft rock ballads, some have a bit more bite, and some have a vaguely baroque sound, hinting to her day job with Richie Blackmore. I would liken Ms Night's voice more to that of perhaps Faith Hill or Tarja - it's very dramatic and for all the right reasons. The ten track titles are: Wind Is Calling (Hush The Wind), Gone Gone Gone, Black Roses, Now And Then, Dangerous Smile, For You, Call It Love, Robin Red Breast, Alone With Fate, In Time. I think that Ms Night has written all the songs and they tend to reflect her persona - romance and relationships are the main themes, and she sells each song with conviction. Reflections is a very fine album, rich with good tunes and that mellifluous voice. Many of the songs deserve to be played on the radio here in the UK but I don't suppose the programmers will bother - their musical vision is so narrow. Well, it's their loss - and yours - so check Reflections out on Amazon or iTunes and find a new voice to embrace. Highly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.candice-night.com
The album that grabs me from the first note is a rare thing but that is what Something Getting Wrong by multi-instrumentalist Michael de Salem did when I first slotted it into the CD player. Described as an ambient electronic soundtrack in the press notes, and I can't fault that comparison. It does feel like a movie as yet unfilmed - there is a timelessness to the music, and a spaciousness to the soundscape. Indeed, the opening track, Metropolitan, with its broodingly funky theme ought to be fronting some CSI-type TV series - Isaac Hayes would have loved it. Michael de Salem wrote all the music and performed it, save for the cello of Ann Nina, and has created a near orchestral big sound that is very impressive. The album doesn't strike me as being overly ambient in the Brian Eno sense of the definition, but it so vividly paints a soundscape across the stage of ones' loudspeakers. It reminds me a little of the type of sound and style that David Arnold utilises for his movie soundtracks. Having said that, this album should also appeal to rock and soul audiences, and the jazz crowd too. The musical language is just so rich and enveloping, the nine tracks spread outward without being rushed. The track titles are: Metropolitan, Sentimental Steps, Lost But Not Afraid, Emergency Talking, Tribal Interlude, Remind, Something Getting Wrong, Higher, and Not An End. To sum up: Something Getting Wrong is one of the best albums I have heard in a long time and is most highly recommended - one of my albums of the year so far - and Michael de Salem is an impressively talented musician. Buy this!
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.michaeldesalem.com
It doesn't seem that long ago that I was enjoying Mr Ho's Orchestrotica's previous album The Unforgettable Sounds Of Esquivel, and now here we are with a new album. Quite a departure too - gone is the big exotic orchestra sound and in its place is a small quartet sound full of exotic instruments and sounds. The eleven tracks are made up of mostly compositions by Mr Ho, with a further one being an arrangement of Tchaikovsky's Arab Dance, a Cal Tjader tune, Colorado Waltz, and one by Milt Raskin, Maika. The original tracks are: Third River Rangoon, Thor's Arrival, Phoenix Goodbye, Terre Exotique, Autumn Diggin' Dance, Moai Thief, Lonesome Aku Of Alewife, and Lyman '59. The musicians involved this time are: Brian O'Neill (aka Mr Ho) - vibes, percussion and other exotic instrumentation, Geni Skendo - flutes, Noriko Terada - percussion, Jason Davis - bass, plus Tev Sterig on oud on a couple of tracks. Eschewing the loudspeaker shredding of the big band sound with its stratospheric playing, Third River Rangoon is a much gentler if no less enticing mix of sounds from around the world - it is transcendent mind candy, taking the listener to lands far stranger than the humdrum one we live in. The musicianship is of the highest order, there may only be four or five musicians playing but the sound is huge and expansive, thanks to the judicious use of audio effects and the mixing desk. These "Exotica For Modern Living" albums resemble the early stereo easy listening albums of the late 60's and early 70s - the EMI Studio 2 label in particular comes to mind - the sound was so dramatic to make full effect of the new fangled stereo hi-fi's and their two speakers. In these days of all kinds of surround sound it is good to be reminded that a simple stereo speaker set-up can be impressively effective even now. So, Mr Ho and his new album, very different to the first and all the better for it. Extremely impressive and any serious music lover and audiophile should add this album to their collection ASAP!
