Category Archives: Jazz
She’s one of four. And now she’s on her own. Lauren Kinhan of the New York Voices steps out with Circle in a Square (Dotted i Records, 2014). It’s her third solo album.
Kinhan has been with New York Voices for two decades. Following up on her acclaimed 2010 release, Avalon, she presents a set of 12 original songs that are as much about the instruments as they are about her voice.
Andy Ezrin provides piano or Hammond B3 organ on all but one track. David Finck and Will Lee split bass duties. Ben Wittman has drums on all tracks and percussion on most. Among the other contributors are trumpeter Randy Brecker, saxophonists Joel Frahm and Donny McCaslin, and guitarists Romero Lubambo and Chuck Loeb.
The title song, with music co-written by Kinhan with Ada Rovatti and lyrics by Kinhan, features the vocalist with a small ensemble that includes Lee, Wittman and Brecker. It’s a charming piece that highlights the instruments as well as the voice. Kinhan’s bouncy vocal adds a nice touch.
“Chasing the Sun” highlights Kinhan’s scatting skill. Aaron Heick contributes on alto flute with the core trio and Lubambo joining the accompaniment. Kinhan really stretches out here, demonstrating her range and vocal dexterity. Wittman shows off a bit during the guitar solo.
Fellow New York Voices member Peter Eldridge co-wrote the music and plays piano on the closing track, “The Deep Within.” Frahm joins them on tenor sax.
Kinhan is an exceptional blend with her “day job” as a member of New York Voices. The team concept is also evident on Circle in a Square. She showcases her talent as a songwriter and vocalist throughout, while highlighting the gifts of her accompanists. Each musician puts his or her stamp on the songs without necessarily needing a solo to be heard.
Drummer Matt Wilson has at least one Grammy nomination to his name. A feat possible only through creating wonderful music. His 11th release as a leader is Gathering call (Palmetto Records, 2014), featuring the Matt Wilson Quartet and keyboard artist John Medeski.
Born in 1964 in Knoxville, Illionois, Wilson has been featured on the covers of both DownBeat and JazzTimes magazines. His associations include Joe Lovano, Charlie Haden, Herbie Hancock, Elvis Costello, Bobby Hutcherson, Kenny Barron, Cedar Walton, Michael Brecker, Wynton Marsalis, Pat Metheny and others.
The lineup for Gathering Call consists of Wilson, drums; Jeff Lederer, tenor and soprano saxophones, clarinet; Kirk Knuffke, cornet; Chris Lightcap, bass; and Medeski, piano.
The set opens with a delightful take on Duke Ellington’s “Main Stem.” That’s followed by the startling-speed Matt Wilson original, “Some Assembly Required.” One can visualize the ant colony activity at a manufacturing plant as Leder puts the tenor through a blistering pace. Medeski’s solo represents the frantic recovery process that follows a conveyor belt freeze. Once the repair is made, Knuffke takes over, having the workers double their output to cover for lost time. Underneath, Wilson is the shop foreman who keeps pushing everyone to complete their assigned tasks.
The title song is a free-form, mishmash of sound. Apart from the horns playing in unison, there’s no discernible melody or rhythm. It is, indeed, a “Gathering Call.” In contrast is the light-hearted take on Ellington’s “You Dirty Dog.” The rhythm section is tight as Knuffke and Lederer take turns with the lead.
Gathering Call was assembled like a jam session. The album was recorded in one seven-hour session with little or no rehearsal. “We just played the music,” Wilson says. One can easily hear the fun the musicians had making this.
Give them a taste of something familiar, then surprise them with the unknown. That seems to be the approach saxophonist Tsuyoshi Niwa takes with At the End of the Day (2013).
The supporting cast for this effort are Randy Brecker, trumpet and flugelhorn; Yuichi Inoue, piano; Phil Palombi, acoustic and electric bass; and Billy Kilson, drums. Niwa plays soprano saxophone and flute.
The classic “My Favorite Things” begins with a moody, off-the-beaten path take on the melody. That’s just to give the song a somewhat familiar foundation. Niwa and Brecker then lick their chops as each takes off on a riveting adventure. Not to be outdone, Inoue also scores. Though Kilson doesn’t have a solo, his workout on the kit cannot go unnoticed.
After that, it’s five songs composed by Niwa. Each track is upwards of nine minutes, so don’t expect anything that fits the mainstream.
“I Miss the Idea of Her” is a melancholy piece that’s performed like a symphony without strings. The pace is like a slow waltz. Listen for Palombi and Kilson show off a little in the background. As with the other songs, it’s mostly about the horn leads with piano underscore. Mostly. Inoue does get his chance to stretch out.
