On her new Jazz CD, "Here's To Love," vocalist Carol Nielsson draws from a career in musical theater to add a fresh, yet comfortable spin on old favorites. She recalls the innocent delivery of Doris Day, her voice both sweet and nuanced. She honors the songs by singing them the way they were written, reminding us why we fell in love with this music in the first place.
It doesn't hurt that she has assembled some of the finest musicians on the Pacific Northwest Jazz Scene.
VLAD WEST, known in Russia as Vladimir Sermakashev, was a child prodigy. Born in Baku (Russia) he studied piano from age 3, composition from age 5. At that early age he was playing solo piano concerts at Baku Conservatory and was taking composing and arranging lessons with well known professors. Mr. West has technique and knowledge of classical and jazz music well beyond ordinary piano player. As Mr. Starr (president of Oberlin College, Jazz Study) said about V. West in one of his books on jazz: "In his combination of grittiness and lyricism, blues feeling and sheer drive, he has few equals, in Europe certainly and even in America."
Carol Britto spent twenty years in Toronto, a regular fixture at Lyte's, George's Jazz Club and Bourbon Street before relocating to New York. In New York Carol played all the major clubs - Knickerbocker, Fortune Garden Pavilion, Village Corner, Birdland, Café Gianluca, J's, Zinno, Carnegie Tavern, Hanratty's, the Rainbow Room.
Three veritable jazz heavyweights align for a briskly moving and thoroughly modern program, steeped in galvanizing thematic encounters. Trombonist Conrad Herwig, heralded for his hip 'Latinizations' of jazz standards amid a progressive outline, exercises ample doses of pop and sizzle throughout many of these oscillating pieces. And the lack of a bassist engenders a musical climate that offers a loose, open-air foundation for improvisation, sparked by all-universe drummer Jack DeJohnette's sweeping rolls and polyrhythmic timekeeping.
Neil Tesser, who wrote the notes for this release, calls Kizer's music "chamber jazz." Well, okay, that's one element of what the Kevin Kizer Quintet is doing. They have a violin, and there are some introspective moments that suggest at times a classical approach to jazz. But there's a lot more going on that ranges from bop to fusion to gypsy jazz, and it seems as if Kizer is out to show just how versatile he is. He succeeds admirably.
Mike Melito's The Right Time features nine songs that come squarely from the bop and hard bop traditions. The set is an interesting one from the standpoint of compositions, featuring a mix of standards, orignals and two lesser known songs from the pen of John Coltrane.
Tosh Sheridan likes to play nylon-string acoustic guitar, and this album displays that in abundance. Now, before you dismiss this as wine bar or bookstore music, give it a listen. You may be surprised at his versatility, his technique, or his evident charm. He takes a baker's dozen of standards, blues, and even pop tunes, makes them do tricks in a leisurely fashion, and teams with other guitarists on nearly half the pieces to provide fascinating listening for jazz guitar fans.
If I lived in Boston, I would have already heard of Yoko Miwa. She is a mainstay of the jazz scene there, and her teaching at the Berklee College of Music places her in the center of musical activity in Boston. She also plays dynamite piano, with a left hand that could crush a Volkswagen. Perhaps the rest of the country needs to be clued in.
The Greatest Party At Sea: The Smooth Jazz Cruise
How would you like to be in Smooth Jazz Heaven? It sails around the Caribbean and features an A-list of smooth jazz performers in concert and in special moments. It's "The Smooth Jazz Cruise," which is also called "The Greatest Party At Sea." From the time you board Holland America's Westerdam until you disembark, it's just one amazing experience after another. In January, Bev and I went on what would become not only our first cruise, but the only cruise we would ever think of taking again.