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.orchestrotica.com
Latin music has always been one of the most vibrant types of music in the pop diaspora, and it has influenced and it has been a part of the mainstream for decades. One of its constituent parts has been the music from Brazil - more refined than the music of the Caribbean, more laid back than Mexican music, the jazz and pop music of Brazil has a musicality and sheen to it that is more cerebral than visceral. But that was always the sound of the Brazilian New Wave - Tropicalia. And so we come to the music of Brazilian guitarist/vocalist Duda Lucena and his Quartet. His new album, simply titled Live, showcases all that is great with Brazilian jazz - laid back musicality, ice cool vocals, more hidden simmering passion than Dallas on heat, and above all that a refined Latin experience that brings to mind those golden sands, the brooding jungle of the Amazon and those Brazilian women. OK, I made the last bit up, but there is something very wonderful about this album - these four musicians capture the Brazilian experience across seven tracks so brilliantly. Along with Duda Lucena on guitar and vocals, the rest of the quartet are Quentin Baxter - drums, Kevin Hamilton - acoustic bass and Gerald Gregory - piano. The most surprising thing is that these musicians are based in South Carolina, a long way from South America, yet with their Brazilian leader they have captured the sound so well. The seven track titles are: Lugar Comum, Corcovado, Sina, Sol, Trilhos Urbanos, Drão and Odara. I'm not sure where the live album was recorded but the audience are receptive and very polite - not a Yankee yee-haw in sight... But the album also crackles with energy and Mr Lucena's guitar is at the heart of it at all times. Indeed, the quartet play as one for most of the album, the solos are restrained and mostly short so that you are more aware of the artists as a band of equals. If you enjoy the music of Brazil then you really shouldn't miss this album, it is a classic. 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.dudalucena.com
There are some albums that click with you from the opening bars of music - So Free had that affect on me. I was immediately thrown back to the great sound of The Crusaders and their Jazz-Pop hits of the late 70s. I think saxophonist Neamen comes from the same musical gene pool as they did. With ten tracks, mostly instrumentals, some with a female chorus, the sound is smooth Jazz, very easy on the ear and extremely more-ish. The track titles are: Candy, Let's Chill, So Free, Don't Say Goodbye, Who Dat, Remember The Time, Thinking Of You, Feels Like Heaven, Things Change, Cooling The Plasma. Apart from the Michael Jackson song everything else was written by Neamen solo or co-written with band members. While there seem to be only three or four musicians on each track the list of musicians involved is a lengthy one [at least fifteen] and I don't have room to mention them all, but along with Neamen on saxes, there is Jay Soto - guitar/keyboards/co-writer, Jeff Lorber - keyboards, Brian Simpson - piano, Mel Brown - bass. Anyway, no matter how many musicians are performing on each track the sound is big and beefy, muscular but also smooth. I can't imagine So Free will have any problem finding radio plays in the USA, over here in the UK it will be different, which is a great shame because this is a damn good collection of music. Played from the heart, it deserves as wide an audience as possible. 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.neamen.com
I don't seem to receive many rock albums for review here so Crawstickers, by Scott Ramminger, is most welcome. Unusually for a rock album Mr Ramminger is a saxophonist, rather than a guitarist, and his album is a splendid melange of rootsy rock, country, blues and r'n'b, all performed with streetwise insouciance. The eleven tracks all have a strong bluesy sheen and a groove that will appeal to fans of Stevie Ray Vaughan, early Fleetwood Mac [Peter Green era], and Jerry Jeff Walker. The sound is big and beefy, thanks to the nine piece band - the musicians accompanying Scott Ramminger are: Dave Chappell - guitars, Brian Simms - piano, organ, accordion, Claude Arthur - bass, Pete Ragusa - drums, Josh Howell - percussion, Vince McCool - trumpet, Mary Anne Redmond and Patty Reese - vocals and harmony vocals. All eleven tracks are written by Mr Ramminger, some are co-written with members of the band, and I can't think of any tracks that are poor quality. The track titles are: Crawstickers, Magic Eightball Never Lies, Give A Pencil To A Fish, There Must Be Something Wrong With You, Real Fine Gumbo, Three Dollar Beer, Fast And Loud, I Dreamed I Met Jesus, That Rumba Beat, Annandale, The Country's Gone From Me. I really loved this album, it's rootsy attitude - blues one moment and Tex-Mex the next - certainly lifted my spirits and I shall be playing this album on heavy rotation when I am having personal time. Mr Ramminger and his band can rock and wail with the best of them, and thanks to the original songs they have their own unique sound. 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.scotttramminger.com
Of all the varieties of jazz that there are Swing has always been a favourite of mine, and on Never Let Me Go vocalist Tianna Hall showcases a dozen songs which typify the genre. Houston-based Ms Hall also stretches the musical form with a non-big band approach to these songs. Using just two guitarists, a cellist and a percussionist, she turns what are usually loud and bombastic numbers into intimate tête-à-têtes between herself and the listener, and yet the songs still retain their inherent swing signatures. The four musicians supporting Mr Hall are Mike Wheeler and Mike Nase - guitars, Lisa Vasdoganes - cello and James Metcalfe - percussion. The track titles are: My Blue Heaven, I Wanna Be Around, Never Let Me Go, Samba do Avião, You Don't Know What Love Is, Secret Love, Charade, Fotographia, You And The Night And The Music, I Can't Get Started (With You), I Love You, Everything Happens To Me. Unlike most swing music vocalists Ms Hall's style is more akin to that of Julie London, close miked, channelling the emotions directly to the listener. Her voice isn't as slick as some and the rawnesss of the lyric and the emotion shines through. This is her debut album for Blue Bamboo Music and I hope it will be the first of many. Tianna Hall should become better known through this album and will become one of the voices to listen out for in coming years.
