Jeffrey Epstein - jazzreview.com - Your Jazz Music Connection - jazzreview.com - Your Jazz Music Connection http://jazzreview.com Wed, 24 May 2017 04:57:16 -0500 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Your Cheatin Heart and other works by Jim Ridl http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/your-cheatin-heart-and-other-works-by-jim-ridl.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/your-cheatin-heart-and-other-works-by-jim-ridl.html Here is classic piano-based jazz done very well. This is the kind of CD you don’t have to think a lot about - you can toss it in and hit almost any track and come up with a…
Here is classic piano-based jazz done very well. This is the kind of CD you don’t have to think a lot about - you can toss it in and hit almost any track and come up with a winner.

It is soothing, refreshing, uplifting music that makes you feel so good you don’t even pay attention to how good it is technically. But closer inspection does reveal playing excellence throughout. The wonderful grooves are probably attributable to the fact that the overall talent here is a cut above what you might find in your favorite watering hole (depends on your watering hole, of course). This is Ridl’s fifth CD, but it serves as a fine introduction to him for newbies (including this reviewer).

Ridl is a superb pianist who shows his chops on his own compositions (all but three of the seven tracks). His detailed liner notes (in that annoying no-caps downstyle) won’t mean much to non-musicians. But it says something about him that he credits by name both of the pianos he uses (a Yamaha grand and a Happyland baby).

After the album opens with a bouncy trio interpretation of Hank Williams’ "Your Cheating Heart," Ridl’s own "Grazed by Light" shows deft touches of both classical and jazz forms. In fact, Ridl has split this into two tracks: a brief two-minute prelude that is more classical, and the longer group piece that leaps off Ridl’s keyboard into Ron Kerber’s smooth soprano sax. It takes so many twists and turns, as many of the tracks do, that it does seem like a deliberate attempt at symphonic structure. But you don’t need to be a music student to appreciate the work. This group never forgets that music is to be enjoyed, first and foremost--a rather fresh quality that contrasts with the self-conscious works of some other classically-trained jazzos. The remaining tracks have the same quality (hint: don’t expect "Tennessee Waltz" to sound like "Tennessee Waltz").

The album has no vocals per se, but Ridl employs human voice as an instrument, through the fast and versatile tongue of J. D. Walter. His voicings are not what one would think of as traditional scat they seem more like modern Brazilian bop, to the point that some of it may be actual Portuguese. (Amid the echo and effects, it is hard to tell).

Providing a solid foundation for all of it are drummer Jim Miller, bassist Steve Varner, and Jef Lee Johnson on guitar and mandolin.

It is true that improvisation is the soul of jazz (and certainly many of the riffs here were probably inspired in the playing). But this album is also great evidence that well-written and thoughtfully produced tracks can get that same inspirational feel. That feel also comes from careful layering and interweaving of parts, and that is very well done here. Not a note is wasted. Like an impressionistic painting that requires you to stand back from the brushstrokes to see the true image, this music is simply beautiful. It does not need to be anything more.
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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Jeffrey Epstein) Straight-Ahead - CD Reviews Fri, 19 Aug 2005 19:00:00 -0500
Fay Claassen Sings Two Portraits of Chet Baker by Fay Claassen http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/bebop-hard-bop-cd-reviews/fay-claassen-sings-two-portraits-of-chet-baker-by-fay-claassen.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/bebop-hard-bop-cd-reviews/fay-claassen-sings-two-portraits-of-chet-baker-by-fay-claassen.html This two-CD set, which comes with a lavishly appointed booklet and pictures, is intended as a tribute to Chet Baker (1929-1988) the famed trumpeter and singer of American j…
This two-CD set, which comes with a lavishly appointed booklet and pictures, is intended as a tribute to Chet Baker (1929-1988) the famed trumpeter and singer of American jazz. Baker is considered to be a stylistic innovator, particular during his rise to fame in the bebop era of the 1950s. Although raised in Oklahoma, he was a global traveler, and particularly in the 1980s played mostly in The Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe.

This project is a creation of some of the musicians he played with during that time. The Volume One CD contains instrumental pieces associated with Baker during his tenure in the Gerry Mulligan Quartet in the 1950s. Volume Two focuses on songs from his solo years when he began singing. Dutch vocalist Fay Claassen sings these, as well as performing bebop scat over the tunes in Volume One. Together, the discs comprise 25 tracks.

