Brent L Black - - Your Jazz Music Connection - - Your Jazz Music Connection Tue, 23 May 2017 09:52:34 -0500 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Room Of Mirrors by Kekko Fornarelli Room Of Mirrors by Kekko Fornarelli
Musical labels are as much a blessing as they are a curse, their primary function serving as a musical guide to more effectively market and sell a particular artist. Keeping in mind that taste is as subjective as the continued debate as to the accuracy of certain sub-genres, enter Kekko Fornarelli.

Fornarelli is an Italian pianist whose compositions transcend style and genre, instead embracing a dynamic tension of musical thought and lyrical emotion. Post-modern contemporary fusion is, at best, a feeble attempt to try and place this musical square peg in the proverbial round whole. To place Fornarelli in the catchall category referred to as European jazz would be far too easy, unlike Fornarelli's music. Room of Mirrors opens with a dynamic tension of passionate and thoughtful (if not slightly blues-infused) harmonic progressions that are emotionally captivating while moving forward with a sense of musical purpose. Fornarelli's trio demonstrates a unique cohesion, while playing just slightly on the edge of the more traditional western form and functionality of improvised music.


"Coffee And Cigarettes" swings playfully, the understated finesse of drummer Gianlivio Liberti pushing Fornarelli and bassist Luca Bulgarelli  to again reach the state of one harmonious sonic train of thought. Bulgarelli's lyricism is showcased on "Dreams and Compromise," where the bassist exhibits an infectious sense of swing while still maintaining the ensemble approach. Fornarelli's Fender Rhodes and synthesizers, along with Bulgarelli's use of electronics, are virtually transparent, never distracting from this release's evocative approach throughout. Liberti and Bulgarelli add incredible richness of texture and inventive tonality without ever bordering on self-indulgence.


A highly spatial consciousness is prevalent in Fornarelli's compositions, demonstrating a keen sense of melody that places this innovative if not uniquely original musician well outside the European jazz theater and more comfortably into the artistic world of lyrical self expression that so many strive for but never achieve.

]]> (Brent L Black ) Contemporary Jazz - CD Reviews Sat, 19 Nov 2011 23:37:12 -0600
Mojave by Nilson Matta & Roni Ben-Hur Mojave by Nilson Matta & Roni Ben-Hur
Nothing is more fun or exciting for a critic as to be introduced to an artist stone cold, no press release just "good buzz." On occasion good buzz is literally all that can be said on a release but not this time. Combine Brazilian bassist Nilson Matta with Israeli be-bop guitarist Roni Ben-Hur and the end result is one of the most solid and consistent releases of the year. Heed the buzz!

With a plethora of Brazilian music having hit the street this year, Mojave stands out for two other reasons which are namely acclaimed drummer Victor Lewis and legendary Brazilian percussionist Cafe'. This quartet is special thanks to the ability to interact with each other with such musical cohesion that Mojave sounds far from the first release for this group. While in the liner notes, Matta explains he still does not feel his approach to Brazilian music may be "authentic" but the musical connections made through a perfectly paced release make Mojave pop with its own unique brand of authenticity. A hybrid of be-bop and Brazilian music that swings from the opening Antonio Carlos Jobim title track "Mojave" to sneaking in a straight ahead take on the Burt Bacharach classic "The Look Of Love."


Several tunes from Pixinguinha are included here and for those of you playing at home, Pixinguinha is the iconic master of the pre-Bossa Nova genre of Choro. What is a Choro? To start you do not eat it, it is the  style often associated with a fast and happy rhythm, characterized by improvisation and  full of syncopation and counterpoint. The Choro is considered the first urban popular music typical of Brazil and when you fuse this with the classic bop sensibilities of the players as are assembled here then musical lightening in a bottle happens. Jazz you hear with your hips. Welcome to the land of rhythm and groove! A summit of Samba and be-bop!


Nothing beats a good back story with Mojave part of Motema's Jazz Therapy series founded by Roni Ben-Hur and label head Jana Herzen to raise money and awareness for the good works of The Dizzy Gillespie Memorial Fund of the Englewood Hospital and Medical Center Foundation in Englewood, New Jersey.

]]> (Brent L Black ) Brazilian Jazz / Brazilian Pop Jazz - CD Reviews Sat, 19 Nov 2011 23:27:20 -0600
Send Me Some Snow by Chris Standring and Kathrin Shorr Send Me Some Snow by Chris Standring and Kathrin Shorr
Only someone as artistically gifted as Chris Standring and Kathrin Shorr can take my Christmas music formula (Do you know the tunes?) and proceed to destroy it with ten delightful originals on a wonderful Christmas release. Virtually two years in the making Standring and vocalist Kathrin Shorr deliver the goods with a traditional vibe on some highly entertaining tunes that are sure to please the most discriminating of tastes!

