Andrew Johnston - jazzreview.com - Your Jazz Music Connection - jazzreview.com - Your Jazz Music Connection http://jazzreview.com Mon, 22 May 2017 10:41:22 -0500 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Deep Lee by Lee Konitz and Minsarah http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/deep-lee-by-lee-konitz-and-minsarah.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/deep-lee-by-lee-konitz-and-minsarah.html Lee Konitz first came onto the jazz scene in the late forties as an exciting young alto saxophonist sticking his foot into the late bebop movement and exploring the poss…

Lee Konitz first came onto the jazz scene in the late forties as an exciting young alto saxophonist sticking his foot into the late bebop movement and exploring the possibilities of cool jazz. Since then Konitz has turned from a rising young star into one of the most influential jazz innovators of all time. On his recent album Deep Blue, Konitz teams up with the young, but dynamic trio Minsarah, to further explore the boundaries of jazz.

Right from the opening track "Invention" one can instantly recognizes Konitz’s distinct soloing style. He plays with a mellow tone and relies more on musicality than intense technical playing, the style he has become famous for over the last half century. However, what makes Deep Lee different than Konitz’s previous works is the rhythm section that he plays with, and the modern compositions that are featured on the album.

Minsarah is a trio of recent Berklee College of Music graduates. Since they have come onto the scene they have quickly gained popularity, especially in Europe. The trio consists of Florian Weber on piano, Jeff Denson on bass, and Ziv Ravitz on drums. Florian Weber accompanies the lead voice of Konitz with intriguing harmonic content. However, he also throws in interesting contrapuntal lines which add a fulfilling layer to the music. As well as Weber accompanies Konitz, he shows that he is totally capable to take over as the lead voice during the intro to album’s title track. His solos are very musical, masterfully combining complex harmonies with interesting melodic content. Jeff Denson lays down the harmonic foundation throughout the album but also showcases his soloing skills. Ravitz plays more percussion effects than solid time keeping, but that style of playing contributes to the immense musical interaction that Kontiz and Minsarah are aiming for. However, there are a few groove orientated tunes though such as Jeff Denson’s composition "As the Smoke Clears".

The overall interaction between the four musicians in the group is amazing. They are so in tuned with each other that at some points it is as if one person is playing all fours instruments. The group’s intensity level climbs at a steady pace which results in many breath taking musical climaxes.

On Deep Lee, the combination of Minsarah’s modern youthful playing with the masterful playing of Lee Konitz makes for an amazing musical experience. On this album Lee Konitz shows the world that even though he has been on the scene a while he can still be a part of new innovations.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Andrew Johnston) Contemporary Jazz - CD Reviews Sun, 11 May 2008 07:00:00 -0500
Furious Rubato by Hal Galper Jeff Johnson John Bishop http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/furious-rubato-by-hal-galper-jeff-johnson-john-bishop.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/furious-rubato-by-hal-galper-jeff-johnson-john-bishop.html Furious Rubato by Hal Galper Jeff Johnson John Bishop
Rubato is a difficult to define term, but it can be described as taking liberty in the tempo to obtain a certain feeling or mood. It is more common in classical solo pie…

Rubato is a difficult to define term, but it can be described as taking liberty in the tempo to obtain a certain feeling or mood. It is more common in classical solo pieces, but pianist Hal Galper, along with Jeff Johnson and John Bishop explore this abstract musical concept in a jazz trio setting on Furious Rubato.

As the title suggests, the trio uses rubato throughout the album. While playing, each member of the band can change the tempo at any given time. As Galper explains in the liner notes the main rule for playing in this unique style is just "let the melody be your guide".

Galper, Johnson, and Bishop pull off the rubato brilliantly most of the time. They use it in a way that propels the music forward. They are able to play off each other and stay in sync with one another. A superb showing of the group’s ability is on "Naima". They are able to accelerate the tempo during the pinnacle of the piece which makes it sound more dramatic and meaningful. But at times, such as on the opening track "Milestones," the technique can make an uneasy overall sound.