The producers and musicians specifically disclaim any attempt at imitating Baker’s distinctive brass and vocal styles, a task that would be both impossible and perhaps degrading to his uniqueness as an artist. Since Baker was not a composer, however, we are then reduced to the awkward reality that this set contains no Chet Baker at all.

Once the squirmy premise is set aside, we are left with the music on its own merits. The arrangements are inoffensive and generally well done, although a little of Claassen’s scat goes a long way. Her vocals on the second set are pleasant enough. The material includes many of the old standards Baker worked with, such as "My Funny Valentine" and "The Thrill Is Gone." These tunes have been interpreted by many artists, and Claassen and company offer their interpretations here.

But the end result will likely seem strange to anyone who remembers the originals. These tracks are neither an original declaration of a band nor an authentic reading of Baker. They are more like a scientist reading out a dead comedian’s jokes.

Perhaps these so-called portraits will evoke memories of Chet Baker as the group intended. Still, given the man’s extensive discography, including anthologies, it would seem a much simpler matter to remember Baker by purchasing those discs that actually feature his own work.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Jeffrey Epstein) BeBop / Hard Bop - CD Reviews Sat, 13 Aug 2005 19:00:00 -0500
Comes Love by Elaine Dame http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/jazz-vocals-cd-reviews/comes-love-by-elaine-dame.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/jazz-vocals-cd-reviews/comes-love-by-elaine-dame.html Comes Love by Elaine Dame
This may or may not be the first jazz singer directly generated from the work of author Julia Cameron (The Artist's Way), but Elaine Dame claims that soul-searchin…
This may or may not be the first jazz singer directly generated from the work of author Julia Cameron (The Artist's Way), but Elaine Dame claims that soul-searching how-to book as her personal muse. The result is an artist who truly wants to sing, and has dug down to learn how to do it. Dame's first CD, a self-produced collection of standards, is very smooth and stylish. Every track is note-perfect. The songs themselves will all be familiar to any listener. Most are hoary chestnuts such as "If I Were a Bell" and "The Best is Yet to Come." The one surprise is an excellent interpretation of The Beatles' "Ticket to Ride."

Originally from the mid-western United States, Dame trained as an actress and came to jazz singing in Chicago only after years of boredom and frustration in Los Angeles. Not surprisingly, then, Dame has a touch of Broadway in her. But she's not really a belter; if anything, she prefers an intimate, personal style. Dame's mostly mid-range voice has a good feel for phrasing and pitching. She seems very comfortable with the material and shapes a song like she's been doing it for years. Although nothing on the CD is really outstanding, she doesn't have any bad moments, either. Basically, she is the type of singer you could find in a lot of clubs: a female vocalist who is dependable and enjoyable to listen to.

Interpretation is clearly her forte. Like the actor she is, Dame delivers the perfect twists and turns on every phrase, swinging from a whisper to a husky wail with confidence and panache. In some cases, she makes Cole Porter tunes sound like show tunes, but she doesn't overdo it. Dame also plays the flute, but that particular talent isn't featured on the album.

Unfortunately, while the CD itself is new, the recordings are not. They were apparently recorded some years ago, and therefore only serve as an intro to Dame for those who don't know her. Based in Chicago since 1993, she and the album are shy about mentioning other dates and timelines. The liner notes, written by radio host Neil Tesser, remark that as good as Dame is here, she has improved much since. But no matter most of us play catch up with artists anyway, and this CD is a fine place to start.
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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Jeffrey Epstein) Jazz Vocals - CD Reviews Fri, 13 May 2005 13:00:00 -0500
Run With It by James Danderfer Group http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/run-with-it-by-james-danderfer-group.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/run-with-it-by-james-danderfer-group.html James Danderfur is a brilliant clarinet player and tenor sax man who offers here his first studio album, a study of very interesting music. Here is some really nice mainstr…
James Danderfur is a brilliant clarinet player and tenor sax man who offers here his first studio album, a study of very interesting music. Here is some really nice mainstream jazz played with a full range of apparent improvisation, but also with precision. It is precise, thoughtful improvisation that creates a very smooth, soul-satisfying experience.

In extensive liner notes (a welcome addition), co-producer Cory Weeds describes Danderfer as patient and thoughtful, a man who doesn't waste notes. That clearly comes through in the music. The clarinet, as Weeds notes, is a bit of a funny instrument in jazz, but Danderfur knows just what to do with it. Depending on the tune, his lead is sweet, wistful, or striking and clarifying. His part always fits right into the piece, just as much as his sax playing. "Anthem for Piece," a tune by Quincy Davis, in particular shows the beauty of his clarinet work.

