Yellowjackets | Greenhouse – [GRP, 1990] – RevisitedAs music lovers, there are moments through our journey we hear various style and compositional changes that simply don’t fit our perspective. While in transit, we find ourselves in somewhat of a dismal state about what our favorite recording artists are doing and why they didn’t stay on track with what we’re comfortable with. In this case, the esteemed Yellowjackets initially a fusion band early on engraved their signature on canvas with confidence holding their place well within the ranks of the best in the jazz-fusion genre. After three albums, the group decided to progress into a new direction contextually by adding a new member and saxophonist Marc Russo. Now, phase two of this journey for the Jackets begins to redefine their voice and compositional focus delivering exceptional recordings like “Shades, Four Corners, Politics, and The Spin.” Continue reading
My, my, my it seems like only yesterday when I first heard the colorful and rhythmic flavors of Blacks and Blues. This tasty gem was adopted as a reoccurring theme often seen and heard throughout the inner city landscape, it was hip, cool and definitely vibrant and scored by the truly remarkable flutist named Bobbi Humphrey. The fabulous Mizell Brothers [Larry & Fonce] rose to the occasion by invoking their hybrid intensity as it reflected the idealism of the urban jazz sound into “Blacks and Blues.” Even today, this recording by Ms. Humphrey has virtually the same impact on the jazz culture by blending over into the universal audience as it once did back in the day. ~ The Urban Flux
Bobbi Humphrey | Blacks and Blues – [Blue Note Records, 1973] – The Weekend Spin
Bobbi Humphrey scored her biggest hit with her third album Blacks and Blues, an utterly delightful jazz-funk classic that helped make her a sensation at Montreux. If it sounds a lot like Donald Byrd’s post-Black Byrd output, it’s no accident; brothers Larry and Fonce Mizell have their fingerprints all over the album, and as on their work with Byrd, Larry handles all the composing and most of the arranging and production duties. It certainly helps that the Mizells were hitting on all cylinders at this point in their careers, but Humphrey is the true star of the show; she actually grabs a good deal more solo space than Byrd did on his Mizell collaborations, and she claims a good deal of responsibility for the album’s light, airy charm. Her playing is indebted to Herbie Mann and, especially, Hubert Laws, but she has a more exclusive affinity for R&B and pop than even those two fusion-minded players, which is why she excels in this setting. —Steve Huey
As usual, I’m enthralled about discovering creative and new independent voices by importing them from the well of infinite music that is at our disposal. Although at times, this can be a challenging endeavor with the rewards of being a very exciting journey. On today, I’m honored to share with you a promising contemporary jazz group called Abstract Truth. The band approaches their music with style and purpose, therefore engaging in a lively discussion compositionally by embodying a melting pot blended with raw, soulful and funky ingredients. Truth’s interplay is simply on point. They’re overall message musically is attractive, unpolished and flawless as I hear it. Yet they are sensitive to meeting the needs of the sometimes discriminating listeners. It appears to me, Abstract Truth is a no-nonsense group that intelligently mirrors the image of familiar voices of their predecessors. That said, against all odds they have successfully established their own voice through a rite of passage on a road that’s not often traveled. ~ The Urban FluxAbstract Truth | The Road Less Traveled [Fourstring Records, 2009]
Living on the edge of classification, weaving jazz with soul, R&B, African and Latin rhythms, rock, gospel, blues, and funk.
The musical foundation is the subtle, masterful interplay of the drums (Sultan Akbar), percussion (Rajul) and bass (the band’s founding member, G. Lawrence Francis). On top of that groove the horn (Jesse Andross) and keys (Scott Coulter) create a rich, vibrant and complex melodic and harmonic world echoing everything from straight ahead jazz to rock. Borrowing from this rich tapestry of musical traditions.
As you know, more often than not it’s a delight to dig into the crates (shelves) and pull out a gem by one of your favorite artists. At this juncture, I give props to the legendary Grammy winning, visionary, composer, arranger, producer, jazz/funk keyboardist Herbie Hancock and his 1976 album “Secrets.” All particulars aside, he stands firmly at the head of the pack of A-list artists as a mentor, player, and composer in the music industry.
“Secrets” is nicely marinated with infused and intricate textures that Mr. Hancock has been noted to grace listeners with over the years. For those of you whose been around a minute, you should recall during the 60’s and 70’s on most jazz recordings you had four to ten cuts on a jazz album. With “Secrets,” Hancock strategically aligns his voice into “seven” alluring, yet accessible compositions to groove, listen and enjoy with each spin. Continue reading
Concord Jazz will release Songs From the Heart: Ramsey Plays Ramsey, the debut Concord Jazz CD from iconic pianist/bandleader Ramsey Lewis. At the age of 74, Ramsey Lewis has not only continued to be active in the jazz world, but he’s also forging ahead with a newly inspired creative instinct as a composer. This re-envisioned artistic sensibility is showcased on his new album, which is a remarkable, refined collection of 12 new originals that he composed over a period of two years. The collection includes music from two commissioned world premiere performances at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, Illinois, just north of Chicago. Eight songs come from the score of 2007’s ballet To Know Her…written for the Joffrey Ballet Company and four pieces come from 2008’s Muses and Amusements suite performed with the Turtle Island Quartet.
Songs From the Heart, Lewis’ first trio recording in five years, features eight pieces with bassist Larry Gray and drummer Leon Joyce, and four piano solo performances. To Lewis, the CD marks a turning point in his storied career: he’s found new life as a composer.
