Jeff Wanser - jazzreview.com - Your Jazz Music Connection - jazzreview.com - Your Jazz Music Connection http://www.jazzreview.com Tue, 23 May 2017 18:17:02 -0500 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Aspects by the Kevin Kizer Quintet http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/aspects-by-the-kevin-kizer-quintet.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/aspects-by-the-kevin-kizer-quintet.html Aspects by the Kevin Kizer Quintet
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.

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.

Kizer had previously worked with Ted Sirota's Soul Rebels, among others, and seems to be looking for a sound that is quite different than the avant-garde approach of ten years ago. However, he has played lots of different styles over the years, and one would suspect that he's not about to be pinned down to a single one. For this album he recruited two members of the Soul Rebels, string men Dave Miller (also an indie rock guitarist) and Jake Vinsel. Neal Wehman plays rock and R&B as well as jazz, so he's ready for anything. For the fifth member, Kizer had to look no further than his own house for violinist Katherine Hughes, his wife. She has played all styles, working with everyone from Tony Bennett to Yo-Yo Ma to Yes. All are active in multiple projects in the Chicago music scene, and this album was recorded in a church in the suburbs of the city in 2010.

Among the many striking things about this release is the sense of democracy and interaction. Although Kizer puts his name on the group, everybody gets extensive time, everybody (except Wehman) has a composition here, and even the individual compositions don't necessarily feature the musician who wrote them. Jake Vinsel takes the first shot with "Titled," but although you can certainly hear his bass, this is very much a group affair. Dave Miller is up next, with "Breath," but Vincel is more prominent here than in his own piece, and while Miller does have a good long solo (his guitar sound seems more fusion-influenced than anything else), he provides plenty of space for the others. Katherine Hughes takes the first one, and her sound reminds me a bit of Stephane Grappelli (not everywhere), a turn away from a chamber style.

They go for bop on the third track, "I'm Drifting Apart," the only one not written by a band member (a John Scott tune). Here Kizer takes the lead with Miller supporting, who then takes over from Kizer. On other pieces, such as "Becky's Bash," Hughes and Miller trade solos, followed by some drum work by Wehman. No track has a single soloist, and every piece has a different feel, in part due to the variety of instrumentation. It's a great mix, and the group works remarkably well together; a feeling of familiarity and comradeship abide. The group's approach is also very melody-oriented and the tunes are catchy and fun.

The album ends with a Hughes arrangement of "O Sacred Head," quieter than most of the other tunes, but simultaneously light and intense in approach, owing to Hughes and Miller taking the leads. The variety of sounds and styles, the level of playing, and the clear engagement and joy of the musicians in their work all lead me to recommend this highly.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Jeff Wanser) Straight-Ahead - CD Reviews Sun, 01 Apr 2012 22:00:39 -0500
Solo/Duo by Tosh Sheridan http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/solo-duo-by-tosh-sheridan.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/solo-duo-by-tosh-sheridan.html Solo/Duo by Tosh Sheridan
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.

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.

Sheridan is of a younger generation of guitarists. He graduated from the Berklee College of Music in 1998, with a Master's in jazz performance from City College of New York in 2004. He's been working in the New York scene for a number of years. A student of Gene Bertoncini, his style is somewhat similar, but he has his own sound, despite both having a penchant for nylon and a tendency to show Spanish and classical influences. This is Sheridan's debut album, and he invited his mentor and John Stowell along for the ride, thus including three generations of guitar masters. The program for the album mixes duos and solos, so that Sheridan maximizes the diversity of sound from track to track.

Some of the standards are by no means easy ones. "Giant Steps" is a tough go as a solo piece, but Sheridan makes it work for him, in part by keeping it short and to the point. He stretches out a bit on the duos, where he gives his guests plenty of room to make their own statements. Sheridan and Bertoncini weave together very nicely. There's a bit more distance between Sheridan and Stowell, perhaps because of slightly different temperaments, but the result is a greater distinction between them with more intriguing, and slightly more dissonant results. Of course dissonance is relative, and these guys never quite reach a boil in terms of decibels, speed, or aggression. "Bluesette" is a case in point, where the two guitarists' amazing technique is on display and they trade solos, but just as often play intricate themes simultaneously.

