Randall Parrish - jazzreview.com - Your Jazz Music Connection - jazzreview.com - Your Jazz Music Connection http://jazzreview.com Wed, 24 May 2017 05:07:08 -0500 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Michael Lington PURE CD Release Party/Concert in Las Vegas http://jazzreview.com/concert-reviews/concert-review-michael-lington-pure-cd-release-party/concert-in-las-vegas.html http://jazzreview.com/concert-reviews/concert-review-michael-lington-pure-cd-release-party/concert-in-las-vegas.html Michael Lington PURE CD Release Party/Concert in Las Vegas
The Chrome Showroom located inside the Santa Fe Station Hotel and Casino in northwest Las Vegas was the intimate venue for an exceptional evening of contemporary jazz music as saxophone showman Michael Lington performed for a sold-out crowd. The event was a concert/party in celebration of the release of Pure, his scintillating new album.

The Chrome Showroom located inside the Santa Fe Station Hotel and Casino in northwest Las Vegas was the intimate venue for an exceptional evening of contemporary jazz music as saxophone showman Michael Lington performed for a sold-out crowd. The event was a concert/party in celebration of the release of Pure, his scintillating new album.

The anticipation of the audience was clearly evident as the lights dimmed and a fog machine began releasing thick plumes of smoke onto the stage. The supporting cast of musicians soon appeared from the wings to begin laying down a heavy groove. The dapperly attired Lington strode out amidst loud cheering and joined in on his saxophone. "Still Thinking Of You," a heavily R&B influenced up-tempo song co-written by Lington with Brian Culbertson was an inspired choice to get the party started. This lively funk-filled tune was a major hit when it was released about a decade ago, making the Top 5 on Billboard's contemporary jazz charts. It still sounded fresh and powerful with sustained building intensity and was an early indication that this talented group of musicians possessed chops galore. Guitarist Randy Jacobs utilized his Fender Telecaster to put his stamp on the song with a tasty tap lead-guitar solo.

The second song played was from the new album and titled "Playtime." It featured a driving retro R&B flavored sound with a strutting bass line from Dwayne "Smitty" Smith, potent drumming from Chad Wright, and a bouncy instrumental dialog between Jacobs and Lington. Each instrumentalist played an integral role in this composition with Michael proclaiming afterwards "This song is aptly titled." In past Las Vegas performances Lington has displayed his charismatic persona via engaging lengthy personal antidotes. This evening was somewhat different, in that he was pretty much "sticking to business," eager to proudly showcase as much of his new release as possible in this restricted time allotment. The third song presented was the memorable "You And I," the optimistic upbeat lead-off track from Heat. Lington played lovely compelling long silky-smooth notes on his horn while Smitty exhibited his effective slap bass technique. Kevin Flournoy's sparkling keyboard runs added wonderful color to the familiar breezy melody. As I had mentioned in my review of Michael's last visit to the Santa Fe Station; he always brings A-list sidemen to enhance the listening experience for his loyal followers. Three of these abundantly talented musicians (Jacobs, Flournoy, and Smitty) had been part of Michael's most recent unforgettable Chrome Showroom appearance. In addition to that tremendous trio, also present on this evening was energetic drummer Chad Wright. Wright, like Lington, had been touring the world behind singer Michael Bolton. Together these five players blended into a cohesively masterful ensemble showing artistic depth and range, in addition to tons of funk.

While the band took a brief respite, Lington spoke of being influenced by jazz icon David Sanborn and making his life altering change from clarinet to saxophone. He related that his first single, "Twice In A Lifetime," was patterned after one of Sanborn's compositions on Double Vision. The smoky blues atmospheric number piloted by Lington's warm melodic drifts and glides cast an enchanting spell that ensnared the audience. The expert work by Flournoy, Wright, Smith and Jacobs were key ingredients to the smooth sashay enthrallment.

Lington's seminal album Stay With Me yielded three massive singles to contemporary jazz radio, and on this evening he was able to find time to fit all three into the playlist. The first of these played was "Pacifica." Michael poured his passionate heart out on this song, one of my personal favorites. He created a mood akin to a leisurely moonlight drive down an oceanside road with the convertible top down and the caress of warm gentle breezes in your hair.

An impromptu appeal by Michael to play "Happy Birthday" for one of his fans was met with curious looks by his band-mates. Obviously unprepared, they relented and oblige with an off the cuff, yet professional, ad lib that was spontaneous and nonetheless beautiful.

Then it was time to refocus the spotlight on Pure and the first single that was already residing in the Top Ten in the Billboard charts. "Roadtrip" is the title of the composition and the guitar mastery of Lee Ritenour is featured on the album rendering. This night the chore of matching the consummate skill of "Captain Fingers" is handed over to Randy Jacobs and his exquisite Telecaster. Jacobs and Lington square off with stunning and expressively dynamic shows of power on their respective instruments. The song is simply magnificent and the entire group is onboard for the outstanding ride. Another new song, "The Serenade," provides an opportunity to slow the pace down just a bit with a soul ballad that features a bit of Rolling Stones flavored rhythm section and guitar work. As introductions of the band were handled, Michael spoke of some the impressive guest talent assembled for Pure. Among those named were Michael Bolton, Brian Culbertson, Ray Parker, Jr., Jeff Golub, Paul Jackson, Jr., Jonathan Butler, Paul Brown, and Rickey Minor & The Tonight Show Band. Yes, the sax man from Denmark has many notable prodigious friends. He also mentioned that the album was recorded live in the studio, a "pure" process that isn't used much nowadays. That "organic" method of recording allows the musicians to feed off of each other, gain inspiration, and freely improvise to help propel the recording to fulfill its crafty potential and personality.

The energy level then reached new heights when Lington called out vocalist Mabvuto Carpenter to sing the Jr. Walker old-school classic "Shotgun." Lington attempted to blow the house down, and Mabvuto was downright spirited being blessed with a rare voice that blends gospel, R&B, and rock and roll into a soulful mixture that has to be heard to be appreciated. As great as the original masterpiece was, this interpretation by these inspired artists was just unbelievable. Smitty's bass was booming, Wright's drums were bashing, and Jacobs and Flournoy pushed the pulsated melody while Lington and Mabvuto vied for the limelight. Mabvuto remained on stage to sing "Baker Street," and his versatile voice showed traces of some Stevie Wonder inflections for anyone who might doubt his adaptability. Lington also shone on this Jerry Rafferty song that reminded everyone in attendance that the saxophone was indeed the forceful impetus behind that hit song.

A vigorous drum solo by Chad Wright followed that could be filmed as an advertisement for Yamaha Drums and Zildjian Cymbals. Highly visible throughout the show for his incredible power, technique, and feel, Wright used this solo opportunity to display his skill at resourceful, imaginative and commanding drumming, ending with flashy drumstick twirls at blinding speed.

A pair of Michael's all-time biggest hits (both from Stay With Me) came next. "Two Of A Kind" was greeted with loud cheers of fan appreciation after just a few notes. A mid-tempo charmer of a tune, Smitty again shined with his slap thumb bass play, as did Jacobs with a brief, but brilliant, guitar solo. Both complimented Lington's impassioned sax work perfectly. "Show Me," another Brian Culbertson composition, never fails to remain refreshing as a summer's breeze. The sax refrain is so memorable that Michael always has the audience hum along at some point in his performances of the song.