Chris Standring is in stellar six string form throughout this highly organic spin on holiday cheer and teams up well with vocalist Kathrin Shorr. Part old school and orchestrated with just a dash of pop gloss for finish, tunes such as the snappy opener "Send Me Some Snow" are done with style, taste and pizazz while backed by some of the finest studio musicians available. As a songwriting team Standring could not have been teamed with a better partner with Shorr's vocals offering up an intoxicating warmth and inflection few vocalists can be taught much less deliver with such ease. Chris Standring while a virtuoso guitarist opts for the more zen like less is more approach for a real ensemble feel that is infectious as it subtle.


So if you are just the least bit toasted by some of the same Christmas music that seems to be as tired and predictable as the tie received each year for Christmas. Send Me Some Snow should go well in any hot rotation! Some old fashioned holiday fun to warm even the heart of this Christmas grinch! 

]]> (Brent L Black ) Holiday Jazz - CD Reviews Wed, 09 Nov 2011 00:59:17 -0600
The Drop And The Ocean by The Rob Garcia 4 The Drop And The Ocean by The Rob Garcia 4
There is something special happening in the highly charged improvised jazz scene in New York City and Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records continues to impress with The Drop And The Ocean, a stellar release from drummer, composer and band leader Rob Garcia.

Having played with such jazz heavyweights as Joe Lovano, Diana Krall and Scott Colley, Garcia's 4tet which includes some of the finest talent in the Big Apple today sets sail on an improvisational feast celebrating the musical version of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

The rhythmic punctuations of "Will" opens a release that allows the individual members of this ensemble to embrace their musical free will, playing for the moment while acting on the musical challenges fellow band members place before them. Rising star Dan Tepfer does a musical exploratory on "Boundaries" creating a unique dynamic tension of sound with another rising star in saxophonist Noah Preminger. Artistically gifted and technically brilliant bassist John Hebert anchors the rhythm section allowing the 4tet ample room to stretch out as needed. Garcia gives three Max Roach infused drum improvisations that are designed to reflect just how short and occasionally unexpected our time on this planet may be. "Humility" is a beautiful and introspective ballad on the uncertainty of parenthood, wistful melancholy that is endearing as it is personal for Garcia.

The follow up to the critically acclaimed "Perennial" is the perfect launching pad for a 4tet that will be a force to be reckoned with in the years to come. Garcia sets the ensemble up for immediate success by achieving the true working band feel instead of four different musical paths attempting to achieve the same goal. Four shining stars destined for even wider recognition.

A musical journey of self exploration with an all star lineup that showcases Garcia's enumerable talents on this most compelling of releases. Creativity that is off the chart!

]]> (Brent L Black ) Free Jazz / Avante Garde - CD Reviews Sat, 05 Nov 2011 01:24:39 -0500
Completion Of Proof By The Curtis Brothers Completion Of Proof By The Curtis Brothers
Drawing upon influences ranging from traditional bop to classical and even funk, The Curtis Brothers are making a musical name for themselves as one of the up and coming talents of swing in a seemingly swingless era. Artistic integrity along with a vibrant broad based sound catapults The Curtis Brothers to the head of the pack in charting a new course and raising the bar for others to follow with originality, sincerity and a deceidly personal swing all their own.

Completion of Proof is a roots oriented release, a pulsating hybrid of blues and swing drawn from an African-Caribbean "Big Easy" melting pot that allows this jazz gumbo to reduce down to a spicy and satisfying main course that is essentially absent in today's hard bop menu. A musical frame of reference could easily be made as Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers or the music of Jackie McLean fast forwarded twenty five years later. Blakey and McClean's music, a more focused extension of a blues infused bop seems to have evolved into a sub-genre of its own with artists like The Curtis Brothers taking the baton and running with it.

The opening track "Protestor," inspired by the lone man that literally took on the entire Chinese army captures the bold rich horn laden sound reminiscent of the early days of the hard bop. Completion Of Proof was written to play to the strengths of the band and with Ralph Peterson Jr. driving this musical train. The band is firing on all cylinders, especially with "Manifest Destiny" and other originals that are captivating while embracing the originality and harmonic progression that seems less envogue today. The closing tune "Jazz Conspiracy" may sum up the feelings held by many artists and jazz journalists that the government of corporations especially in the entertainment community assume to play cultural gatekeeper for the rest of us while remaining a free flowing cash cow siphoning off their unsuspecting public with little accountability.

An all star line up has been assembled here to include Ralph Peterson Jr., Donald Harrison, and rising star Brian Lynch while brothers Luques (bass) and Zaccai (piano) chart a new course with all original material that is as inventive and engaging as anything currently available. All music here was recorded within one or two takes allowing for a warm, open and almost live studio sound that highlights the contributions of each band members furthering proving this chain is only as strong as its weakest link and their are simply no weak links here.

