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Thomas R. Erdmann

Thomas R. Erdmann

02.12.2011

Reach by ESP

Published in Cool Jazz - CD Reviews

The Bad Plus and the Esbjörn Svensson Trio, a few years ago, blew the walls down when it came to how modern musical elements could be fused into jazz and still be true to the history and culture of America’s classical music. Traveling down that same road comes E.S.P. The best way to think of this group is cool jazz meets groove. Their hip swinging lines are fused with an emphasis on the beat and their melodies are just cool enough to have been composed back in the 1950s. The result is some of the freshest new jazz heard since the Rippingtons’ earliest recordings and Gamalon’s rocking Western New York jazz music.

Vocalist and composer Michael Franks has had a long career of which anyone would be envious. Since his launching pad hit “Popsicle Toes,” Franks has consistently released strong jazz oriented recordings featuring the best jazz musicians in both backing and featured roles. Like Kenny Rankin, Franks found a unique way to present his soft pop without ever sounding dated. Time Together is yet another fantastic Franks release featuring the best jazz musicians sweetly swinging behind Franks’ eye-winking lyrics.

Self-taught native Washingtonian Jeff Logan today lives in Maryland, near where we grew up. While he has a day job as an administrator in Prince George’s County detention center, Logan has opened concerts for artists such as Martha & The Vandellas and Junior Walker & The All-Stars. This, his seventh release, finds Logan playing all of the instruments as well as releasing the CD on his own BASS-mint Records. With 12 tracks, 10 of them originals, Logan has recorded a sweet recording of subdued instrumental R&B.

Player A is a loose collection of studio musicians out of Nashville who have come together under the direction of keyboardist, producer and Creative Soul label President Eric Copland. While all of the musicians on the disc are heavy hitters, there is no way they are household names unless you like to read liner notes on the records of others because it’s there where you’ll find their names. The cast of musicians rotates and revolves depending on the composition, but the one stable element throughout is Copeland’s playing, his compositions and arrangements; besides the two covers, one by the Brothers Gibb, “Staying Alive,” and the pop chestnut “Windy.”

Primarily known as a session musician, pianist Eddie Gip Noble has worked with artists such as Gerald Albright, Patti Austin, Wayne Henderson, Etta James and Johnny “Guitar” Watson. In The Lite Of Things is Noble’s second release, following 2004’s Love T.K.O. Like a number of keyboard oriented albums by Kim Pensyl, this recording was totally done by Noble, playing all of the parts on a keyboard workstation. In this case it’s the Korg Triton Studio Musicworkstation Sampling Keyboard. There is one exception. On “I Don’t Want To Be Alone Tonight,” Noble adds a guitarist and vocalist to great effect. The material covered on this R&B uptempo-oriented smooth jazz recording is all covers, save for one Noble original.

To jazz lovers the name of saxophonist and flutist Jeff Coffin should not be new. In addition to his 14 years spent as a member of Bela Fleck’s band, Coffin has worked with others like Dave Matthews and spent a lot of time working in studios for artists like Delbert McClinton, Brooks & Dunn and Marc Broussard. For this three-time Grammy winner, Coffin’s newest recording is a two-disc set gathered from live concerts in Illinois and Texas with his musicians while on tour in 2010 and 2011.

Founder and Director of the Program in Jazz Studies, and Associate Director of the Program in Musical Performance at Princeton University, Anthony Branker also directs ensembles and teaches courses in jazz theory, improvisation and composition, jazz performance practice in historical and cultural context, jazz composition, and jazz history. A U.S. Fulbright Scholar and visiting professor at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre in Tallinn, Estonia, Branker has previously been a member of the faculty at the Manhattan School of Music, Rutgers University, Hunter College, Ursinus College, and the New Jersey Summer Arts Institute.

Philippines born, Boston raised, now New York based guitarist, composer, arranger, producer and teacher Ron Jackson has spent time playing with a number of different artists. Among these are James Spaulding, Taj Majal, The Boys Choir of Harlem, Cecil Brooks III, Jimmy McGriff, Cissy Houston, Ralph Peterson, Russell Malone, Larry Coryell, Don Braden, Benny Golson, Randy Weston, Ron Carter, and Oliver Lake, to list just a few.

Bassist, cellist and composer Buell Neidlinger, born in 1936, came up by playing with Herbie Nichols, Oran “Hot Lips” Page, and Vic Dickenson, among others. With his apprenticeships done, Neidlinger started working with artists like Tony Bennett, Billie Holiday, Lester Young, Rex Stewart and for seven years with pianist Cecil Taylor. After a stint in Sir John Barbirolli’s Houston Symphony, Neidlinger returned to New York in 1965 to work with composers like George Crumb and John Cage. Further work included time with the Berkshire Music Center Orchestra, one Igor Stravinsky’s chamber ensembles, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. A move to California in 1971 to teach at CalArts led to eventually joining the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and work in West Coast studios.

Music is a funny business. There are so many incredibly talented musicians that never get the respect they are due, and conversely there are a number of musicians of rather average ability who get way more than there 15 minutes of fame. On the front end of that equation is the incredibly talented jazz pianist Sir Roland Hanna.