Galper takes most of the melodies. He plays dense, rich chords and exceptional melodies. Jeff Johnson interplays with Galper, playing licks on the bass. Bishop does not take the traditional drummer’s role of laying down a groove. Instead, he creates another layer of sound with rhythmic figures and effects.

Hal Galper, Jeff Johnson, and John Bishop play innovative music using an interesting approach on Furious Rubato.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Andrew Johnston) Contemporary Jazz - CD Reviews Sat, 03 Mar 2007 00:00:00 -0600
Jennifer Hall Meets . . . by Jennifer Hall http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/jennifer-hall-meets-.-.-.-by-jennifer-hall.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/jennifer-hall-meets-.-.-.-by-jennifer-hall.html Gerry Mulligan was a great jazz pioneer and an innovator of the bari sax. He has become a role model for many bari sax players, and West Coaster Jennifer Hall is no exce…

Gerry Mulligan was a great jazz pioneer and an innovator of the bari sax. He has become a role model for many bari sax players, and West Coaster Jennifer Hall is no exception. Jennifer Hall meets . . . is a tribute to Mulligan. The quintet, which is made up from mixing and matching West Coast regulars, plays his music with their own personal touch. This album is an exceptional showcase of the musical accomplishments that Mulligan achieved during his life.

After listening to Hall's playing for just a short while, one can tell that Mulligan has been a strong musical influence in Hall's life. They play similarly but Hall's sound is a little brighter than Mulligan's. Hall's rhythm section of Josh Nelson on piano, Santo Savino on drums, and Dave Stone on bass set a solid foundation for the group which allows Hall and her sidemen to freely improvise. Nelson fills in holes with little melodic lines, which gives the music a nice touch. Savino on drums keeps a steady swing feel which is supported by grooving bass lines produced by Stone.

Hall's sideman take turns playing with her and the rhythm section. Trombonist Scott Whitfield plays only on two tracks, although both of his solos are burning. He exhibits extraordinary technique on the slide and displays versatility in the upper register. Roger Neumann takes on a bari battle with Hall on "Cat Walk" and the opening track "Five Brothers." Both trumpeter Carl Saunders and soprano saxophonist Tom Kubis showcase their mastery of their respective instruments, which provides a nice contrast to the low register playing of Hall's baritone sax.

The west coast musicians on Jennifer Hall Meets . . . make an admirable tribute to the legacy of Gerry Mulligan.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Andrew Johnston) Straight-Ahead - CD Reviews Sun, 25 Feb 2007 06:00:00 -0600
New York Samba Jazz Quintet by Hendrik Meurkens http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/brazilian-jazz-brazilian-pop-jazz-cd-reviews/new-york-samba-jazz-quintet-by-hendrik-meurkens.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/brazilian-jazz-brazilian-pop-jazz-cd-reviews/new-york-samba-jazz-quintet-by-hendrik-meurkens.html A harmonica in Brazilian jazz is uncommon to say the least. Yet Hendrik Meurkens makes it sound expressive and soulful in his New York Samba Jazz Quintet. Surroun…

A harmonica in Brazilian jazz is uncommon to say the least. Yet Hendrik Meurkens makes it sound expressive and soulful in his New York Samba Jazz Quintet. Surrounded by an impressive group, Meurkens expresses himself through both the harmonica and vibes. The quintet plays a variety of music from Gershwin to Antonio Carlos Jobim, and adds an expressive Latin beat to it. The vibe playing of Meurkens is colorful and melodic. He pulls out a beautiful sound from the instrument that blends well with co-frontliner Jed Levy on tenor sax. His harmonica playing does not sound as out of place as one might first think. He plays complete, intriguing jazz thoughts while rarely scoping up to notes. He also plays with good intonation. Meurkens also displays his creative composing skills by featuring four of his originals on the album.

Helio Alves on piano plays exceptionally well. He comps well, and as he shows at the beginning and end of "A Rã", he can lay down a killer groove. His solos are filled with dense and intriguing melodies that continually build toward a climax. Jed Levy on tenor sax has a mellow sound that fits in well with the group’s Latin/ Samba playing. Drummer Adriano Santos lays down a relaxed groove and keeps the band moving forward through burning tunes like "Vamos Nessa".

