Category Archives: Jazz
When experienced and accomplished musicians come together, good things usually happen. That is the case with Project Them, featuring Bob Franceschini and Mark Sherman. The album, Project TH3M (Miles High Records, 2013) is a set of mostly original songs.
Franceschini plays tenor saxophone and flute; Sherman plays vibraphone. The two leaders were students together at the High School of Music and Art in New York City.
With them are Mitchel Forman, piano and organ; Martin Gjakonovski, bass; Adam Nussbaum, drums; and Paolo Di Sabatino, piano. Each has established himself as a leader or a session player with other artists. Collectively, their associations include Mike Stern, the Yellowjackets, Dave Liebman, Stan Getz, Gil Evans, Gary Burton, Kenny Wheeler, Mel Torme, Gerry Mulligan, Wayne Shorter and the Mahavinshu Orchestra.
“Submissive Dominants,” penned by Sherman, is a straightforward jazz piece. Tenor and vibes unite for the melody before Franceschini takes point. There is plenty of activity behind the lead. The tenor gets a good workout with intense support from the others. Then things go quiet for Sherman’s highlight. After a high-speed roll, Sherman and the rhythm section gradually build up before reverting to the main theme.
Franceschini wrote “Minor Turns,” a freely expressive selection. The tenor and vibes do their things, but the thrill of this song lies in the accompaniment. Bass, organ and drums shine even when the spotlight isn’t on them.
Project Them began touring in early 2013, playing in Europe and grooming some of the tunes on Project TH3M.
“Kackle Jackle” is the new recording from trumpeter Scott Wilson’s band Stark Raving. Scott Wilson has established himself as one of the rising stars of jazz – both as a performer and as a pedagogue. Since earning two masters degrees from the University of North Texas and paying his dues on concert stages from Orlando to Osaka, Scott is in constant demand as a player, composer and educator. In addition to his dynamic live and recorded performances on trumpet, he is regarded as one of the world’s foremost proponents of the electronic valve instrument (EVI).
Wilson has diverse international performance credits having shared the stage with jazz luminaries including Benny Green, Wayne Bergeron, Gordon Goodwin, Conrad Herwig, Wycliffe Gordon, Stevie Wonder, Jeff Coffin, Shelly Berg, Denis DeBlasio, Peter Erskine, Eric Marienthal, Bobby Shew, Slide Hampton, Terrell Stafford, Ron Blake, John Pizzarelli, Ed Shaughnessy, Alex Acuna, and others. He is joined in Stark Raving by a group of players that are not only Grammy-nominees and Downbeat Award-winners, but are renowned educators who have inspired thousands of young musicians.
“Kackle Jackle” features six Scott Wilson originals and three carefully chosen covers (from John Coltrane, Hank Mobley, and Joe Henderson) and has broad appeal across multiple formats. A transcription book has been released as well that features transcriptions of the trumpet, EVI, and trombone solos. Give this album a listen at CDBaby.
Part sass, part throwback. That’s the recipe for Book of Rhapsodies (Accurate, 2013), the second outing by the Ghost Train Orchestra.
The ensemble consists of Brian Carpenter, trumpet, slide trumpet and voice; Andy Laster, alto saxophone, flute; Dennis Lichtman, clarinet; Petr Cancura, tenor saxophone, clarinet; Curtis Hasselbring, trombone; Ron Caswell, tuba; Mazz Swift, violin; Tanya Kalmanovitch, viola; Avi Bortnick, guitar; Michael Bates, double bass; and Rob Garcia, drums. Additional players are Brandon Seabrook, banjo on “The Happy Farmer,” Matt Samolis, flute on “The Children Met the Train” and “Revolt of the Yes Men,” and the Book of Rhapsodies Choir: Yolanda Scott, soprano; Katie Seiler, mezzo-soprano; Mazz Swift, alto; Tomas Cruz, tenor; Brian Carpenter, baritone; and Joe Chappel, bass.
Book of Rhapsodies is a different kind of cover album. Instead of the usual offerings by jazz greats or the American Songbook, Ghost Train revisits some off-the-beaten-path compositions. These songs are adapted from recordings by the Alec Wilder Octet, the John Kirby Sextet, the Raymond Scott Quintet, and Reginald Forsythe and His New Music.
