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Flux Music Essentials

Whass up jazzy people, it’s great to be back in the groove with a few more titles from the shelves of Flux Music Essentials … on today, I’ve got one of my favorite pianist Billy Childs and his Grammy Winning masterpiece titled “Lyric.” As you know, fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane stirs up the pot with the infallible “In Flux” his 2005 project. A fascinating pianist/keyboardist from Japan named Hiromi rips the eighty-eights like nobodies business on her mind numbing release “Time Control.” Europeans jazz enthusiast sorely misses one of the finest innovative pianist in the world named Esbjörn Svensson and his Trio release “Viaticum.” Finally, a gentleman who’s synonymous when it comes to modern guitar Lee Ritenour and his 1993 tribute – “We Bound” on GRP Records to the most influential guitarist in the world Wes Montgomery.

Billy Childs Ensemble - Lyric

Billy Childs Ensemble | Lyric (Jazz Chamber Music Vol-1) – [Lunacy Music/ArtistShare, 2002]

After about two decades of releases as a leader, Billy Childs continues to produce cutting edge performances of his compositions and arrangements at the highest level of musicianship. This latest recording is his most solid work as a leader. It is worth a listen for anyone who is interested in serious music with lyric qualities.

For the past several years, Billy has not released any CDs with himself as a leader that primarily feature his own compositions, but “In Carson’s Eyes” gets things off to a hypnotically beautiful start by telling a musical story that is full of brilliant intricacies. “Goodbye, Friend” and “Prelude in Bb Major” both demonstrate his uncanny ability to move effortlessly between classical music and jazz while at times seeming to give a nod of acknowledgement to Pat Metheny. “Into the Light” is a Grammy Award winning composition that demonstrates a torrent of virtuosity and unpredictable intensity that would be worthy of an artist whose skill reminds the listener of Chick Corea without sounding like Chick Corea in any way.

The track that radio stations would most likely play is “Scarborough Faire” because people would recognize it, it has many of the same beautiful and hypnotic qualities of “In Carson’s Eyes”, and it is also the shortest track on the CD. At the end of the CD, Billy shakes things up with “American Landscape”. It features exciting playing from all of the musicians and unpredictable development of the composition itself. Hopefully, more tunes will be like it on future recordings.

Ravi Coltrane - In Flux

Ravi Coltrane | In Flux -[Savoy Jazz, 2005]

I’ve followed Ravi Coltrane’s career and have enjoyed all of his recordings (esp. “From the Round Box”) yet “In Flux” takes him to a new level. With his “working” band for more than two years the recording exudes style, and maturity.

This music fits well into modern jazz but should not be classified necessarily as post bop. This feels and sounds like what a lot of younger artists are trying and should be doing: Expressing themselves and not recreating memories of yesterday’s jazz. The elements are still in tact though – free expression, improvisation, and group interaction. “In Flux” does it superbly.

All the compositions were written by Ravi and/or the group except for the Wayne Shorter piece “United” which is recreated with Ravi’s unique touch. There are moments that are really moving such as the beautiful ballads “Away” and “Dear Alice” in dedication to his mother Alice Coltrane.

There are free jazz short-takes “Variations I and III,” and heavy hitters such as “Leaving Avignon” and cerebral force of “For Zoe.” Hats off to Perdomo, Gress, and Strickland for some great playing and strong solos.

Ravi’s voice on tenor and soprano is stirring, expressive, and is continuing to grow. The year’s still early but this will definitely be on my year’s best list.

Hiromi's Sonic Bloom - Time Control

Hiromi (Sonic Bloom) | Time Control – [Telarc, 2007]

I just got this disc today and I love it. I recently caught Hiromi and the band at the Blue Note in New York and they played selections from this disc and it worked live as well. I wish I had gotten the CD before I saw them but it really doesn’t matter. The addition of guitarist Dave ‘ Fuze’ Fiuczynski was a great move by Hiromi. He brings another dimension to the band and his playing is tasteful throughout. He and Hiromi nail it down. Bassist Tony Grey and drummer Martin Valihora are superb. I am especially impressed with Martin. He is fairly new to me but his playing is very impressive.

If you’re looking for a traditional jazz CD, this isn’t it. Hiromi continues to mix in electronic keys and does so very nicely. The fusion element is present throughout and since I’m a fusion head, it works for me. All in all a very well put together disc. I know Hiromi has been getting quite a bit of hype lately and that may turn some people off and they may not see what all the fuss is about. I could care less as I don’t pay much attention to that stuff. I have always let my ears be the judge and that’s worked pretty good for me thru the years. Hype or no hype, I like what Hiromi is doing, period!