It's not all about him, though. This is a true band set, and Danderfur has surrounded himself with other top players. They all have lots of time and space to offer excellent contributions. Besides Davis, the set features Jodi Proznick on bass (listen for her on "Cafe & Beignet"), Chris Gestin, Brad Turner and Olly Gannon.

Except for a cover of "You Go To My Head," and the Quincy Davis number, all the other tunes are Danderfur originals. The CD has a classy, light, sophisticated sound appropriate for parties, relaxing, or just listening. Although it is a studio album, it has a very live feel and was released on the Cellar Live club label, since Weeds says he wouldn't have it any other way.
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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Jeffrey Epstein) Straight-Ahead - CD Reviews Fri, 13 May 2005 07:00:00 -0500
Projekt Management by DJ Williams Projekt http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/fusion-cd-reviews/projekt-management-by-dj-williams-projekt.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/fusion-cd-reviews/projekt-management-by-dj-williams-projekt.html Not all bands have a unified vision and that's not necessarily bad. Different influences thrown into the mix can result in interesting and novel music. Such is the result o…
Not all bands have a unified vision and that's not necessarily bad. Different influences thrown into the mix can result in interesting and novel music. Such is the result of this CD from the DJ Williams Projekt, a diverse five-man group that mixes together a variety of talents, styles, instruments and abilities. In addition, several other guest players join in, further adding to the eclectic result.

Bandleader DJ Williams is the main guitarist, and his funky, groovy guitar playing is perhaps the music's strongest point. But this was clearly a community effort. All the cuts are good, but seem so different from each other that the album is almost a sampler. Along with straight-up bebop there is reggae, R&B, vocal workouts and long-form noodling. All of it works fine on its own terms; it is the kind of CD where different listeners will enjoy different tracks.

Probably in the interest of "keeping it real," the CD was recorded live in one room and only lightly edited. The intention was apparently to capture the raw energy of the studio, letting the listener hear the live performance as it happened. A good live club album from a touring band does that, of course, but this one is neither fish nor fowl. The energy is certainly good, but the CD often does sound like a demo disc. Among other things, the unnecessary studio chatter that opens the excellent third track, "Satisfaction," includes rough language that makes it unsuitable for family listening.

The writing of some tracks seems as weak as the production, essentially jamming on single grooves and lame lyrics. The grooves are good, though, and the musicians play well together.

Perhaps the best proof of how good the music is - and how much better this album might have been - is the final track, "Woman." The climax of the album, this cut finally glues together the various styles heard throughout the rest of the album. It ought to sound awful and yet it works. It seems to have been worked out with some care, resulting in a superb piece that proves that perhaps these songs do belong in the same room after all.

At the end of the day, we are left with a head-scratching album that cannot be defined, but can be enjoyed. The music is laid out like a buffet. You can take what you like and leave the rest. Music, like art, is sometimes simply there to get under your skin.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Jeffrey Epstein) Fusion - CD Reviews Fri, 06 May 2005 19:00:00 -0500
Live The Life by Ilona Knopfler http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/jazz-vocals-cd-reviews/live-the-life-by-ilona-knopfler.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/jazz-vocals-cd-reviews/live-the-life-by-ilona-knopfler.html Say hello to a stunning voice, on what could be the best jazz vocal album of the year. Ilona Knopfler makes every song a pleasure. She ditches the familiar pop cover tunes …
Say hello to a stunning voice, on what could be the best jazz vocal album of the year. Ilona Knopfler makes every song a pleasure. She ditches the familiar pop cover tunes from her debut CD and on this second album offers a more personal portrait of a singer who wants to express herself. Between her vision and her showmanship, "Live the Life" is a superior musical tour de force filled with joie vivre.

Get used to the French, because Knopfler's special twist is her fluency in both American English and French. With an international history and homes in both Paris and Georgia, she is neither a French singer singing in English, or an American singing French. It doesn't matter a bit. She effortlessly slides from one language to the other, sometimes in the same song, and thanks to her skill, her feel, and the top-notch musical production, it all works beautifully.

Knopfler's vocal style is smooth honey. Her tone is pure and completely self-assured, and no, you don't need to know French to appreciate her. Although her voice can apparently go any place she wants it to, Knopfler remains in a consistent jazz style throughout the album and avoids the trap of unnecessarily showing off. She expresses herself through the music and therefore respects it, employing her vocal in service of the song. It helps that Knopfler is supported by superior musicians and excellent arrangements.