When Lington and company were applauded back for a thoroughly deserved encore, he stated that he and the band had "worked something up backstage." They proceeded to throw down a funk/jazz jam boogie-woogie that allowed each artist to solo with improvised variations on the theme. Kevin Flournoy was first to fly as he somewhat reluctantly displayed his abundant keyboard prowess for the appreciative crowd. Lington took his powerful turn with veins strained and face reddened as his full, warm and sumptuous tone is never lost, even during some dazzlingly speedy passages. Smith, who held down the bottom with his funky-grooved bass play all evening, stepped forward with a stirring blues steeped variation on the idea and literally made his bass talk. Randy Jacobs undertook his spotlight showcase with a fast strum and soon was burning up the guitar strings. He tossed off his hat and began spinning in tight circles as he became a whirling dervish relentlessly dischargeing blistering notes from his ax. After Jacobs was completed, Lington astutely remarked "now that's a hard act to follow!"

Michael arranged two stools on the front of the stage and invited the "birthday girl" to take the stage to be serenaded. The song chosen was "Everything Must Change," the beautiful standard that has become a staple of his live shows. A tender ballad, the song first appeared on the Body Heat release by Quincy Jones. Over the years it has been covered by numerous musical giants such as Barbara Streisand, Lou Rawls, George Benson, David Sanborn and Phil Perry. None of those artists can quite live up to the gorgeous loving treatment that Michael Lington always lavishes on the tune. The crystalline purity of his notes softly shimmered with a romantic excellence so soothing that time almost seemed to stand still.

Lington then proclaimed that it was time for the evening's final song and he once again sought the vocal talent of Mabvuto to join the festivities. Al Green's soul epic "Love and Happiness" was a joyous funky triumph for the ages. Long ago when I saw this song performed by David Sanborn and Hiram Bullock I thought their magnificent performance could never be topped. I was wrong. The all stops out treatment by Michael Lington and band was superlative. Preeminent professional photographer Cary Gillaspie, who was in the vacant seat beside me for the encores, took my notepad and wrote Funkieeeeeee! (capital F and lots of e's). That observation hit the nail directly on the head.

Michael Lington said during the show that he loves performing in Las Vegas and at the Santa Fe Station in particular. It's no small wonder with an excellent sound system in place there, the cozily close environment, plus the fact that Las Vegas returns the love to him at every opportunity. Michael left the audience ecstatically thrilled by his performance and his new album; and, as always, wanting more. In summation, Michael Lington came to Vegas and rolled the dice with his concert heavily stacked with selections from his new album Pure, and everyone won big.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Randall Parrish) Concert Reviews Fri, 24 Feb 2012 08:55:09 -0600
Nice Talk by The Hot @ Nights http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/nice-talk-by-the-hot-nights.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/nice-talk-by-the-hot-nights.html Nice Talk by The Hot @ Nights
Nice Talk is the title of the intriguing debut from the jazz trio that goes by the moniker of The Hot @ Nights.  Three piece jazz combos are not highly unusual, but the curious instrumental combination utilized by The Hot @ Nights is an unusual blend.

"Nice Talk" is the title of the intriguing debut from the jazz trio that goes by the moniker of The Hot @ Nights.  Three piece jazz combos are not highly unusual, but the curious instrumental combination utilized by The Hot @ Nights is an unusual blend.  Chief writer Chris Boerner's agile improvisation on eight-string guitar, with the added two strings serving to expand the scope and range of his instrument, aids in allowing this unusual configuration to click.  He possesses a keen sense of rhythm with the capacity to be creative at every turn.  The same can be said of Matt Douglas who plays, puffs, honks, and snarls on an assortment of woodwind instruments.  And finally, as with any three-piece group, a powerfully strong drummer is an essential presence.  Nick Baglio is equal to the task efficiently going from brisk rat-a-tats, to tight roll presses, to soft brush work, and adding interspersed cymbal exploits.  Baglio; masterful on his drum kit like a perpetual well-oiled machine, tirelessly works in tandem with, and at times, against the backdrop of the other two musicians.

They open the CD with a short intro then move into "Abandon Debit," which features a pleasant, easy going melody begun by Boerner and echoed by Douglas.  The repetitive nature of this melody glides through changes and cycles with Boerner and Douglas adding clever phrases and the steadily balanced Baglio fueling the musical bonfire.

"Come On! Feel the Illinoise" and "Liquid White Chocolate" are exercises in what H@N excel at: that being creating moving ambient meets contemporary music with heavy-dripping percussion flavor.  All three band members equally share the load in crafting unique and mesmerizing avant-garde finery.

Joe Jackson's "Steppin' Out" is given a futuristic treatment that jolts the senses. Jackson's dramatic melody is merely a launching pad for the three players to unleash a salvo of improvised mayhem.  Whereas when Joe Jackson was steppin' out into the night, The Hot @ Nights step out into the hustle and bustle of Times Square meets Indy 500 final lap fury.  Each return to the familiar melody grounds the tune for brief moments only to depart at a swift rate.

"ACSlater" provides an eruption of dynamic rhythms set against snake charmer sax mannerisms and phase-shifted guitar runs.  The droning melody is offset by drum bursts, sax beckoning, and sparse undistinguishable vocal chants.  Near mid-song you get the impression of a clock striking the hour, which induces an ever-quickened pace that builds, and then falls, until the end of the song at which time some swirling sound effects resonate.

Rapid-fire drumming and haunting John Coltrane saxophone explosions are the decree for "C'mon Francis."  Throughout Nice Talk the drums are front in the production mix, with sudden time changes the rule of thumb, and movie soundtrack type imagery periodically exists.  An even more serious and darker tone pervades "CisforKaddafi."  The song cooks at a slow boil, simmering with horn flavored pungency that calls to mind a long-ago Arabian culture while the drumming of Baglio is insistently vigorous.

The finale is "House Of Cards," which is swathed in an atmosphere reminiscent of a funeral dirge slowly making its way along in a fog of murky vapors.  This description doesn't do the song due justice, as the composition induces a trance-like state both intoxicating and absorbing in its engrossing allure.  The percussion is unorthodox; with drumsticks flailing on drum rims, can lids, brass cymbals, and possibly the kitchen sink.  All the while, the unrushed melody trudges along hypnotically casting a light-headed spell.  Very ingenious work is at place here.  I haven't heard the original song by the group Radiohead; but I do wholly enjoy H@N's rendering.

The Hot @ Nights love to experiment.  As with all experiments, not all are totally fruitful.  But, their fearlessness is to be commended, and this brand of fresh boldness lies at the very core of all good instrumental jazz. Nice Talk is a bracing debut, filled with originality, character, and intrigue.  This expressive combination of features makes for a rousing introduction.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Randall Parrish) Contemporary Jazz - CD Reviews Thu, 13 Oct 2011 14:00:10 -0500
Under The Sun by Patrick Bradley http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/under-the-sun-by-patrick-bradley.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/under-the-sun-by-patrick-bradley.html Under the Sun is the title of the outstanding contemporary jazz release on Patrick's Song Factory from the masterful keyboardist/composer Patrick Bradley. His initial solo release, Come Rain or Shine, appeared four years ago serving as the artist's formal introduction. On Under the Sun the artist has emancipated all his enormous creative chops to craft a modern tour de force that provides gratifying classy excellence throughout. 