Perhaps seizing the moment cherishing love, life, and time given is “encouraging to someone as is oxygen to our soul,” … furthermore, having the opportunity to relish new and stimulating music by the multi-facet saxophonist Benny Reid and his compelling and creative sophomore release “Escaping Shadows” is surely icing on the cake. As I see it, his music rates high on the lists of must haves as jazz releases goes in the 2009 is priceless. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised when I met Reid’s debut album “Findings” back in 2007. As I remember, vividly? … for a moment I mused on why don’t we hear more music by artists of this caliber? From my perspective, there are so many artists are driven to record music to be heard on the radio. Benny Reid apparently doesn’t seem to adhere to this mythology. Thank goodness, stay true to yourself and to the music. A paradigm shift is badly needed, and long, long overdue!
Benny Reid | Escaping Shadows [Concord Jazz/Music Group]Saxophone wunderkind Benny Reid’s returns with the follow-up to his impressive Concord Jazz debut “Findings“. Escaping Shadows include an inspired collection of nine originals, plus a moving arrangement of Pat Metheny’s “Always and Forever.” With this new CD Reid truly comes into his own… with his warm tone, great playing, distinctive, catchy melodies and infectious grooves. Grounded in the tradition of classic modern jazz, yet with his own original twist, he blurs the lines of musical category, making this album less about genre and more about great music.
The album also features guest such as Benny Reid – alto saxophone, keyboards; Richard Padron – acoustic & electric guitars; Pablo Vergara – piano, Fender Rhodes, keyboards; Daniel Loomis – bass, electric bass; Kenny Grohowski – drums; Jeff Taylor – vocals; Ryan Fitch – percussion.
Release Date: September 15, 2009 | Concord Records
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Listen up, contemporary jazz and fusion jazz lovers I’ve just discovered and awesome keyboardist from Turkey named Fahir Atakoglu. You’re gonna want to feast your ears on this gem, I believe you’ll love it! Also check out, “Istanbul In Blue” from 2008. Don’t you dig music with an international flavor??Fahir Atakoglu | Faces and Places [Far&Here LLC, 2009]
As a follow up to his hard-hitting fusion offering, 2008’s Istanbul in Blue (a guitar-intensive project that featured the dazzling six-string work of Mike Stern and Wayne Krantz), the accomplished Turkish-born pianist-composer-arranger Fahir Atakoglu casts a wide stylistic net on Faces and Places, deftly incorporating musical elements from Spain, Brazil, the Middle East and New York City into the compelling mix. On board for this dynamic outing are such world-class players as trumpeter Randy Brecker, guitarists Wayne Krantz and Romero Lubambo, Yellowjackets saxophonist Bob Mintzer and the outstanding rhythm tandem of bassist John Patitucci (a longstanding member of the Wayne Shorter Quartet and a composer-band leader in his own right) and the great Cuban drummer Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez. Together, with the addition of some challenging and highly interactive string arrangements, they make a potent statement on what stands as Fahir’s most impressive and ambitious outing to date.
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Andrei Matorin -|- Opus [Armored Records, 2009]
Opus, the debut album by emerging jazz violinist and composer Andrei Matorin, seamlessly blends the harmonic and rhythmic intensity of modern jazz with the emotion and sensitivity of classical music while alluding to soaring melodies of his native Brazil.
he Boston Globe calls Brazilian-born Andrei Matorin an “emerging jazz violinist” and featured him in their Critic’s Picks column three times since 2008 next to the likes of jazz greats such as Bill Charlap, Jim Hobbs, and John Patitucci. As a composer, Andrei’s music seamlessly blends the harmonic and rhythmic intensity of jazz with the emotion and sensitivity of classical music while alluding to the soaring melodies of his native Brazil. As a student at Berklee College of Music, he was honored with Berklee’s Achievement Award on two separate occasions.
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Brian Bromberg | It Is What It Is [Mack Avenue, 2009]Acclaimed bassist and producer Brian Bromberg has garnered a hard-earned reputation as one of the most versatile and respected players in music, amassing an enviable catalog of straight ahead and contemporary jazz showcasing both upright and electric basses.
Confounding the music industry with a string of innovative, eclectic releases since 1985,
Bromberg has spent the last decade recording projects driven by very specific sounds and
themes – from Wood (acoustic bass) and Metal (electric bass) to other diverse projects
celebrating the artistry of fretless bass pioneer Jaco Pastorius (Jaco) and his Grammy®-
nominated smooth grooves of Downright Upright.
On his fourth project for the Mack Avenue label imprint Artistry Music, It Is What It Is,
Brian unleashes another wide palette of styles letting the chips fall where they may. It’s a
decidedly funky 13-track set that features a killer horn section and includes not only
evocative original compositions but also two cover songs that are sure to raise some
eyebrows: The B-52s’ new wave dance classic “Love Shack” and Quincy Jones’ instantly
recognizable TV-Land nugget “Sanford & Son (The Streetbeater).”
An A-list of musical peers join the fun including George Duke, Patrice Rushen, Jeff Lorber,
Randy Brecker, Eric Marienthal, Gerald Albright, Richard Elliot, Rick Braun, Will Kennedy,
Dave Weckl, Alex Acuña, Paul Jackson Jr., Dan Siegel and more – all of whom are given
ample opportunity to shine.
Release Date: 8/25/2009