On New York Samba Quintet Hendrik Meurkens displays his mastery of both the vibes and the harmonica in the Bossa/samba style. Recommend to anyone who enjoys the Bossa Nova and Samba styles.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Andrew Johnston) Brazilian Jazz / Brazilian Pop Jazz - CD Reviews Fri, 23 Feb 2007 12:00:00 -0600
Osage County by Scott Neumann and Osage County http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/soul-/-funk-jazz-cd-reviews/osage-county-by-scott-neumann-and-osage-county.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/soul-/-funk-jazz-cd-reviews/osage-county-by-scott-neumann-and-osage-county.html On Osage County, Scott Neumann’s quartet plays with a hip and unique groove. Neumann on drums lays down solid funk beats while David Berkman and Don…

On Osage County, Scott Neumann’s quartet plays with a hip and unique groove. Neumann on drums lays down solid funk beats while David Berkman and Don Falzone on keyboards and electric bass respectively keep the band moving forward with exciting comping and propelling bass lines. Sam Newsome’s soprano sax adds a great a sound to put on the top of the superb rhythm section.

Scott Neumann’s playing is both energetic and inspiring. He mixes it up with a variety of beats, making his playing very compelling. His drum playing provides the foundation for the killer groove produced by the band. His playing is very musical, always propelling or taking the band in intriguing directions. Osage County also displays Neumann’s gifted ability to compose. He wrote six out of the eight tunes on the album, all of which have funky, head-banging grooves and melodies.

The rest of the band plays well together and really compliments Neumann’s foundation. David Berkman’s keyboard playing provides the perfect comping style for this funk music. His solos are exceptional, using the different sounds of Fender Rhodes and Wurlitzer organ. Don Falzone on electric bass helps the band move forward by laying down solid bass lines. The soprano playing of Sam Newsome fits well over the top of the band. He usually does not play a lot of notes but he plays very melodically and he has a good sound.

Osage County is a great CD. They band plays well together and always plays with a high energy level.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Andrew Johnston) Soul / Funk Jazz - CD Reviews Wed, 14 Jun 2006 07:00:00 -0500
Two Hours by Samo Salamon Quartet http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/two-hours-by-samo-salamon-quartet.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/two-hours-by-samo-salamon-quartet.html Samo Salamon’s Two Hours is a very unique album. His combo produces very modern sounding music. At times the quartet of Salamon on guitar, Tony Malaby on tenor sa…

Samo Salamon’s Two Hours is a very unique album. His combo produces very modern sounding music. At times the quartet of Salamon on guitar, Tony Malaby on tenor sax, Mark Helias on bass, and Tom Rainey on drums, plays admirably together, and achieves superior musical experiences. However, there are certain points where the music gets a little too "free" and it is hard to feel a groove.

Salamon is a very talented guitar player and composer. He plays an abundance of intriguing rhythms that make his solos exciting and interesting. The electric sound he produces on the guitar is compelling but is not too overpowering. His compositions fit well with the group and bring the listener on an astonishing musical journey. Salamon and Malaby make up an excellent front line and their sounds blend almost perfectly when they play the melodies together, producing a powerful and convincing sound. Malaby has a huge sound, similar to Chris Potter’s, and has a terrific altissimo range. But, sometimes he uses it too often, and it becomes repetitive to the listener’s ear. Helias and Rainey provide solid support for the band, and take great solos themselves. However, there are many instances where the groove gets dropped and the time gets off.