Under the Sun is the title of the outstanding contemporary jazz release on Patrick's Song Factory from the masterful keyboardist/composer Patrick Bradley.  His initial solo release, Come Rain or Shine, appeared four years ago serving as the artist's formal introduction.  On Under the Sun the artist has emancipated all his enormous creative chops to craft a modern tour de force that provides gratifying classy excellence throughout.  Bradley states that the idea lying at the root of this record, after reflection of his own life, was the philosophized principal to enjoy life during the brief time we partake of under the sun pursuing ones dreams, hopes and aspirations.  He has wisely recruited Jeff Lorber to adeptly produce the record, aid in co-writing several of the songs, and to also provide a measure of his singular trademark Philly funk/fusion flavored keyboards to the mix.  Numerous other distinguished contemporary jazz heavyweights are also on hand.  These imaginative, sleekly resourceful artists ardently give their significant support to Bradley, tightly embracing these marvelous melodies, with the entire package sumptuously enhanced by its jewel-like production.     

The first cut, "Straight Path," immediately secures a soulful groove nourished by Alex Al on bass, Tony Moore on drums, and Dwight Sills on guitar.  Lorber and Bradley provide the primary harmonizing punch on keyboards with David Mann interjecting some beguiling musical intrigue with freshly placed horn counterpoints.  Patrick states in the liner notes that the muse for this song was Proverbs 3:5-6 from the Bible, which he firmly asserts is his "life verse."  The assembled musicians play with unswerving vigor and steadfast spirit. 

The second song, "Into The Sunset," is another solo-penned composition from Bradley.  Written with his wife Lisa in mind, the song boasts an appealing inspirational touch and contains a particularly captivating piano-fed melody to celebrate his love for her.  It is a simply gorgeous tune, with Michael Thompson adding lovely acoustic guitar fills that imbue the tune with graceful sinuous sunbeam strokes.

Marching merrily along, "The Message," is thickly saturated with keyboard substance and horns arranged skillfully.  The simple rhythm furnished by Lorber on drums and bass synth is merely an excuse for the varied keyboards to punctuate the melody like a zealous English professor.  Perhaps the message conveyed herein is to always improvise with style.  "Just Let Go" is a beautifully introspective ballad that glides along gently, in large part fueled by the heavenly saxophone of Dave Koz paired with some shadowy contemplative vocals by Irene B.  Bradley's sensitive piano is ethereally incandescent and makes an exquisite and blissful sentry to Koz's elegant tones.   

The energetic "Slipstream" is assertively upbeat and features flugelhorn and trumpet master Rick Braun soaring spellbindingly over the churning rock steady drums of Tony Moore and the beaming bass lines of Nate Phillips.  The prominently displayed keyboard teamwork of Lorber and Bradley is full of swirling brawn.  The liner notes provided by Bradley suggest his hobby of road cycling encouraged the positive flow inherent on this smart and thrilling blast of ingenuity.  The hustling velocity readily conveyed in the song is fun and exhilarating, accurately resembling a down-hill bike run.     

Bradley reaffirms his talent extends to Moog and all manner of keyboards on the progressive "Time and Chance."  Drummer Dave Weckl displays why his services are in high demand with a stand-out demonstration of polished perfection.  The tart horns contrast nicely with the smooth keyboards and the electrical current flows freely with rapid tempo changes.  "Crows On The Lawn" is most notable for a fabulous horn riff courtesy of Eric Marienthal on alto saxophone alongside Jeff Lorber on his Rhodes surging together with Patrick's piano on a delightful jaunt that bites with contemporary wit.  In addition, inside the groove lies yet another unforgettable melodic triumph.

The Lorber/Bradley composition "Tears From The Sky" has a beautiful harmonizing of keyboards with a periodically piercing lead guitar to emit an air of inspirational optimism despite current gray skies overtones.  Dwight Sills' prime guitar solo is crucial to the song's distinguishing atmospheric stimulus.  Bradley's piano play is bittersweet conveying happiness and sadness simultaneously.      

Dwight Sills again splendidly impresses with fiery fretwork on guitar on the brisk fusion flavored "Rush Street."   Patrick says that the song was inspired by Chicago, a city he loves.  This tune does communicate a sense of hustle and bustle associated with a large metropolis.   The keyboards parade on a groove somewhat akin to the sensation of Ramsey Lewis's "In Crowd."  The potent rhythm section is bolstered by an Alex Al abrupt effective bass lead.   When all these powerful ensemble elements dovetail, it makes a showy spectacle of persuasive delight.

The title track, "Under The Sun," features percolating keyboards to jazzily infect the melody with a funk filled stream that coolly boils.  It's as if the various keyboards used by these skilled masters are dueling; but with rubber tips on their swords (i.e. having great fun) as they clash. 

The progressive rock keyboard wizardry of ELP's Keith Emerson from the pomp and circumstance era of "Tarkus" is present on the final song, the stately majestic "The Empress of Dalmatia."  Starting slowly, the rhythm builds to striding crescendos of guitar and exploding pyrotechnical keyboards seemingly serving to proclaim a forthcoming regal coronation.  Although the song may call to mind a bygone era; it nonetheless sounds fresh and modern.

Abounding in substance and fully loaded with lasting extraordinary melodies, Patrick Bradley's Under The Sun is unsurpassed listening enchantment.  The confidently positive stance manifested on this work is highly charismatic.  To say this release is "radio ready" is an understatement.  The hard part would be deciding which cut to release first.  is inundated with entertaining songs, masterful technical musicianship, and sterling production values heaped onto the base foundation.  It all tallies up to a superior contemporary jazz masterpiece that I will surely cherish for the remainder of my days under the sun. 

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Randall Parrish) Contemporary Jazz - CD Reviews Wed, 06 Jul 2011 17:39:41 -0500
Come With Me by Monika Herzig http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/various-jazz-styles-cd-reviews/come-with-me-by-monika-herzig.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/various-jazz-styles-cd-reviews/come-with-me-by-monika-herzig.html Monika Herzig is a supremely talented jazz pianist/composer/arranger who was born in a small village in Germany. Upon obtaining the chance to come to the United States on a student exchange program, she seized the opportunity to further her jazz studies and now has merited a prestigious position teaching music at Indiana University. Her new enchanting CD is titled Come With Me, and includes a DVD which features several live performances and penetrating background information and interviews with both herself and fellow musicians. The CD exhibits a profound harmonic density with the music manifesting itself on many levels; much like…

Monika Herzig is a supremely talented jazz pianist/composer/arranger who was born in a small village in Germany.  Upon obtaining the chance to come to the United States on a student exchange program, she seized the opportunity to further her jazz studies and now has merited a prestigious position teaching music at Indiana University.  Her new enchanting CD is titled Come With Me, and includes a DVD which features several live performances and penetrating background information and interviews with both herself and fellow musicians.  The CD exhibits a profound harmonic density with the music manifesting itself on many levels; much like the multiple layers of skin on an onion.

Herzig has divided this splendorous collection between her brilliantly well crafted original compositions and four cover versions of songs from the cream of the crop of American songwriters of the past century.  Two of the extremely renowned and highly proficient composers she chooses to honor with her own unique stylized arrangements happen to hail from the State of Indiana (Cole Porter and Hoagy Carmichael).   I doubt this to be just a coincidence; judging by the degree of musical intellect that Monika incessantly displays.

Come With Mebegins with a slightly melancholy original composition that encompasses the basics of classic jazz improvisation stabilized with a strutting stand-up bass line by Frank Smith, and archetypal brush and cymbal drum work by Kenny Phelps.   The title of this opening composition is "The Pianists Say."  Monika gleans the title of this imaginative instrumental from the actuality that her fingers perform the singing/talking function usually reserved for a vocalist.   Tom Clark provides some bewitching soprano sax conversation to complement the skilled lead piano windings of Herzig.