This is the second album by saxophonist Mace Hibbard and his band. Time Gone By contains a dozen instrumental tracks deeply rooted in the fine traditions of jazz but exploring onwards, pushing the boundaries outwards. For a five piece band they make a full and muscular sound, featuring the duelling sax and trumpet of Mace Hibbard and Melvin Jones, respectively, with pianist Louis Heriveaux, bassist Marc Miller and drummer Justin Varnes providing solid rhythmic support at all times. The album has a metallic strength running throughout its length, thanks to the strong compositions of Mr Hibbard. Call it post modern, post bop or even bebop, the music on this album still harks back to the days of Miles Davis and Charlie Parker for its roots, but expands on this in extremely inventive ways. Mr Hibbard's sax playing is very emotive and at times intimately reflective. The dozen tracks are: Rude On Purpose, December 18th, Indecision, Hallowed Ground, Always On My Mind, Theme For Dos Lyn, Remembrance Of Things Past, Slip And Slide, The Rain King, Time Gone By, La Danza Olvidada, For The Memories We Share. This is a quintet who play instinctively and at full bore throughout. It is quite an impressive sound. There should be quite a hunger for this album amongst the jazz fraternity as it pushes all the right buttons and then more. 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.macehibbard.com
The mellifluous piano of Steven C is no stranger to the ears of the Borderland, and his latest album is a welcome arrival. Spiritual Piano is a collection of fourteen instrumental tracks - just a wonderful sounding piano and a small group of supporting musicians who waft in and out as required. Yes, a title such as Spiritual Piano does set up certain pre-expectations for some listeners, but this isn't an album of gospel or church music but a collection of very melodic piano-led instrumentals suitable for relaxation, meditation and generally chillin' out with a glass of Merlot. The sleevenotes describe the album as reflecting Steven C's current spiritual attitude, which is nice - however being British and therefore somewhat cynical we find the term spiritual a little fey, we leave that to the Salvation Army to sort out. On the other hand, this is a prodigiously melodic album of restful music that may lower your stress levels. I mentioned some additional musicians on this album and they are: Nate Wilson - mandolin, violin, Tony Axtel - fretless bass, Billy Oehrlein - percussion and Patrick Tanner - guitar. Their delicate and understated contribution to the music adds to the charm. The track titles are: Be Here Now, Knowing, pp-Pianissimo, Temporary Space Suits, Letting Go, Ripples In A Parrallel Universe, Believe-Achieve, Space And Time - 2012, 10,000 Hours, Inter-connected, Decade, Borrowed Time 18-59, The Spirit World - Return To Sender, Mystery In The Moment. Spiritual Piano is definitely as good as Steven C's previous albums, and if you enjoy melodic music then this is the album for you. Available from Steven C's own website [below] and 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: www.stephemcmusic.com
It is a given fact that the guitar is the king of instruments - its lineage is long and the basic instrument has split into so many types and subtypes, creating a world of different sounds. You get some hint of that on guitarist Fred Thrane's new album, Angels Of The Sun. I think I am hearing a classical-type guitar throughout the album, but with effects pedals and digital time delay treatments the guitar sounds become ethereal and out of this world on most of the tracks. While the album embraces many different styles throughout its length, there is a strong ambient spatiality running throughout. A strong sense of being outside of time. Mr Thrane plays beautifully and one can only wonder at the magic in his fingers. In my dim and dark youth I tried to learn to play the guitar and failed miserably, so I am in awe of those who can multi-task with their fingers. Supported by Dennis Murphy on bass and Jim Norris on percussion, this is quite an intimate album, with the musicians sounding as if they are there right in front of you, between the loudspeakers. The nine tracks were all written by Mr Thrane and the titles are: Angels Of The Sun, Big Sur, Dawndancer, Fandango In Four, Farruca, Moraga Raga, Soleares, The Third Heaven, and Cowgirls And Ice Cream. In summary then, Angels Of The Sun is an excellent album, rich in texture, atmosphere, and musicality. Highly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.fredthrane.com