So this CD is built around the needs of each track, each one getting the appropriate production and accompaniment, no more or less. Some songs, such as the brassy opener "I'm Going to Live the Life I Sing About," get a full swing-band treatment, others get swelling strings ("Ask Me Now") and other tracks use only a small band or less. In keeping with the international flavor, both Latin and Eastern instruments and voices occasionally come in to play. Brazilian artist Ivan Lins contributed one song (the credit unspecified on the review copy but this writer's guess is "But for Now."). Whatever the requirements of the song, Knopfler handles each one with grace and class and just the right amount of power and panache. Even her young daughter makes a contribution.

The result is an album full of interesting variety, yet consistent in style and tone. "Live the Life" is breathtaking, fascinating, and deliciously listenable for anyone who appreciates beautiful singing. This album is likely to be played at elegant dinner parties, but it will distract guests from their conversations. Knopfler apparently has determined what she does best, and delivers it over and over in new ways on each track.

This CD, if it can find the sunlight amid the din of popular culture as Diana Krall did, should establish Knopfler as a top-level international diva of jazz singing, with her own unique style. She really is that good.
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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Jeffrey Epstein) Jazz Vocals - CD Reviews Fri, 01 Apr 2005 00:00:00 -0600
Before the Storm by Dan Tepfer Trio http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/before-the-storm-by-dan-tepfer-trio.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/before-the-storm-by-dan-tepfer-trio.html At once familiar and new, the music of the Dan Tepfer Trio has unusual but inviting grooves, based largely around Tepfer's way with a piano. With Richie Barshay on drums an…
At once familiar and new, the music of the Dan Tepfer Trio has unusual but inviting grooves, based largely around Tepfer's way with a piano. With Richie Barshay on drums and Jorge Roeder on double bass, the combo can't help but sound at first like any jazz trio you've heard at your local watering hole. But the melody lines go places you don't expect them to. Minor chords and discordant riffs abound. Nothing here even approximates a cover tune.

The feel of the music is introspective and at times classical, with Tepfer often seeming to be brooding, lost in thought. At other times the tempo picks up with an urban, gritty feel. One can easily imagine many of these tracks as film scores accompanying anxious, unsettled characters.

Happily, the trio never goes quite so far around the bend that the sound stops being music. It is indeed music, and if at times it is disturbing it can also be soothing. It is always interesting.

The investment in getting used to this strange material does pay off. It is refreshingly original and is often so complex and sophisticated that it seems to demand your attention. While the trio may or may not be the self-claimed "new generation of jazz," Tepfer is certainly among those who are not overly respectful of jazz traditions. He is clearly willing to play with familiar formulas and take new approaches, even as he incorporates strokes from the masters.

Tepfer himself is age 22, and claims both American and French roots. He graduated with honors in astrophysics in 2003 from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. While there he took first prize for classical piano performance in the Edinburgh Festival Competition and was semifinalist of the International Martial Solal Jazz Piano Competition in Paris (and Tepfer does echo Solal at times). He now studies at the New England Conservatory. Both Roeder and Barshay have international backgrounds and impressive resumes as well.

Together they have created a true jazz album, but it is cutting-edge jazz that pricks the mind and the ears. Don't expect an hour of background cocktail music here, or for that matter much that can be easily identified and labeled. This is the product of many streams of thought coming from various places, producing an enjoyable but novel sound.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Jeffrey Epstein) Contemporary Jazz - CD Reviews Mon, 21 Mar 2005 00:00:00 -0600
Bill McKay & Sounds of Now by Bill McKay http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/free-jazz-avante-garde-cd-reviews/bill-mckay-sounds-of-now-by-bill-mckay.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/free-jazz-avante-garde-cd-reviews/bill-mckay-sounds-of-now-by-bill-mckay.html If you enjoy meandering, doodling, low-intensity jazz, this album might work for you. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and while many people prefer compositions a bit …
If you enjoy meandering, doodling, low-intensity jazz, this album might work for you. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and while many people prefer compositions a bit more structured, what is presented here might be enjoyable for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

McKay presents six tracks that all seem indistinguishable from each other. All of them are essentially formless jams for guitar and sax. Again, that is not necessarily bad, but it does mean you can't really impose many expectations on the music. The instrumentation itself seems good enough. In addition to McKay's guitar and Ward's alto sax, the usual bass and drums rhythm section offers some general foundation.

There is one curious experiment the first track, "Soul in Violet" includes Bud Melvin on banjo. That adds a country quality, and for a while you may wonder if this is some bold venture into bluegrass jazz. But not quite. The banjo is not featured, it is just there, doodling away in the background, adding to the texture but not really doing much else.