The title track, "Come With Me," is a delightful ballad inspired by a poem written by Indiana poet laureate Norbert Krapf.  Mr. Krapt's poem was motivated by a story related to him from Monika and her guitarist husband Peter Kienle after a journey they made back to their German homeland.  Some consequences of a forest excursion taken by Peter resulted in some anxious moments and fears of being lost.  "Come With Me" is a short, but oh so sweet tune sweetened in part by the violin that accompanies Herzig's piano in establishish a very pretty melody.

The Spanish Tango/Salsa rhythm influenced "Olé" bubbles like a pot on a stove approaching a vigorous boil.  Violinist Carolyn Dutton leads the way as she reveals traces of Jean Luc-Ponty authority, while Monika on piano, Tom Clark on flute, and the highly infectious percussive rollicking rhythm section blossom together spicily.  The song veers in several vibrant directions, but always returns to the strong melody line that ensnares the listener firmly in grasp.    

Bob Dylan's classic war protest song "Blowing in the Wind" is given a highly original arrangement that features Monika on piano and renders the original all but unrecognizable.  This is not a bad thing, and I believe that Mr. Zimmerman would be thrilled with the rendered result. 

Violin snippets of "I've Got Rhythm" are sprinkled into the opening of "Italian Taxi Ride," a classic jazz & swing inspired song that features marvelous ensemble interaction.  Dynamic tenor horn bleeps, drum rolls, and spirited piano and bass runs intersect as each instrument traverses its way in a bustle of musical activity.   

"Heavy Burden" features some biting fusion guitar courtesy of Peter Kienle.  The contrast between his frenzied play and the relaxed piano and saxophone is delectable.  Kienle gives the impression of a Spanish bull fight with the bull being his guitar as it kicks on the ground to gain momentum on the charge toward the matador's sweeping cape.  The song reminds me of some of the finest jazz inspired music penned by Frank Zappa circa his Hot Rats/Chunga's Revenge period in that the guitar displays an imposing masterful acerbic sting.

My favorite song on the CD transpires when Paul Simon's "Still Crazy After All These Years" is given a sensitive and nobly subdued treatment that renders it especially delectable.  The song's yearning atmosphere is thick, often giving an overall impression of a tightrope walker carefully calculating every single perilous step while he trudges bravely onward.  The saxophone solo by Tom Clark is grandly divine, and meshes acutely with Monika's keen sensitivity on the piano keys to lift the song to the celestial heights only imagined by the song's esteemed composer.    

Monika's gifted fingers deftly glide up and down the piano keys and team with her husband's exceptional acoustic guitar on "Paradise on Ice."  The rapture conveyed by this pair is glorious, with the sort of efficient blending only delivered after extended time working together.   Herzig confesses a love of skating, and this song does skate along with a commanding presence.

Carmichael's immortal "Georgia" is given a semi-ragtime jazzy arrangement that still allows the inner beauty of the song to come shining brightly through.  Perhaps more referenced than any of the songs in Carmichael's canon with the possible exception of "Stardust," Herzig still manages to make it urgently vital, despite the universal familiarity of the tune even amongst listeners born decades after it was written.  It is a fitting way to end the disc, with a familiar, yet different take on this enduring classic performed solo on the ivories with heartfelt sensitivity and passion.    

Monika Herzig provides confirming evidence on Come With Me that she fully understands how to merge various styles of jazz with both melody and improvisation to gain praiseworthy results.   This impressive and inventive work should help her gain notice on a larger scale.  If you love jazz and enjoy hearing unique piano interpretations, you should pay heed and take pleasure from listening to what Monika Herzig offers on Come With Me.  

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Randall Parrish) Various Jazz Styles - CD Reviews Tue, 05 Jul 2011 15:03:44 -0500
Slipstream by Noah Haidu http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/bebop-hard-bop-cd-reviews/slipstream-by-noah-haidu.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/bebop-hard-bop-cd-reviews/slipstream-by-noah-haidu.html After a couple decades of making inspiring contemporary jazz to critical acclaim the esteemed ensemble has decided now is the perfect time to take a look back and showcase some of the quality music that has characterized the group’s recording existence. On the new release, Back InThe Dayz – Airborne Anthology, the group undertakes a musical retracing with a generous helping of fourteen re-mastered/re-edited classic tracks from their prior seven releases on the Tilt Records label in addition to

After a couple decades of making inspiring contemporary jazz to critical acclaim the esteemed ensemble has decided now is the perfect time to take a look back and showcase some of the quality music that has characterized the group’s recording existence. On the new release, Back InThe Dayz – Airborne Anthology, the group undertakes a musical retracing with a generous helping of fourteen re-mastered/re-edited classic tracks from their prior seven releases on the Tilt Records label in addition to serving up two brand new destined to become classic numbers written by group leader Thomas Borino. Airborne is recognized for continually bringing imagination, positive energy, and deep passion to their jazz compositions.

The artwork gracing the cover of this newest compilation from Airborne, the “Musical Peacemakers” of contemporary jazz, pays tribute to the axiom that a picture is worth a thousand words. Pictured are multiple clocks in various stages of flight into the approaching abyss and also ready to climb the ladder of time. It drives home the sad but true message that “time does indeed fly.” Another sage saying states that time passes quickly when you’re having a good time, and that surely applies when listening to this collection. The musical variations are bountiful, but all the songs are tied together with the common thread of high quality compositions played by tastefully accomplished musicians. Another common thread is the uplifting spirit of the music, aided in great measure by the delight displayed in creating elevating and enriching music. This parallel inspiring spirit is readily apparent on many of the song titles.

“Back In The Dayz” briskly roars out of the gate with an energetic rhythm and a jolt from the horn section and the bass, rhythm and lead guitars. It is one of the new songs and has a bright and tight searing trumpet that recalls the group Chase in their heyday (back in the days when horn bands thrived on the rock music charts). The second song, “Movin Forward,” is also a new composition, and boasts a vigorous feel with more excellent driving guitar and forceful high quality keyboards dovetailing atop a rocking samba/bossa nova cadence. The lead-off placement of these outstanding new songs makes it evident that the group is presently at the height of their musical flight and offers great optimism for the future.

A strong three song collection culled from the group’s 2008 release Winds of Change follows. On the first selection, “Better Days Ahead,” the group eases up on the throttle and gets into a mid-tempo soulful strut groove highlighted by a sparkling piano lead. The intricately structured title cut, “Winds of Change,” is placed in the middle and is a marvelous song that features the cool atmosphere lying at the elemental heart of the best smooth contemporary jazz. It is reminiscent of the wonderful Bob James recordings when he enlisted Alexander Zonjac on flute to help make the tunes levitate when pooled with his keyboards. Talented Airborne guitarist Greg Borino is a constantly sturdy sun-drenched presence and soft delightful background vocals grace both “Winds of Change” and “Brazilian Praise.” This final song of this Winds of Change trilogy wholly captures the essence of Airborne. “Brazilian Praise” contains a superbly crafted breezy and bouncy island melody, beaming guitar, airy background vocals, and lilting flute all combining to create a pleasant musical gust that sweeps you away to a carefree time and place.

The sequencing of songs on Back InThe Dayz – Airborne Anthology has been exceptionally well thought out. The optimistic and soothingly gentle ride through Airborne’s past catalog tenders pure refreshment. On “Smooth Sailing,” Greg Bornio’s guitar has a laid back jazz flavor (with shades of Gábor Szabó) that sails smoothly in tandem with the flute and saxophone play of Thomas Sansone all conducted to a gentle head-bobbing beat with skillful splashes of percussion. Another song from 2007’s Turbulence, “Festival At Sunset,” features a fiesta of Latin musical delight, with percussion, guitar, piano and horns all vying for ear catching prominence. Wedged neatly between those two songs from Turbulence lies the potent “I See” originally contained on Heavy Vibes. It’s a Greg Bornio composition with a driving beat and some dynamic guitar runs amid vivacious keyboards and saxophone riffs.