Wilder’s “Dance Man Buys a Farm” is a cool, happy-go-lucky piece. The choir complements the instruments with wordless chants – sort of a group scat. The strings fit prominently. The various voices blend, mix and match and overlap for a full, pleasing sound.
One of Scott’s most widely recognized compositions is “Powerhouse,” a piece often used in animated features to accompany assembly line activity. For this project, Ghost Train Orchestra chose a lesser-known title, “At an Arabian House Party.” The reed instruments carry the melody over a slick, bass groove with the brass underneath. The mood shifts from that of a swing dance to a caravan trudging across an Arabian desert.
The set closes with Scott’s “Celebration on the Planet Mars,” the longest, most free-spirited track in the set. Bortnick cuts loose about two-thirds into the piece with strong support from the horns, Bates and Garcia. The song also goes through some melodic transitions, shifting form blistering, high-energy movement to tranquility, a moment to pause and reflect.
The Ghost Train Orchestra was formed in 2006 after Carpenter was named musical director for an event marking the 60th anniversary of the Regent Theater in Arlington, Massachusetts.
Deemed a modern guitar virtuoso, Fareed Haque goes on an adventure with Out of Nowhere (Charleston Square Recordings, 2013).
Voted “Best World Guitarist” by Guitar Player magazine, he has toured with Zawinul Syndicate, Sting and Paquito D’Rivera.
Haque goes with a trio format on half the songs and quintet for the other half. The trio includes Billy Hart on drums and George Mraz on bass. Bassist Doug Weiss contributes to “TexMex Jungle.” The quintet consists of Rob Clearfield, piano; Corey Healey, drums; John Tate, bass; and Salar Nader, tabla and percussion.
“TexMex Jungle” has an upbeat, finger-snapping pace. The guitar appears to be layered as there is a rhythm track underneath the lead. Hart infuses some metronome quality rim shots. Weiss goes to town during his solo, snapping the strings with vigor. Haque demonstrates speed and accuracy as he puts the guitar through a series of high-speed rolls.
The quintet takes on the Coltrane classic, “Giant Steps.” Haque’s haunting play, combined with an assortment of electronic sounds, make this one of the most unique interpretations. He adds a bit of wah-wah to the rhythm when Clearfield takes point. One of the atmospheric effects is what sounds like someone attempting to tune a two-way radio.
Haque was 50 at the time of this recording, Raised in Chicago by a Pakistani father and Chilean mother, he says he grew up playing jazz, blues and R&B on the Chicago scene. Those styles come through in different forms on Out of Nowhere.
Take vintage compositions, mix with a few stars of today, and you’ll get a delicacy for the ears. Bassist Tom Kennedy accomplishes this with Just Play (Capri Records, 2013).
Kennedy delivers fresh interpretations of songs composed by Sonny Rollins, Victor Young, Lee Morgan (the review copy incorrectly credits Freddie Hubbard with “Ceora”), Duke Ellington, Cedar Walton, Dave Brubeck and Cole Porter.
For this outing, Kennedy calls upon the talents of Dave Weckl, drums; Renee Rosnes, piano; George Garzone, tenor sax; Mike Stern, guitar; Tim Hagans, trumpet; Lee Ritenour, guitar; John Allred, trombone; and Steve Wirts, tenor sax. Kennedy plays acoustic bass.
The Rollins classic “Airegin” opens the set. Though a mid-sized ensemble, Kennedy and friends play it with all the verve of a big band. Garzone makes the tenor wail during his solo, and Rosnes licks her chops. The leader isn’t content to stand back and watch. Kennedy gets quite busy underneath the leads, as does Weckl. Of course, the bass gets its moment to shine as well.
Stern composed the one original song, “One Liners.” His distinctive guitar voice blends well with one of the tenors. The song is more fusion than classic, but still fits well with the overall concept. The other horns sit this one out as the smaller lineup cranks up the heat.
Walton’s “Bolivia” brings back that little big-band feel. One of the tenors carries the load much of the way, and Weckl renders a solo similar to Joe Morello’s job on the definitive “Take Five.”
Kennedy has recorded or performed with a range of artists, including Michael Brecker with Steps Ahead, Al DiMeola, Mike Stern, David Sanborn, Joe Sample and Lee Ritenour. Recorded in one day at Nola Studios in New York City, Just Play is like a structured jam session. Many of the songs were recorded in one take. Kennedy dedicates the recording to his brother, Ray, who has multiple sclerosis.