Overall, Two Hours is a high-quality album. It is filled with good playing, but at times the feel gets dropped, and it starts to sound a little uneasy. I would recommend this CD to any one who likes modern jazz.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Andrew Johnston) Contemporary Jazz - CD Reviews Wed, 31 May 2006 07:00:00 -0500
Three by Brian Swartz Trio http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/three-by-brian-swartz-trio.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/three-by-brian-swartz-trio.html Brian Swartz’s new album, Three, features the drumless trio of Swartz on trumpet and flugelhorn, Larry Koonse on guitar, and Darek Oles on bass. In Three, …

Brian Swartz’s new album, Three, features the drumless trio of Swartz on trumpet and flugelhorn, Larry Koonse on guitar, and Darek Oles on bass. In Three, Swartz is paying homage to trumpeter Chet Baker and his trio of the late 70s. Even though Swartz is honoring Baker’s trio he and his group are by no means copying the exact sound of Baker’s group. The trio plays eight standards and four originals by Swartz all with a unique sound and great musical interplay.

There are many differences between Swartz’s trio and Baker’s recordings from the late 70s. First of all, Swartz does not sing. Another difference is that Swartz plays at more relaxed tempos. Even though there are many differences between the two groups, Baker’s influence on Swartz shows up in his playing. Swartz and Baker both have wonderful mellow tones, and both play harmonically intriguing notes. However, as he says in his liner notes, Swartz chooses to play more simple lines. "Rather than filling up more space and being as hot as possible, I wanted to take a step back and make every note count. It came out to be a very personal statement."

Knoose and Oles provide good, stable support for Swartz. Knoose’s comping is rhythmically sound and he does a nice job at filling in the holes. His soloing is lyrical and relaxing. Oles has a well defined sound and plays bass lines that keep a steady pulse going through the group.

The most impressive quality of the group is the interplay between all three musicians. They listen to each other making the group unified which produces a magical sound. An example of this is on the track "A Ghost of a Chance" when Knoose and Swartz are having a guitar and trumpet battle. At the end of the battle when they are playing simultaneously Knoose plays a lick and Swartz plays the lick back.

Three is an admirable homage to the old Chet Baker trio. It is filled with simple but yet melodically intriguing playing and great interplay.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Andrew Johnston) Straight-Ahead - CD Reviews Mon, 22 May 2006 13:00:00 -0500
Two Too by Jiggs Whigham and Wolfgang Köhler http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/two-too-by-jiggs-whigham-and-wolfgang-kohler.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/two-too-by-jiggs-whigham-and-wolfgang-kohler.html A duo of trombone and piano is very rare in jazz, but Jiggs Whigham and Wolfgang Köhler make this combination sound exceptional. In their new CD Two-Too, they pla…

A duo of trombone and piano is very rare in jazz, but Jiggs Whigham and Wolfgang Köhler make this combination sound exceptional. In their new CD Two-Too, they play nine different standards -- all without a drummer or bass player. The interplay between Whigham and Köhler creates an exciting musical experience for the listener.

Jiggs Whigham plays extraordinarily on "Two-Too," just as he has done since joining the Glen Miller band at the age of seventeen. There are plenty of moments on the album which demonstrate why Whigham is considered one of the premier trombonists in the world today. He plays with a mellow tone that goes well with the melodically connecting lines he plays. He showcases his mastery of this unwieldy instrument by limiting the sound of the slide to musical moments when a gliss with the slide is in good musical taste. The most impressive aspect of Whigham’s playing is the amount of emotion he plays with. Every solo he plays shows how much passion he has for the great music of jazz. A good example of this is on J.J. Johnson’s "Lament" where Whigham shows the world how a ballad is played.

German pianist Wolfgang Köhler does a nice job at making up the sense of time normally provided by a bass or drummer. He plays rhythmic lines that are interesting, but yet, still fill in the holes of being the only rhythm section player. He listens to Whigham well, and plays little melodic accompaniments that compliment Whigham’s playing nicely. Köhler’s solos are melodically engaging. He lays down rhythms with his right hand that keeps a strong feel.