The song “Island View,” from the Lifetones CD is aptly titled. It is vibrantly cheerful, bouncily passionate, and as inviting as a tropical white sandy beach under enticing sunny skies. Another cut from that same CD is one of the most beautiful songs in Airborne’s repertoire. “Hollow Moon” is somewhat akin to Santana’s “Samba Pa Ti” or “Europa” meeting Kenny G’s “Songbird.” Majestic may be the best adjective to describe the luxurious blending of passionate melodic styles employed to achieve this irresistible vibe. The song to me evokes the sensation of viewing a stunningly striking sunrise from scenic Cape Royale at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park. In other words; a sheer beauty that is nearly unattainable to express by mere words.

The combination of the crisp interaction between stinging lead guitar, fresh keyboards, and smooth sax each alternating lead expressions on top of a serenely memorable melody make “A Saturday Afternoon” one of the most brilliant songs from New Horizons. In fact, that Airborne release was one of my very favorite albums to be released in 2010. The pleasurable impression of a walk in the park is significantly present on this sophisticated composition. The other revisit to New Horizons is the jazz fusion tempered with a Latin influence sound that rocks “Gate 7.” The musical tension tightens and relaxes and provides an agreeable composition that twists and turns at every musical corner as the music seems to push forward with a determination and purpose. A more conventional, but nonetheless fruitful, fusionistic tune comes later on the disc in a song entitled “Bounce.”

Fulsome saxophone tones and downy keyboard tints alternatively guide the way on an unflappable performance called “Just The Way I Feel.” This Thomas Sansone creation features a strutting melody with an imperturbable deep groove.

The spoken word finale “Anthology” cleverly interjects many of the song titles contained on the CD while asserting a positive message presented succinctly in less than a minute. It sums up the creative journey traveled to date and looks ahead to a bright productive future for mankind on the basis of music’s nurturing capacity to nourish the heart and soul.

With Back InThe Dayz – Airborne Anthology the past of Airborne is explored and celebrated with the still to be forged future greatly anticipated. The group’s extended harmonious shared recording experience has bred this lofty level of congruous cohesion. If their glorious precedent is any indication; then grand inspirational thought-provoking musical vistas filled with hope lie ahead for us all. Good music is timeless. If you are not already onboard with Airborne; now is the time and Back InThe Dayz – Airborne Anthology is the place to embark.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Randall Parrish) BeBop / Hard Bop - CD Reviews Tue, 22 Mar 2011 13:00:00 -0500
Three's Company by Holly Hofmann / Bill Cunliffe http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/three-s-company-by-holly-hofmann-/-bill-cunliffe.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/three-s-company-by-holly-hofmann-/-bill-cunliffe.html Sending My Love is the fitting title of the splendidly captivating contemporary jazz release on Peak Records & Concord Music Group from accomplished guitarist Norman Brown. Although Brown is indeed most prominently a superlative guitarist, he also expertly excels at songwriting and from time to time bestows his urban rooted silky-smooth vocals to provide spice and variation to his music. Norman Brown is not a newcomer to making pleasing smooth contemporary jazz recordings saturated with rh

Sending My Love is the fitting title of the splendidly captivating contemporary jazz release on Peak Records & Concord Music Group from accomplished guitarist Norman Brown. Although Brown is indeed most prominently a superlative guitarist, he also expertly excels at songwriting and from time to time bestows his urban rooted silky-smooth vocals to provide spice and variation to his music. Norman Brown is not a newcomer to making pleasing smooth contemporary jazz recordings saturated with rhythm and blues. His recording career dates back to 1992, and in 2003 he garnered the Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Album for his 2002 release Chillin’. That significant triumph entailed the conquest of fellow distinguished nominated artists Boney James, Kirk Whalum, Kenny G, and John Tesh. Sending My Love is Brown’s 8th solo recording, and as expected, he has once again magnificently crafted another prized gem with profound passion, emotion, and love sent out in each note.

Brown’s last studio release, Stay With Me, was fortified by sturdy contributions from bassist Alex Al, drummer Teddy Campbell, and keyboardist Herman Jackson. That skillful trio has returned to aid in the recording of Sending My Love, once again providing brilliant augmentation in bolstering Brown’s magical tunes.

The joyful opening instrumental track entitled “Come Go With Me” immediately delivers Norman’s musical love with a jaunty bounce featuring Brown’s nimble fingers leading the way with quick runs on his fret-board. The horn accompaniment is a punchy complement, but the agile guitar showmanship is the premier focal point of this excellent album opener, and will remain so throughout.

The romantically beautiful “Here’s My Number” tenderly follows and it is on this type of compassionate composition on which Norman best sends out his love. The notes cascade gently from his guitar like falling raindrops to nourish appreciative flowers during soft springtime showers. Soft sultry female background vocals alluringly beckon near the song’s end to reinforce the already stimulating allure.

The impressive title track follows, which when coupled with the opening two songs helps form a vintage Norman Brown threesome. “Sending My Love” is striking, with fluttering arpeggios that are as delicate as a butterfly’s wings. The female sirens again beguilingly intensify the dreamy atmosphere, supported nicely by the elegant drumming/percussion, bass play, and keyboards.

The first true vocal track on Sending My Love is a stirring and soulful remake of the Kenny Loggins classic “Celebrate Me Home.” On this, the only non-original song contained on Sending My Love, Norman sings a touching duet with his daughter Rochella, who has evidently inherited her father’s expressive and dynamic vocal talent. The song’s sweeping melody is caressed by the duo’s vocals with an assist from the Sounds Of Blackness vocal choir. Norman shows courage in undertaking one of Kenny Loggins’ most endearing songs, one which always touches me very deeply. Norman’s tender guitar, which reaches a stunning crescendo at the song's closing moments, teams with some splendid piano play by Emmery Williams.

A solid foundation formed by the rhythm combination of the ever-superb Alex Al on bass guitar, Kevin Ricard on percussion, and Teddy Campbell on drums is showcased on the up-tempo Cuban Rhumba/Latin-infused pace of “Play Time.” Brown adds some Spanish guitar influenced nuances mixed with fusion laced licks that smack of fluid brilliance. The commanding conga drum play is relentless and the horn chart is spirited, all contributing to make this a memorable stand-out track.

The laid back chill of “Special Moments” is amorous and enticing. This one is very relaxed and easygoing in the spirit of one of Norman Brown’s jazz guitar influences, the legendary Wes Montgomery. Brown coaxes mellow expressive tones from his instrument that are simply sublime as he demonstrates his noteworthy technique on this beautiful song.

The subtle rhythm enhanced by soft handclaps and even softer muted female background vocals adds up to a retro rhythm and blues feel on another song graced by Norman’s suave vocals. It’s entitled “I’m Pouring My Heart Out” and has a leisurely pace. The song that ends the CD, “One Last Goodbye,” employs similar elements, but this time the background vocalists step more to the forefront to pair prominently with Brown, who imparts his paramount vocal performance on the disc. His solo guitar break placed near the end before the final chorus is fleetingly brief, but sweet as the sap from sugar cane.

“Thinking About You” is reminiscent of some of the finer instrumental melodies employed by George Benson. Upbeat and optimistic, it’s easy to imagine Norman playing this song with his eyes closed and a huge smile on his face. Brown’s unfailingly ultra-fine guitar work is scaffolded over the persuasive and driving rhythm section and peppered by a small taste of smooth horn interjections. This one is guaranteed to be a huge fan favorite when played in concert.

