Thomas R. Erdmann

Thomas R. Erdmann

It just doesn't seem possible this could be Lewis' 80th recording.  It feels like it was yesterday when keyboardist, composer and radio show host Ramsey Lewis's mega hit, "The 'In' Crowd," was first on the radio.  Since the eruption of that light swinging jazz track on radios throughout the world in 1965, Lewis has gone on to a career that would be the envy of everyone who has ever made an instrumental record.

Keyboardist, composer and arranger Art "Spike" Schloemer is most obviously influenced by musicians like Joe Zawinul and Jan Hammer.  Schloemer is, like Zawinul, a true technical master, and like Hammer, has a lilt in his compositions that make them more than pleasing vehicles.  Schloemer's incredibly nimble fingers fly throughout the recording, and he puts them to good use in this collection of high powered, highly percussive fusion.

There was a time when jazz aficionados waited in high anticipation for new recordings from specific musicians, like Miles Davis and Weather Report.  You always knew there would be something new, fresh and exciting in every one of their releases, and countless people would want to be the first to hear what the direction would be.  Sadly, today this is almost no longer true.  Now the world is full of jazz released on CD that is predictable and staid.   There are, however, two ensembles that continue to delight audiences with something new with every single one of their releases, trumpeter Dave Douglas and the SF Jazz Collective.

 

Multi-instrumentalist, engineer and producer Joe Blassett's Chillin' Out In Dark Places is a difficult recording to categorize. While it has nice subtle rhythmic grooves in the background of every track, the material placed on top of the smooth waves is multihued, angled, and at times quite disjunct. The layering effect sometimes works well, but at other times the collages are difficult to discern.

Los Angeles based guitarist, composer and producer Brian Hughes, who is best known for his long standing work with vocalist Loreena McKennitt, grew up in Alberta, Canada and studied at Grant McKewan College, the Banff School of Fine Arts and the Guitar Institute. He comes forward again on Fast Train To A Quiet Place with a recording that is full of his unmistakable and ever lovely musical elements.

 

This is a crazy time for smooth jazz musicians. After plying their art for public recognition via suit-oriented business models on smooth jazz radio stations, the musicians now find themselves in one of three non-mutually exclusive situations. In the first scenario, (1) they are happy smooth jazz radio is dead and can now play the kind of music they had always wanted to but their record companies wouldn't allow, or (2) they are totally lost fearing their audience will leave them as the radio formats change and with it, perhaps, their fans, or (3) they struggle to find relevance among jazz and instrumental music fans, charting a course they hope will allow them to survive and be accepted within the jazz community.

It's been two years since vocalist Anders Holst released a recording and his newest one, Soho Suite, may very well be his best. Originally from Sweden, Holst is now based out of New York. In the style of Kenny Rankin, Holst has a rich lower tenor voice that is full of deep romantic leanings that falls into either the smooth jazz or adult contemporary vein. Recorded with a variety of Swedish backing musicians and vocalists, every track is richly produced, but not over produced and is so popular these days in the smooth jazz world.

Rarely does an ensemble come along that has its own vision, one that is rooted in the music the members heard around them and grew up with, yet is still original in conception. That is truly the case with the Montalban Quintet. One of the first to incorporate indie music conceptualizations placed within jazz frameworks, this ensemble has staked out a unique path.

Evening In Vermont is the ninth CD by the straight-ahead jazz quartet, TRP (The Reese Project). Featuring three members of the Reese clan, Tom play flutes, Laurie is on cello, and Kirk on piano, rounded out by the percussion set work of Dave Young, the ensemble plays a collection of original, covers by jazz legends like Wayne Shorter and Roland Kirk, and folk songs.

In this, the age of being able to record your own CD in your basement, the adage, “just because you can record your own CD doesn’t mean you should,” has never been more true, especially in the smooth jazz realm. The market has been flooded with, let’s face it, tons of just terrible recordings, mostly done by artists playing all the parts themselves on their keyboard workstations. None of the above applies to the new CD by saxophonist Neamen, So Free.