The playing of Whigham and Köhler combines to make a very special album. I would strongly recommend this album, especially to any trombonist or pianist.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Andrew Johnston) Straight-Ahead - CD Reviews Sun, 09 Apr 2006 19:00:00 -0500
The Fantasy Sessions by Bobby Sharp http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/jazz-vocals-cd-reviews/the-fantasy-sessions-by-bobby-sharp.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/jazz-vocals-cd-reviews/the-fantasy-sessions-by-bobby-sharp.html The Fantasy Sessions is the debut album for 81-year-old Bobby Sharp. He is a well known songwriter, whose "Unchain My Heart" was made famous by the great Ray Char…

The Fantasy Sessions is the debut album for 81-year-old Bobby Sharp. He is a well known songwriter, whose "Unchain My Heart" was made famous by the great Ray Charles. The songs on this album were written by Sharp in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. This album has a remarkable story behind it. Sharp had not written a song in 28 years when he met producer Natasha Miller. With her help, Sharp took songs he wrote years ago and recorded them on The Fantasy Sessions.

On this album, Sharp sings his own compositions while also playing piano. Even at 81, Sharp’s voice is strong and confident and his piano playing is exceptional. His singing is relaxed and down to earth. He does not sing with an expansive range, but the rhythms he uses distinguishes his singing from other jazz singers.

The band provides nice support. The arrangements have harmonies that mix together well with Sharp’s singing. On four of the songs, Sharp only plays piano. These songs, with the addition of some string players, have a nice blend that is relaxing. The instrumental solos from Rob Roth on saxophone and Jeff Lewis on trumpet and flugelhorn provide a nice contrast to Sharp’s singing and the dense chordal arrangements.

Overall, The Fantasy Sessions is a great CD that showcases the jazz singing and piano playing of Bobby Sharp. I would recommend this CD to whoever likes jazz singers and jazz from the 50s and 60s.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Andrew Johnston) Jazz Vocals - CD Reviews Wed, 22 Feb 2006 00:00:00 -0600
The Subway Ballet by Randy Sandke and the Metatonal Big Band http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/the-subway-ballet-by-randy-sandke-and-the-metatonal-big-band.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/the-subway-ballet-by-randy-sandke-and-the-metatonal-big-band.html Randy Sandke’s new CD The Subway Ballet shows that he has made many musical innovations since playing with one of the greats of old time swing, Benny Goodman. The…

Randy Sandke’s new CD The Subway Ballet shows that he has made many musical innovations since playing with one of the greats of old time swing, Benny Goodman. There are two parts to this CD. The first is Sandke and The Metatonal Big Band playing the fourteen parts of The Subway Ballet. The second part has Sandke playing guitar, trumpet, flugelhorn, and piccolo trumpet with a small combo. Both showcase his innovative composing and playing.

The Subway Ballet is written to tell a story of a ride on the subway in New York. Sandke’s composing work uses different instruments and sounds to represent people on the subway. A group of punks, a blind beggar, and a Korean peddler are just a few of the characters portrayed in the piece. What makes the ballet different is that Sandke uses a form of harmonics called metatonal harmonics throughout most of the piece. Metatonal harmonics are, according to Sandke, "harmonies that lie beyond the scope of traditional harmony and cannot be represented by conventional chord symbols." These harmonics are different, but intriguing and provide a unique musical sound.

Even though the metatonal harmonics played by the big band and the storyline of the piece are highlighted, there are still some great solos by members of the band. Randy Sandke plays melodically and with a great tone to make his solos sound fantastic. The solos by the exceptional trombone player Wycliffe Gordon are incredible. He plays lines that are even fast for most sax players

The second part of the CD has a completely different feel. Instead of using a traditional big band setting, Sandke uses a small combo. Three out of the four songs recorded by the group have an electronic sound that distinguishes it greatly from the Subway Ballet. On "Red Hook Blues" and "Happy Berlin" Sandke takes solos on the guitar. This really showcases his musical versatility.

Overall The Subway Ballet is an outstanding CD showcasing the innovative composing of Sandke along with his exceptional playing of trumpet and guitar. The rest of the Metatonal Big Band plays tight, has great solos, and feeds off each other’s playing. I would recommend this CD to anybody that would like to expand their outlook on jazz big bands.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Andrew Johnston) Contemporary Jazz - CD Reviews Sun, 19 Feb 2006 12:00:00 -0600