Herman Jackson, who co-wrote “Coming Back (Return of the Man)” with Norman Brown, provides some very tasty keyboard offerings to couple with the dazzling guitar work of Brown on this mid-tempo instrumental that is about as good as contemporary jazz gets. This song shimmers and sways, and is sure to please the multitudes who expect only the highest quality from this exceptional artist.

Sending My Love is an extremely satisfying listening experience and a recording that adds another rich installment to Norman Brown’s already vast inventory of critically acclaimed recordings. The entire production team assembled here deserves accolades; representing state of the art perfection in all aspects. Yet, as anyone who has ever witnessed Norman Brown’s live shows will attest, seeing him perform live is also a truly magical experience. Grab this magnificent release, as well as grasp onto the opportunity to witness this guitar maestro on each occasion he graces the concert stage in your area.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Randall Parrish) Straight-Ahead - CD Reviews Fri, 18 Mar 2011 01:00:00 -0500
Hello Tomorrow by Dave Koz http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/hello-tomorrow-by-dave-koz.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/hello-tomorrow-by-dave-koz.html Contemporary jazz saxophone icon Dave Koz has recently released his first CD for the Concord Music Group entitled Hello Tomorrow. Two decades of recording and touring extensively (on many occasions billed as “Dave Koz and Friends”) has helped lay the requisite groundwork for this superb masterpiece. Superlatively and exactingly produced by the renowned duo of Concord Music Group veteran ace producer John Burk and Grammy winner Marcus Miller, Dave follows the doctrine that he conveys in his lin

Contemporary jazz saxophone icon Dave Koz has recently released his first CD for the Concord Music Group entitled Hello Tomorrow. Two decades of recording and touring extensively (on many occasions billed as “Dave Koz and Friends”) has helped lay the requisite groundwork for this superb masterpiece. Superlatively and exactingly produced by the renowned duo of Concord Music Group veteran ace producer John Burk and Grammy winner Marcus Miller, Dave follows the doctrine that he conveys in his liner notes. Said doctrine being: Music has a particular ability to awaken and stir the soul. Dave Koz has assembled a select arsenal of his many awe inspiringly talented musician friends to rally round the maestro and embrace his dream of presenting one powerhouse album that profusely awakens and stirs the soul from commencement to finish.

The opener track, “Put The Top Down,” emphasizes some of the most funky rhythm environment of Koz’s illustrious career. Co-written by Dave Koz and Brian Culbertson, this outstanding song features alluring primo lead guitar work by Lee Ritenour teamed with the esteemed guitar duo of Ray Parker, Jr. and Jonathan Butler. Marcus Miller, ever the Renaissance man, in addition to adding his plucked bass guitar genius, provides a becoming horn arrangement to the deep groove. Koz’s stellar alto saxophone and Ritenour’s emblazoned guitar lead the charge on a winning melody with their call and response frolics.

The sublime signature tenor saxophone of Boney James makes a clearly identifiable guest appearance on “When Will I Know For Sure.” Koz magnificently harmonizes on soprano sax, teaming with an all-star cast to make this song a prime contender for stardom on Contemporary Jazz radio. Koz and James are a naturally potent combination; two true greats expertly feeding off each other’s energy.

The richly romantic “It’s Always Been You” is the second of the five Koz/Culbertson compositional treasures found on Hello Tomorrow. Unmistakably their shared/co-billed concert tour of 2009 was extremely fruitful in this artistic regard; a logically predictable and abundantly sweet side-effect to the wonderful rousing shows they staged. “It’s Always Been You” is tender and absolutely beautiful; a waltz for lovers affectionately presented soft as the touch of a velvet glove.

“Getaway” features silky-smooth guitar work by Jonathan Butler and Ray Parker, Jr. to enhance Koz’s mellow work on both soprano and tenor sax. Butler and Sheila E., both of whom accompanied Koz on his most recent concert tour, unite with a duo of background singers to provide augmenting airy vocal interjections that float feathery on the melody like frangipani fragrance on an island breeze.

Dave Koz is continually gently pushed beyond his customary comfort boundaries on Hello Tomorrow by producers Burk and Miller, as exemplified by his emotive and particularly competent lead vocal on a rendition of the Hal David/Burt Bacharach penned classic “This Guy’s In Love With You.” This earnest tribute to the venerable Herb Alpert, whose resplendent trumpet appears here, tugs firmly on the heart strings.

Another Culbertson/Koz composition, “Anything’s Possible,” allows Koz ample opportunity to get funkified on his tenor sax. The energized horn section intensifies the musical stew pot that continually hotly simmers just below boiling stage.

Keb’ Mo’ knowingly inserts his slide guitar twang against the strong alto sax of Koz on a tune that has the relaxed feel of a Southern back porch filled with friends and family. It’s entitled “There’s A Better Way.” While Keb’ Mo’ provides a world-weary half-spoken vocal, Bobby Sparks II on Hammond B-3 and Tim Carmon on Wurlitzer cozily flavor the song.

The vocal highlight of the disc is provided by Dana Glover on her own composition entitled “Start All Over Again.” She is a rising young star with a beautiful and distinctive voice that echoes past greats, but remains uniquely her own. Koz refers to the song as a moving musical poem, which describes it suitably. The lyrics match the positive confident tone of the CD, but her vocals would be charmingly exquisite even with less relevant lyrical content.

The joyous good-timey jaunt “Think Big” is a union of Contemporary Jazz with New Orleans Jazz spirit. The swinging beat of drummer John “JR” Robinson with tidy percussion by Lenny Castro blend with bright festive horns along with the ebullient guitar of Keb’ Mo’ to liberate a melody that builds to a chorus crescendo and includes a hook sharp enough to grab any listener’s attention. The fabulous horn section on this song consists of Christian Scott on trumpet, Brian Culbertson on trombone, and Dave Koz wielding soprano and tenor saxophones.

“The Journey,” written by Marcus Miller is an elegant slow dance with a dreamy sway. It provides the perfect plush vehicle for Koz to glide effortlessly on alto sax. Miller has plenty of experience with musical soundtracks, and the quality of this song bears witness to his expertise. It is also worth mentioning that written in the Hello Tomorrow liner notes beside the listed personnel of each and every song, Koz waxes poetically like a wise sage imparting his wisdom and uplifting philosophies. It’s a spectacular idea that hits home like a thunderclap bringing his perceptions of life into sharp focus.

The wizardlyJeff Lorber paired with Koz to write and perform the up-tempo delight “Remember Where You Come From.” Together they combine to concoct my most beloved song on a CD full of noteworthy songs. Lorber provides additional production, his singular keyboard magic, and a prominent piano solo as Koz struts on soprano and alto sax. Tim Carmon on Fender Rhodes, Ray Parker, Jr. on guitar, Marcus Miller on bass, the always meticulous percussionist Lenny Castro and drummer Omar Hakim all further the excellent groove. Miller also arranges the killer horns led by Koz, and including Dan Higgins, Gary Grant, Chuck Findley, and Alan Kaplan.

