Thomas R. Erdmann

Thomas R. Erdmann

Pianist and composer Chris Donnelly teaches at the University of Toronto and has previous teaching experience as a faculty member at the Humber College Community Music School, Prairielands Jazz Camp and the National Music Camp of Canada.  Holding Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from the University of Toronto, where he studied with David Braid, Gary Williamson, Paul Read, Kirk MacDonald Alexander Rapoport and Russell Hartenberger, Donnelly was awarded The Tecumseh Sherman Rogers Graduating Award for students "deemed to have the greatest potential to make an important contribution to the field of music."

Visual artist, pianist, vocalist, and composer Meredith d'Ambrosio has quietly been releasing critically acclaimed recordings since 1978.  Never one to push recordings on her fans, By Myself is her first release since 2006.  This new 2011 recording features, exclusively, the songs of Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz and is framed only by her voice and sparse piano playing.

Rarely, only very rarely, is a recording released that brings together a host of the greatest jazz musicians on which they all play to the highest of standards.  There have been more than a ton of recorded amalgamations of all-star jazz groupings going all the way back to the Jazz At The Philharmonic concerts of Norman Granz.  The end result of those kinds of producer-inspired recordings usually finds a host of mismatched musicians all trying to find common ground.  While there were more hits than misses on the JATP fests, groupings such as those by Arista and Columbia records in the 1970s had far more misses than hits.  One amalgamation of superstar groups that absolutely cooks from first cut to last is the new Impressions Of Curtis Mayfield by the Jazz Soul Seven.

Vocalist Rene Marie's seventh CD as a leader, Voice Of My Beautiful Country, borrows heavily from Americana as well as, what appears on almost every jazz vocalist's recording recently, a number of standards drawn from the wider rock world.  The best part of the recording is how Marie proves there is great depth that can be mined from songs many of us grew up on.  "O Shenandoah," for example, gets an extended treatment that is so free flowing and open to possibilities one can't help but imagine it's this arrangement of the folk song getting called up on gigs. 

My Next Heartbeat is keyboardist, producer, engineer, composer and Founder and Pastor of Northview Christian Church Hart Ramsey's second release as a leader.  This lively set of smooth jazz music doesn't skimp on nice easy-going grooves or compromise on room for Ramsey's accompanying musicians to express themselves on those grooves via long improvised solos.

Thunder Soul is the movie/documentary, executive produced by Jamie Foxx, about the award winning Kashmere High School Stage Band, out of Houston, Texas.  The band was led by a visionary music teacher, Conrad "Prof" Johnson Sr., who, like Miles Davis, recognized music and life was changing dramatically for African-Americans in the early 1970s and moved his traditionally oriented jazz stage band into the realm of jazz funk.  Documentaries, if they are successful, find ways to not just make the true life experiences focused on in the movie personal for the audience, but also complete the picture with a full round look at ancillary ideas and vector relationships germane to the topic.  Director Mark Landsman does this in aces.

Remember the 1970s – of course you don't, you weren't born yet.  Trust me, it was a great time for jazz.  Big record labels, like Columbia and Warner Brothers, gave their stable of jazz artists good funding to produce personal statements not bounded by end of quarter financial statements.  Even small labels, like CTI and Arista, gave their artists the room to find their own way.  The result was the best, most diverse, decade of jazz ever created.  Cinque harkens back to those great days.

It has to have been difficult for Lorraine Feather.  Her father, Leonard Feather, was the man who not only singlehandedly defined the role of the modern jazz critic, but was also arguably the greatest jazz journalist ever.  That's a huge shadow to grow up under, especially if the daughter has talents and ambitions that heavily lean towards the aural arts.  Lorraine, however, has fashioned a career that is apologetic to no one.

Watching smooth jazz artists embark on new ventures, new arenas and new paths is actually one of the more exciting things to happen to music in 2011 and still now in 2012.  With the death of smooth jazz radio we've witnessed George Benson return to the kind of music he played on his CTI and early Warner Brothers recordings, watched Richard Elliot move to soul-jazz, and Candy Dulfer gravitate more fully towards dance music.

When Diane Schuur burst on the national scene in 1985 with the release of her Deedles recording on GRP, the world was treated to an exceptional vocalist who had strengths in jazz and jazz-pop crossover.  Her string of hit records was aided by not just topnotch production and producing via her partnership with the Dave Grusin - Larry Rosen brain trust, but also a selection of material that fit her voice and abilities in way that has rarely been seen since.  Add to this her abundant skill on piano, which is subtle and always overlooked, and you had an artist for whom, it seemed, nothing could go wrong.

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