Esbjörn Svensson Trio - Viaticum

e.s.t. (Esbjörn Svensson Trio) | Viaticum

– [ACT Music, 2005]

Two of my favorite musical groups are Keith Jarrett’s Standards Trio and Radiohead. In a sense, the Esbjörn Svensson Trio (E.S.T.) sounds like what Keith Jarrett’s group would sound like if Jarrett, DeJohnette, and Peacock all suddenly became huge Radiohead fans, and maybe Jarrett had started hanging out and swapping riffs with Christopher O’Riley, the classical pianist (and host of NPR’s From the Top) who has recorded a couple of remarkable albums of Radiohead transcriptions.

No, Viaticum does not feature any Radiohead transcriptions, nor are there any tortured vocals. But the feeling that comes across from the music produced by pianist Svensson, along with bandmates Dan Berglund on bass and Magnus Öström on bass, brings to mind some of the Radiohead sensibility and musical lyricism that O’Riley discovered and tapped into. Or, perhaps I am just nuts, and it would be best for all concerned if I could just figure out how to disappear completely…

E.S.T. plays tunes that are lyrical acoustic jazz sorts of compositions, but by adding a touch of electronica here and there, and a touch of rock energy, most notably in some of the work done by bassist Berglund, they achieve an emotional intensity that is extremely involving. At the time I picked up this CD, I was in the midst of dealing with the terminal illness of my mother-in-law. Listening to Viaticum over and over during that time was a source of both comfort and energy. This is music of density and substance; it is not meant for mere diversion. It is intense, involving, and melodic–sometimes familiar and comfortable, sometimes fragmentary and disquieting, but always musically and emotionally rewarding.

This is a recording that should appeal to a wide variety of music lovers. I recommend it without reservation.

Lee Ritenour - Wes Bound

Lee Ritenour | Wes Bound – [GRP Records, 1993]

I’ve had this CD since 1993 and love it. It was a gift to me along with tickets to watch Lee Ritenour’s live concert at the Universal Amphitheatre in the nineties and after listening to the CD and watching the concert, I have included him in my list of favorite guitarists of all-time. This CD topped the Billboard Jazz Chart in 1993 and is a tribute to a great jazz legend, Wes Montgomery, who was the greatest influence Lee Ritenour’s guitar playing. Mr. Ritenour’s style has been impressively influenced by Brazilian music but retained his own distinctive sound.

This CD consists of ten marvelous tracks in which four are his very own compositions: “Wes Bound,” “A Little Bumpin’,” “A New Day” and “Ocean Ave.” The rest of the tracks are all original compositions of the great Wes Montgomery. Track #5 “Waiting In Vain” was written by Bob Marley and the lead vocal was provided by Maxi Priest.

Some of the highlights for me are the initial/title track “Wes Bound” which has a very contemporary groove, followed by Montgomery’s “Boss City” which Ritenour interpreted splendidly with a shuffle style. “Ocean Ave.” is also one of the best tracks and has some of the finest musicians backing him up, an incomparable pianist, Alan Broadbent and a skilled drummer and percussionist, Harvey Mason, to name a few.

I especially love track # 4, his own composition “A Little Bumpin'” with my all-time favorite contemporary jazz artist whom I also watched in a live concert, Bob James on piano.

Following are notable quotes from Lee Ritenour about his great jazz legend idol, Mr. Wes Montgomery:

“Intoxicating” is a word Lee Ritenour keeps repeating when he discusses the music of Wes Montgomery, intoxicating to play, and intoxicating to hear.”

“Like every guitar player who’s arrived on the scene since the sixties, I owe a great debt to Wes Montgomery.”

“Wes music is so captivating, it can almost make you forget who you are.”

“It amazes me that so many of today’s young musicians are not familiar with Wes. I think he should be right up there with Ellington, Armstrong and Miles. So if I can introduce him to some of the younger musicians – jazz, rock, whatever – who don’t know who he is, I’ll be real happy.”

I must admit and I’m sure you’ll agree with me that this is guitar playing at its very BEST! I highly recommend this CD to all guitar music enthusiasts.

** The above album reviews where written by customers at Amazon.com. I agree with their comments. The above jazz titles are available “now” on both CD & MP3 format. **

..:: Source: Amazon.com ::..