The CD closes with “What You Leave Behind,” a soft lullaby that would have fit perfectly on 2002’s Golden Slumbers: A Father’s Lullaby; Dave & Jeff Koz’s exceptional multi-artist collaboration that affectionately gently rocked the cradle for babies and grown-ups alike. Koz is firmly in his element on this soothing and luxuriant gem on which he plays divine alto sax while being tastefully joined solely by Greg Phillinganes on Fender Rhodes, David Delhomme on keyboards, and Marcus Miller on guitar. This song, written by Dave Koz, is dedicated in admiring memory of Hal Gaba and Wayman Tisdale

The move to Concord, a record label founded on the principal to make love of music a priority, has fully revitalized the creative genius that is Dave Koz, and fulfills the lofty expectations of his legion of devoted fans. Dave Koz is an intelligent musician who genuinely feels each note he plays. The unparalleled consistency on Hello Tomorrow with its overall optimistic theme and impressive melodies, coupled with the esteemed assemblage of prestigious blue-chip musicians proves to be the defining moment of Dave Koz’s distinguished career.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Randall Parrish) Contemporary Jazz - CD Reviews Wed, 23 Feb 2011 18:00:00 -0600
Eclecticism by fo/mo/deep http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/soul-/-funk-jazz-cd-reviews/eclecticism-by-fo/mo/deep.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/soul-/-funk-jazz-cd-reviews/eclecticism-by-fo/mo/deep.html Eclecticism – Drawing from a plethora of grooves/styles from around the world.The above definition of the title of the first release from fo/mo/deep is provided on the back cover of the group’s new CD. Also included on the CD cover is a self-characterization by fo/mo/deep that reads “An Eclectic Groove Oriented – Funky Jazz Collective.” That assessment is concise and sums up their mission astutely. fo/mo/deep is a vibrant jazz collective which utilizes their dynamic rhythm section to keep th

Eclecticism – Drawing from a plethora of grooves/styles from around the world.

The above definition of the title of the first release from fo/mo/deep is provided on the back cover of the group’s new CD. Also included on the CD cover is a self-characterization by fo/mo/deep that reads “An Eclectic Groove Oriented – Funky Jazz Collective.” That assessment is concise and sums up their mission astutely. fo/mo/deep is a vibrant jazz collective which utilizes their dynamic rhythm section to keep the heat turned up to maximum fervor throughout. They flourish equally well on a couple original compositions as well as select choices for cover selections. Andre Scott, a skilled and powerful drummer, helps force the robust rhythms forward with potent brawn and committed vigor. On bass, Ron “FatKat” Holmes Jr. is also a stellar contributor, exceptionally adept at using his instrument to help buttress a beefy foundation as well as stepping to the forefront to bravely scout the way. Kenneth “Pounce” Pouncy on percussion completes this expert rhythm trifecta.

An example of the groove oriented funk found on Eclecticism is provided right out of the gate on “Drinks@8.” Kevin Jones plays energetic keyboard streams that serve as an appendage to a spirited dialogue between the trombone of N. Michael Goecke and the tenor saxophone yielded by Keith Newton. The solid, mid-tempo rhythm groove on this one is pure delight and serves as an example of how a top-grade rhythm section meshes together via a scheme of ultra-tight cohesiveness to function faultlessly.

The slower tempo on Nat Adderley’s “Hummin’” allows Goecke an opportunity to make a tart sassy trombone statement and Ron Holmes, Jr. to impressively demonstrate his stand-up bass chops. “Kiggundu’s Bazaar” embraces the atmosphere of a bustling African bazaar with the horn section trumpeting with elephant-like calls and emulating vendors hawking their wares. The bouncy keyboards of Kevin Jones provide added seasoning, as do the various background clamoring effects supplied by Darrell Jones. Yet again, the rhythm teamwork shines with added backing from Ron Hope on congas, all contributing to give the song a strong sense of adventure.

A cover of ex-Miles Davis member Lonnie Liston Smith’s “Expansions” appears first with a vocal that is mutually sung and sung-spoken and espouses the need for peace on Earth with the expansion advocated taking place inside one’s mind. The philosophy declared on this 70s song that if you expand your mind to the acceptance of love of all mankind your heart will surely follow remains relevant today. The song begins with a bass solo, which is soon joined by rapid-fire drumming, flashy flute fireworks and impressive displays on organ. The quickened pace on the instrumental rendition of “Expansions” that follows later on the disc allows multiple members of the fo/mo/deep ensemble to show off their musical savoir faire with abundant soloing as well as en masse execution.

Another successful cover appears with Charlie Hunter’s “Mitch Betta’ Have My Bunny.” The ultra-funky Ron Holmes, Jr. penned “Slap That Thang,” features a first-rate rhythm melody with flanking support coming from guitar, saxophone and trombone. It cooks at a slow boil, simmering with horn flavored spice that satisfies totally. “Slap That Thang” assuredly has to be one of their premier showcases when it is presented in concert.

The final two songs are performed live, exhibiting the power and excitement that this ensemble can muster away from the recording studio and in front of an audience. The venue for this enthused performance was the 2010 Columbus Arts Festival. “Giant FONKY Steps” is needless to say a respectful tribute to John Coltrane’s standard “Giant Steps,” a tune long used by jazz musicians to display their skills at improvisation. Improvising is one of fo/mo/deep’s foremost gifts. Jones’s keyboards take on some of the characteristics of a melodica, Newton’s sax-work is inspired, and the entire group takes pleasure in providing a fun-laced musical history lesson. The group’s live take on Hunter’s “Mitch” outshines their previous offering of the tune, due to the increased spontaneous flow. Guided by “Fatkat,” the group wails away with a passion and technical expertise that is exceptional.

The auspicious debut of fo/mo/deep is exhilarating music. Eclecticism whets the appetite for more, much more. As the legendary great Miles Davis once said “jazz music has to have that thing.” I believe that Miles would agree: Eclecticism has it.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Randall Parrish) Soul / Funk Jazz - CD Reviews Tue, 08 Feb 2011 00:00:00 -0600
Eclecticism by fo/mo/deep http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/soul-/-funk-jazz-cd-reviews/eclecticism-by-fo/mo/deep.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/soul-/-funk-jazz-cd-reviews/eclecticism-by-fo/mo/deep.html Eclecticism - Drawing from a plethora of grooves/styles from around the world.The above definition of the title of the first release from fo/mo/deep is provided o…

Eclecticism - Drawing from a plethora of grooves/styles from around the world.

The above definition of the title of the first release from fo/mo/deep is provided on the back cover of the group’s new CD. Also included on the CD cover is a self-characterization by fo/mo/deep that reads "An Eclectic Groove Oriented - Funky Jazz Collective." That assessment is concise and sums up their mission astutely. fo/mo/deep is a vibrant jazz collective which utilizes their dynamic rhythm section to keep the heat turned up to maximum fervor throughout. They flourish equally well on a couple original compositions as well as select choices for cover selections. Andre Scott, a skilled and powerful drummer, helps force the robust rhythms forward with potent brawn and committed vigor. On bass, Ron "FatKat" Holmes Jr. is also a stellar contributor, exceptionally adept at using his instrument to help buttress a beefy foundation as well as stepping to the forefront to bravely scout the way. Kenneth "Pounce" Pouncy on percussion completes this expert rhythm trifecta.

An example of the groove oriented funk found on Eclecticism is provided right out of the gate on "Drinks@8." Kevin Jones plays energetic keyboard streams that serve as an appendage to a spirited dialogue between the trombone of N. Michael Goecke and the tenor saxophone yielded by Keith Newton. The solid, mid-tempo rhythm groove on this one is pure delight and serves as an example of how a top-grade rhythm section meshes together via a scheme of ultra-tight cohesiveness to function faultlessly.

