Tommy Vig has created an original, strangely intuitive, and ultimately satisfying big band. This music is avant garde, and dissonance is integral to their vision. That said, Vig's pieces are about as catchy as avant garde big bands could conceivably be. Fast unison parts are balanced with clear melodies, and rounded out with explorative soloing and inventive charts.
Lucky's Boy is a 2011 release by veteran New England pianist Pamela Hines. Hines is joined by the stellar rhythm section of John Lockwood on bass and Les Harris, Jr. on drums. Also present is April Hall on vocals, whose bluesy style fits well with the proceedings. The entire set is devoted to Hines' originals.
Donovan Mixon has seen some of the world in the last two decades, and the influences show in Culmination. After teaching at the Berklee College of Music, the guitarist spent seven years in Italy, then ten in Turkey, bouncing between freelance work and teaching. Now he's back, with a group of mostly Turkish musicians, and the result is a mix of chamber jazz, world music, and bop that is intense, yet quiet and film-like in atmosphere.
This is ethereal, contemplative music played beautifully by the unusual combination of trumpet and guitar. Kris Tiner's tone is warm and full, and unusually gentle for a young brass player. He takes the lead most of the way, but Mike Baggetta's presence is continuous. Fitting the mood of the album, the guitarist often uses long-sustain sparsely-placed notes, whether accenting Tiner's solos or soloing himself. (Classical music fans will recognize the influence of composer Morton Feldman.)
"Bobo" opens with a mournful wail strongly reminiscent of Miles' Sketches of Spain. The entire track may remind you of that album, but it's quieter and played with rhythmic freedom rather than a steady pulse. Through much of the piece, Baggetta picks a simple bass-line. During his own solo, notes above that bass line come at a leisurely one every four seconds or so. The effect is mesmerizing. It's rare to hear young musicians who know how to grab listeners without wild flurries of speed or in-your-face dynamics.
The young, yet aging, Shutz Vtet is a Los Angeles-based quintet that aims to create original, improvised music while blurring genre lines and carving out a distinct, self-informed sound. Every musician involved is between fifteen and eighteen years old, and they have all attended the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA). Shutz Vtet recently won the Angel City Jazz Festival Young Artist Competition on September 17, 2011. They performed September 23 at LACMA, for their Jazz series as winners of the competition, as well as winning the $1,000 grand prize. In addition, members Jacob and Jasper have been selected to the Thelonious Monk National Performing Arts High School All-Star Jazz Sextet. This entails a weeklong performance tour in early 2012 with renowned jazz recording artist Christian McBride.
It's not often that one begins an album with a drum solo, but that's the sort of thing that makes one take notice. Guitarist Mike Baggetta is full of surprises on his second release with this quartet, with unusual moods and textures the order of the day. A hot young gun on the New York scene and winner of an ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award, comparisons will be made to Bill Frisell and Ralph Towner, but that's certainly not all there is to Baggetta. While he shares some stylistic elements and sense of space with both, he goes his own way more often than not.
Musical labels are as much a blessing as they are a curse, their primary function serving as a musical guide to more effectively market and sell a particular artist. Keeping in mind that taste is as subjective as the continued debate as to the accuracy of certain sub-genres, enter Kekko Fornarelli.
Time in Transit's self-titled release features ten original compositions by New York-based saxophonist Glenn White. Time in Transit features White with New York notables Casper Gyldensoe (guitar), Dmitry Ishenko (bass), and Rob Mitzner (drums). An exciting balance of modern jazz harmonies with melodic and rhythmic influences from rock and beyond, Time in Transit's music is the statement of four skilled, creative musicians reaching beyond their individual voices, giving strength to a cohesive collective.
Let's face it, smooth jazz is a radio format as dead as Elvis Presley. For over 25 years, Acoustic Alchemy has not only survived a dramatic change in personnel, but every pretentious label tag thrust upon it, given the group may well be the last commercially viable entity from what was once considered New Age. This is the key to the success of Acoustic Alchemy, pushing musical boundaries by embracing change without self-imposed limitations.