Now I have to admit from the start that while I have heard of Rufus Wainwright I am not familiar with his work [save for his predilection for Judy Garland], so I cannot compare and contrast these instrumental jazz arrangements with the source originals. Therefore I am treating this album as an album of - new to me - material. Vicious World are a jazz septet with a wider selection of instruments in their palette than the usual jazz band. The eleven tracks are all arrangements of Wainwright songs, with sax/clarinet/flautist Aaron Irwin and trombonist Matthew McDonald responsible for the arrangements. Musically it veers from post-bop to jazz with rock colourings [thanks mostly to the muscular electric guitar of Sebastian Noelle]. The remaining musicians are: Thomson Kneeland - bass, Danny Fisher - drums, Eliza Cho - violin, and Maria Jeffers - cello. The musicianship is highly impressive, the tracks vary from intimate romantic melodies to pastoral soundscapes to brash in your face near-rock blowouts. And yet there is an obvious respect for the original composer. What Rufus Wainwright fans will think of these cover versions I have no idea, but I hope they will recognise the affection and dedication these musicians have brought to the project. The eleven tracks on the CD are: Going To A Town, Natasha, This Love Affair, Memphis Skyline, Leaving For Paris, Matinee Idol, Peach Trees, Millbrook, The Art Teacher, In A Graveyard, and Dinner At Eight. Standing on its own musical legs Plays The Music Of Rufus Wainwright is a highly listenable album, with some fine musicianship on display by all concerned. I would hope that Mr Wainwright will be pleased with it. Recommended most highly.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: http://aaronirwin.com/
On this album pianist Falkner Evans has expanded his usual trio format and recorded The Point of The Moon with a sextet. As you would expect that opens up whole new areas of musical experimentation for any composer and musician. In this case adding brass and an organ offers a fuller sound and new tones and sound textures to play with. Post bop in style, and composing seven of the nine tracks, Mr Evans has explored these new advantages with verve and vigour - in other words this is one beefy sounding album, full of muscular tunes and some great musicianship. The musicians playing with Mr Evans are: Greg Tardy - tenor sax, Ron Horton - trumpet, Gary Versace - organ and accordion [on two tracks only], Belden Bullock - bass, and Matt Wilson - drums. The nine tracks are: Altered Soul, Drawing In, Dorsoduro, Cheer Up, O Grande Amor [by Antonio Carlos Jobim], Slightest Movement, While We're Young [by Morty Palitz, Alec Wilder and Bill Engvick], Off The Top, The Point Of The Moon. Despite the expanded sound there is a definite late night mood spanning the album, and while the brass carry the punch it is still a relatively quiet album that can be played for relaxation late at night. While post bop isn't really my forte this is an extremely enjoyable album - it is rich with musical promise and it fulfils that remit right across all nine tracks. I can't imagine any true jazz fan being disappointed with The Point of The Moon.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: http://www.falknerevans.com
After reviewing saxophonist Rich Halley's last couple of albums I have come to expect an uncompromising attitude to jazz and vigorous performances that squeeze every moment of intensity from the music. And that is the case with his latest album Requiem For A Pit Viper. Performing within a quartet format, and with a variety of extra instruments to choose from, this is a richer sounding album, but still making no compromises within the structure and confines of bebop. In other words, if you like your jazz all neat and orderly, with a modicum of melody to hang your ears on then you may be disappointed. On the other hand, if you believe in musical exploration, and pushing the barriers of what we call music then Rich is your boy. The quartet are: Rich Halley - tenor sax and percussion, Michael Vlatkovich - trombone, percussion and squeak toys, Clyde Reed - bass, Carson - Halley - drums. The ten tracks are: Requiem For A Pit Viper, Snippet Stop Warp, View From The Underpass, Circumambulation, Purple And Gray, Maj, Wake Up Line, Squeaker, Subterranean Strut, and Afternoon In June. So, easy listening this ain't but once your ears [and brain] have tuned into the sound coming from your speakers then you start to discern interesting and wonderful things happening. Not an easy album to love instantly but one that repays repeated listening and in its 'quiet' way a groundbreaking album
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: http://www.richhalley.com