Niwa was born in Tokyo in 1972. He had easy access to art and technology as a child. Both a computer technician and an artist, Niwa picked up his first horn, a trumpet, at the age of 10 – the same time he mastered his first computer language: BASIC. He began playing jazz at 15. After moving to New York, Niwa worked as a food analyst for a Japanese noodle company – by day. And at night, he played with a jazz quartet which featured such musicians as Robert Glasper and Otis Brown III.
At the End of the Day is Niwa’s testament to his travels and experiences.
Some jazz artists revisit the American Songbook for a thematic cover album. Some adapt pop or R&B songs into instrumentals. Ken Peplowski takes a different approach. Maybe September (Capri Records, 2013) features new arrangements of 10 songs that come from an array of artists – songs that aren’t commonly covered.
Among those composers whose songs are arranged here are Irving Berlin, Artie Shaw, Brian Wilson, Duke Ellington, Percy Faith and Harry Nilsson.
Peplowski plays clarinet and tenor saxophone. His sidemen are Ted Rosenthal, piano; Martin Wind, bass; and Matt Wilson, drums.
“Moon Ray” features Peplowski on the clarinet. This is a lively adaptation of the Paul Madison/Artie Shaw composition. Peplowski’s performance is worthy of Eddie Daniels or Pete Fountain.
Peplowski takes to the tenor for “Always a Bridesmaid,” the album’s only original song. It’s a full display of the saxophone as Peplowski goes free styling. He does step back a little for Rosenthal and Wilson to showcase their chops, but it’s really all about the leader.
Maybe September is Peplowski’s third album for Capri. His previous efforts are Noir Blue and In Search Of ….
Award-winning jazz educator Earl MacDonald rearranges the concept of a jazz quartet. Where one normally would have piano, drums, bass and another instrument, MacDonald’s ensemble deviates slightly for Mirror of the Mind (Death Defying Records, 2013).
MacDonald plays piano. He is accompanied by the Creative Opportunities Workshop: Kris Allen, saxophones; Christopher Hoffman, cello; and Rogerio Broccato, percussion.
The title song opens the set. It starts with soft piano, cello and light cymbals. Then, the groove kicks in with the full quartet. Allen leads. The mood is bright and charming. With MacDonald and Boccato mixing it up in the background, the saxophone continues to point the way. Meanwhile, Hoffman plays the cello at times like a rhythm guitar, but later plucks the strings like a piccolo bass.
After a lively rendition of the Beatles’ “Blackbird,” the quartet comes back with the delightful “Bidwell Cronies.” A brief, playful walk-in-the-park piece that includes several pauses – perhaps to watch the children play or admire the flowers.
MacDonald is director of jazz studies at the University of Connecticut. He was formerly pianist and musical director for Maynard Ferguson’s Big Bop Nouveau Band. MacDonald’s Re:Visions – Works for Jazz Orchestra received a 2011 Canadian Juno Award nomination for “traditional jazz album of the year.” Among other distinctions, MacDonald has won the Sammy Nestico Award for big band arranging, and the jazz song category of the 2011 Independent Music Awards.
Mirror of the Mind accomplishes two things. It reaffirms the concept of thinking outside the box, particularly with use of the cello. And it demonstrates MacDonald’s progression as a composer, delivering music that shifts easily from mellow listening to engaged activity to something abstract.
Roberto Vally has recorded and toured with some of the biggest names in entertainment. You hear him on records with George Benson, Al Jarreau, Jeffrey Osborne, Patti Austin, Bob James, Jenny Rivera, Joan Sebastian, Diane Schuur, Christopher Cross, Randy Crawford, Boney James, and countless others. For twenty years he has been the bassist for and currently on tour with Bobby Caldwell. And now Roberto is stepping out with his first long awaited solo cd, “Boom Boom Boom”.
With so many recorded compositions for other artists in his catalogue, Roberto decided to express his depth of experience by recording an album of songs that reflects his diverse writing skills and focus on contemporary sounds from around the world. Along with Roberto’s variety of basses you’ll also hear from some of his best musician friends that have contributed to this fantastic collection of songs. Accordion (Enrique Martinez), mute trumpet (Greg Adams, Luis Eric,) Spanish & electric guitar (Federico Ramos, Jeff Carruthers, Paul Brown, Carlyle Barriteau), flute (Rick Keller), rhodes (Tom Schuman), and drums (Land Richards, MB Gordy).
Boom Boom Boom is one of the best smooth jazz albums at CDBaby.