The Curtis Brothers are discovering their musical happy place somewhere between bop and hard bop with an originality and musical depth of field all their own. A journey for musical truth well worth taking.

]]> (Brent L Black ) Straight-Ahead - CD Reviews Wed, 02 Nov 2011 12:48:16 -0500
Roseland By Acoustic Alchemy Roseland By Acoustic Alchemy
Let's face it, smooth jazz is a radio format as dead as Elvis Presley. For over 25 years, Acoustic Alchemy has not only survived a dramatic change in personnel, but every pretentious label tag thrust upon it, given the group may well be the last commercially viable entity from what was once considered New Age. This is the key to the success of Acoustic Alchemy, pushing musical boundaries by embracing change without self-imposed limitations.

Four years in the making, Roseland pushes the boundaries of contemporary jazz by embracing rock, reggae, and folk, along with their contemporary jazz influences. Greg Carmichael and his nylon-string acoustic guitar work are front and center with the opening "Marrakesh," also featuring Ricky Peterson on Hammond organ. Peterson's organ continues with the snappy "One For Shorty," adding nice texture to a release that is as far from the smooth jazz norm as you can get. With a more pronounced horn section and the addition of even more electric guitar from Miles Gilderdale, Roseland begins to separate from the pack by lending itself more to the original idea of fusion influences, while exploring a more warm and open sound, without a need for the programming or other gimmicks that imitators continue to use today.

Roseland was recorded in Gilderdale's newly constructed home studio, but it is his electric guitar edge on tunes such as "Marcus" that show the musical development and shifting direction of the band without ever losing an originality that has attracted such a worldwide fan base. The reggae-flavored "Ebor Sound System" includes some captivating synthesized guitar sounds, and this world music infusion continues with "Sand on Her Toes," where Gilderdale again plugs in for that extra edge in pushing the sound beyond the expected.

"Stealing Hearts" leans to the country side, with Frank Mizen's pedal steel, and the authenticity of the country sound, along with the more straight-ahead "Right Place—Wrong Time," makes Roseland a diverse and highly entertaining release.

This is organic, eclectic contemporary fusion that weaves a sonic tapestry as well any Acoustic Alchemy release of the past quarter century.

]]> (Brent L Black ) Contemporary Jazz - CD Reviews Wed, 02 Nov 2011 12:48:16 -0500
From Now On By Oscar Penas From Now On By Oscar Penas
"Give me your tired, your poor,Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..." Sometimes you just need to get away... Oscar Peñas lives the musical irony having left his native Spain and come to what is fast becoming the epicenter of global jazz in order to compose for From Now On. While indeed a musical melting pot of a variety of cultures and influences, it is an introspective reflection on his own cultural heritage that transforms From Now On into such an intoxicating work.

There is an unmistakable fluidity of motion behind the compositions of Peñas, whether it be the classical trained style which he incorporates so effortlessly on the nylon string guitar or the influences of the eclectic musicians he surrounds himself with on this release. Peñas has taken his own path with modern jazz while incorporating subtle infusions of flamenco as well as Argentinean and Cuban influences in a sensuous smoldering burn of lyrical melodies where guitarist and composer play as one.

Perhaps the most engaging aspect of From Now On would be the freedom with which each member of this ensemble is able to leave their own indelible mark without ever distracting from the original intent of the compositions. Moto Fukushima is a musical chameleon perfectly blending his six string electric bass with the acoustic guitar of Peñas. Saxophonist Dan Blake, who may be best described as Ornette Coleman First Blood Part Two plays with unabashed freedom yet never overpowering. Drummer Richie Barsay whose immense knowledge of Brazilian music plays with a subtle and tasteful support adding a vibrant energy and swing to the mix.

Two special guests include drummer Franco Pinna from Peñas working trio and the legendary Gil Goldstein who assisted in the pioneering work of fusing jazz and flamenco. Goldstein is featured on the title track "From Now On" and his accordion again makes an appearance on "Julia" which while dedicated to Peñas late cousin has an optimistic energy that seems to encapsulate a celebratory view of life and perhaps the spirit of the Big Apple. The Brazilian influence is unmistakable with "Choro n.1 (Corpo) and "Choro n.2 (Corpo).

Oscar Peñas is a musical artist painting from a bold sonic color palette while striking a balance between the organic and vibrant sounds from his native Barcelona and those of the Big Apple.

A unique fusion of sound and vision that never borders on the tired or self indulgent but instead simmers to a slow boil of energy with a rich texture that Peñas can rightfully lay claim to as his own distinct voice.

]]> (Brent L Black ) World Music - CD Reviews Wed, 02 Nov 2011 12:48:16 -0500