The slower tempo on Nat Adderley’s "Hummin’" allows Goecke an opportunity to make a tart sassy trombone statement and Ron Holmes, Jr. to impressively demonstrate his stand-up bass chops. "Kiggundu’s Bazaar" embraces the atmosphere of a bustling African bazaar with the horn section trumpeting with elephant-like calls and emulating vendors hawking their wares. The bouncy keyboards of Kevin Jones provide added seasoning, as do the various background clamoring effects supplied by Darrell Jones. Yet again, the rhythm teamwork shines with added backing from Ron Hope on congas, all contributing to give the song a strong sense of adventure.

A cover of ex-Miles Davis member Lonnie Liston Smith’s "Expansions" appears first with a vocal that is mutually sung and sung-spoken and espouses the need for peace on Earth with the expansion advocated taking place inside one’s mind. The philosophy declared on this 70s song that if you expand your mind to the acceptance of love of all mankind your heart will surely follow remains relevant today. The song begins with a bass solo, which is soon joined by rapid-fire drumming, flashy flute fireworks and impressive displays on organ. The quickened pace on the instrumental rendition of "Expansions" that follows later on the disc allows multiple members of the fo/mo/deep ensemble to show off their musical savoir faire with abundant soloing as well as en masse execution.

Another successful cover appears with Charlie Hunter’s "Mitch Betta’ Have My Bunny." The ultra-funky Ron Holmes, Jr. penned "Slap That Thang," features a first-rate rhythm melody with flanking support coming from guitar, saxophone and trombone. It cooks at a slow boil, simmering with horn flavored spice that satisfies totally. "Slap That Thang" assuredly has to be one of their premier showcases when it is presented in concert.

The final two songs are performed live, exhibiting the power and excitement that this ensemble can muster away from the recording studio and in front of an audience. The venue for this enthused performance was the 2010 Columbus Arts Festival. "Giant FONKY Steps" is needless to say a respectful tribute to John Coltrane’s standard "Giant Steps," a tune long used by jazz musicians to display their skills at improvisation. Improvising is one of fo/mo/deep’s foremost gifts. Jones’s keyboards take on some of the characteristics of a melodica, Newton’s sax-work is inspired, and the entire group takes pleasure in providing a fun-laced musical history lesson. The group’s live take on Hunter’s "Mitch" outshines their previous offering of the tune, due to the increased spontaneous flow. Guided by "Fatkat," the group wails away with a passion and technical expertise that is exceptional.

The auspicious debut of fo/mo/deep is exhilarating music. Eclecticism whets the appetite for more, much more. As the legendary great Miles Davis once said "jazz music has to have that thing." I believe that Miles would agree: Eclecticism has it.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Randall Parrish) Soul / Funk Jazz - CD Reviews Thu, 18 Feb 2010 18:00:00 -0600
What The Funk? by Nils http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/ http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/ Possessing the uniquely elite gift of deeply "feeling" every note he writes and plays, Nils, the multi-talented Munich born guitarist, has yet again given his followers …

Possessing the uniquely elite gift of deeply "feeling" every note he writes and plays, Nils, the multi-talented Munich born guitarist, has yet again given his followers grounds to rejoice. His new release on TSR/Baja Records, What The Funk?, proves to be an aural delight of the highest order. On three previous and superlative Contemporary Jazz CDs for TSR/Baja, Nils often displayed a clearly identifiable undercurrent of his R&B, Soul and Rock roots. At this moment with What The Funk? Nils has allowed the funk flavor to ascend fully to the surface with magnificent effect. Aiding him on his funky quest are many of the same trusted musicians who have graced his past work with their inspired presence.

It is evident that something very special is in the works from the opening track "Shake It," which features Nils with his trademark shimmering guitar traversing the border between Latin-rock and soul-funk with the nimbleness of a tightrope walker. The title is fitting; as the song’s infectious pulse encourages dancers to bop along in tune and shake it. "The Hump" is a bit slower, simmering with a danceable rhythm groove laid down by distinguished bassist Alex Al and percussionist Oliver Brown as Nils doles out biting flashes of guitar funk.

On "Jump Start," Nils transports the flavor of classic heavy funk guitar into the twenty-first century as he alternates between classic and contemporary on a song that inhabits a medium-fast tempo. Reggie McBride, another frequent sideman for Nils, assertively emerges on bass guitar laying a deep and solid foundation for Nils to skillfully skate over. Dov & the Lovestar Strings also contribute to the magic of this attention-grabbing track.

Nils returns to familiar artistic milieu with his leisurely "Walk In The Park," as he glides along with his distinctive refined grace. Former Yellowjacket drummer Ricky Lawson and percussive pro Oliver Brown set the pace with precise adroitness that perfectly balances with Nils’ ultra-pleasing guitar tones that glisten like jewels.

The title track, "What The Funk?," thoroughly lives up to its moniker. It’s a full-on blast of energized hard-funk complete with Johnny Britt serving up soul-style trumpet and background vocalists exhorting the catchphrase "hey, hey, hey, hey get down and party." Alex Al inserts funk fireball riffs on his bass and Nils punctuates the proceedings with soul-drenched guitar lines.

Providing an ideal change of pace, the Hall and Oates blue-eyed soul classic "Sara Smile" is treated to an exquisite reverential treatment. Whereas the original contained a beautiful guitar lead supplied by G.E. Smith, on this rendering Nils pushes the guitar prominently out front. In sharp contrast to the Hall and Oates version where the lead vocals dominated, Nils utilizes less significant minor backing vocalists that permit his guitar to become the undeniable focal point of this truly gorgeous song. Nils displays a penchant for the occasional cover songs he chooses; usually enhancing them by adding his charming touch.

The horn-splashed "Trip Me," features a head-bobbing sway melody. In addition, there is some spry guitar from Nils as he agilely weaves his way through the song in harmony with Johnny Britt on flugelhorn and trumpet. Next, Nils sets sail to a paradise of crystal waters with "Dance with Me." Each band crew member assists in keeping the sails taut as they cruise to their destination.

Nils’ unrushed "Morning Light" is comparable to Lee Ritenour’s classic "Dolphin Dreams;" which is the utmost of high praise. Stunningly elegant, yet still simplistic, it musically convincingly encapsulates the majestic beauty of a sunrise better than a thousand words of prose by a proficient writer.

"Save Our Love" reunites Nils with uplifting vocalist Clydene Jackson who was one of the ladies featured on the remake of The Temptations iconic classic "My Girl" on a previous Nils release. Her soulful lead vocal is sublime, and complements the flair that Nils shows on his guitar. Besides providing a memorable vocal performance, the talented lass co-wrote this highly enjoyable song with an assist from Eddie Brown.

"Shine Your Light On Me" is a revisit to the Nils signature cool sound that owes a debt to Wes Montgomery and George Benson, but remains distinctively his own. It’s as soothingly inviting as a hot bubble bath, and the type of song that you wish would last an eternity. It’s very tough to pick a personal favorite on this CD, but "Shine" has a glossy luster that I find exceedingly appealing. On the closing song "Detroit Strut," another instrumental tour de force, Nils bends the guitar strings masterfully, creating aural landscapes of powerful potency and beauty.

With What The Funk?, Nils has added another stroke of genius to his increasing legacy of superior musical offerings Without fail he writes memorable melodies and backs them up with technical brilliance. The fact that his fellow expert players are so well acquainted and comfortable with his premium criterion is another reason that he can consistently pull out all the stops to maintain this level of excellence. The music comes directly from his heart, and this passion is tangibly expressed. Simply stated this collection of mostly funk-tinged jazzy compositions hits like a heavyweight prizefighter; well timed and bone-shatteringly hard.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Randall Parrish) Contemporary Jazz - CD Reviews Wed, 10 Feb 2010 06:00:00 -0600