The album overall seems lacking in ambition, but perhaps that is the point. Some bands do try so hard that the musical ambition can work against the listener. But McKay takes the opposite tack, giving the impression of playing a total improvisation. Fortunately, the sounds are reasonable and often pleasant. As long a listener is comfortable with daydreaming, that's fine. Just be warned these are pieces without themes, motifs, refrains, or much of any other structure.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Jeffrey Epstein) Free Jazz / Avante Garde - CD Reviews Thu, 29 Jul 2004 03:09:35 -0500
Ilona Knopfler and Sean Jones at Blues Alley http://jazzreview.com/concert-reviews/ilona-knopfler-and-sean-jones-at-blues-alley.html http://jazzreview.com/concert-reviews/ilona-knopfler-and-sean-jones-at-blues-alley.html It is a rare treat to hear two powerhouse artists in a single show, but the double bill from Mack Avenue Records in Washington, DC's Blues Alley on July 27 delivered deluxe. The acts - French-American vocalist Ilona Knopfler and trad bandleader and trumpet player Sean Jones - are separate artists both promoting their second CDs on Mack Avenue. Both are now getting overdue attention as startling and talented finds. It says something for them that both of these very different acts were able to gre
It is a rare treat to hear two powerhouse artists in a single show, but the double bill from Mack Avenue Records in Washington, DC's Blues Alley on July 27 delivered deluxe. The acts - French-American vocalist Ilona Knopfler and trad bandleader and trumpet player Sean Jones - are separate artists both promoting their second CDs on Mack Avenue. Both are now getting overdue attention as startling and talented finds. It says something for them that both of these very different acts were able to greatly please the same audience. Knopfler's lovely singing was followed by the amazing creativity and style of Jones and his band.

Knopfler came on first, performing several numbers from her new CD, "Live the Life." Although some of the CD tracks had orchestrations, Knopfler was backed here by the skilled Steve Rudolph Trio of bass, drums, and piano, everything worked fine. Her voice more than lived up to the CD, with flawless pitching, smooth emoting and a winning confidence. It was her first time at the famed venue in DC's Georgetown, but Knopfler is an experienced performer and seemed nerveless.

She opened with the swingy "Comment Allez-Vous," one of the tunes in which she bounces between French and English phrases, and followed up with the samba "But for Now." Perhaps the most charming moment of the evening came when Knopfler brought her 5-year-old daughter on stage to chirp her "pourquoi? pourquoi?" contribution to "Parce Que," as she does on the album.

After an excellent set of seven vocal numbers that went by too fast, Knopfler made way for the Sean Jones band, which featured cuts from the current release, "Gemini." While the reference is to his astrological sun sign and the constellation of Castor and Pollox, "Gemini" also symbolizes the different aspects of life and Jones's approach to it. This diversity is what seems to fascinate people about him. Jones travels on his trumpet from a full blow, complete with Dizzy Gillespie-like cheeks, to the quietest, gentlest sounds that hardly seem able to come from a trumpet. Jones's playing is incredibly subtle and nuanced. He takes his time and doesn't rush.

And yet, for all that, the band - and the music - is about far more than Jones's superb trumpet playing. Tia Fuller on sax and flute displayed equally impressive work, with a expert playing style and ability. The band assembled for this show also included Philadelphia's Orrin Evans on piano, Kenny Davis from Chicago on bass (both electric and stand-up) and Denver's Rudy Royston on the drums. All turned in excellent work on this evening.

The set's top highlights were two of Jones's own compositions. The first, "BJ's Tune (Life in the Hand Divine)," was inspired by the birth of his nephew, Benjamin Jacob, who was born while Jones was on the road working with Harry Connick, Jr. The deep emotion and spirituality Jones told the audience he felt at that time comes through in the music. Jones was also inspired by the TV show "Crocodile Hunter," which brought on a playful duel among the musicians, simulating the struggle between a crocodile and a snake. The audience enjoyed the imagery the band created, but of course the illusion was built on top-notch instrumentation.

Thank goodness all this happened at Blues Alley, a serious small room with candlelit tables, each with a table card that reminds you it is a "listening" venue. The audience listened and appreciated. It was an outstanding evening of excellent entertainment. We will certainly be hearing much more from both Ilona Knopfler and Sean Jones in the years ahead.
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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Jeffrey Epstein) Concert Reviews Sat, 29 Jan 2011 09:37:27 -0600