"Willow Weep for Me" is the track where Sheridan and Bertoncini shine. They blues it up, and sound like they're having a great time. Sheridan's solo work impresses me the most on the last two pieces, "Jitterbug Waltz' and "Something," where he plays the Waller and Harrison tunes fairly straight. He sounds earnest and in the moment.

For acoustic guitar fans, this album is a gold mine. For those who might like more variety in instrumentation, perhaps Sheridan's next album will demonstrate his diversity more openly.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Jeff Wanser) Straight-Ahead - CD Reviews Sun, 18 Mar 2012 19:06:08 -0500
Live at Scullers Jazz Club by the Yoko Miwa Trio http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/live-at-scullers-jazz-club-by-the-yoko-miwa-trio.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/live-at-scullers-jazz-club-by-the-yoko-miwa-trio.html Live at Scullers Jazz Club by the Yoko Miwa Trio
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.

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.

Miwa studied classical music and jazz in Japan before coming to the U.S., and upon graduating from Berklee she was offered a teaching position. Very impressive. She worked with the Ryles Jazz Orchestra as well as being the accompanist for Kevin Mahogany. Diverse background. Now she fronts a trio around town, and has put out five albums (four on Japanese labels). Prolific. But what does she sound like?

Her style is lyrical and accessible, concentrating on mainstream styles, but with a clear sense of expertise that brings in her classical background as well as her influences. One hears a bit of Bill Evans and McCoy Tyner, but she's not an imitator. Miwa plays a wide range of stuff, incorporating swing, blues, bop, pop, Brazilian, chamber, and stride. While a lot of her music is fun (Steve Allen's "This Could Be the Start of Something" leads off) but also intense, and she takes time to develop each song. Of the seven tracks, only two run under nine minutes, so she spins the music out, never cutting it short. The result is a sense of envelopment for the listener; leisurely, but requiring alertness in order to catch the way she grows each tune.

Three of the songs are originals, with the others from a startling variety of composers, including Art Farmer, Milton Nascimento, Steven Tyler, and Lou Reed. The presence of rock artists suggest a Brad Mehldau approach, but Miwa's take on them places them closer to her mainstream aspirations. She gets to do some pounding on Tyler's "Seasons of Wither," but takes a somewhat gentler attitude toward Reed's "Who Loves the Sun." Curiously, these are the two shortest tracks on the album, as if the musical ideas couldn't sustain a longer stretch. Her original compositions are very enjoyable, and I especially liked "Mr. B.G.," a love letter to Benny Green.

The live format doesn't sound live. There is no crowd noise, no introduction, and no applause except at the very end. The sound is warm and intimate, and the engineer has done fine work. As for the rest of her trio, Greg Loughman (bass), and Scott Goulding (drums) do exactly the job they need to do. They only get an occasional chance to shine, though, as Miwa's piano dominates throughout. They do peek through on faster numbers, such as Farmer's tune, "Mox Nix," where Goulding gets a nice solo. Loughman does good work, but is often buried by Miwa's left hand.

This is a fine album, and The Yoko Miwa Trio is likely to rise quickly in jazz circles. Piano jazz fans will be particularly impressed by her dazzling technique, range of moods, and intensity. Others will just be impressed.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Jeff Wanser) Straight-Ahead - CD Reviews Tue, 13 Mar 2012 13:37:49 -0500
Alex Brown by Alex Brown http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/latin-jazz-/-latin-funk-cd-reviews/alex-brown-by-alex-brown.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/latin-jazz-/-latin-funk-cd-reviews/alex-brown-by-alex-brown.html Alex Brown by Alex Brown
I was concerned when I saw the front of the CD, "Paquito D'Rivera Presents Alex Brown, Pianist." It's nice for a big-name musician to help out the new kid, but does he really need an endorsement? Is he that bad? Fortunately, I was dead wrong. Brown is one of the finest young pianists I've come across, and this debut album is nothing short of outstanding.

I was concerned when I saw the front of the CD, "Paquito D'Rivera Presents Alex Brown, Pianist." It's nice for a big-name musician to help out the new kid, but does he really need an endorsement? Is he that bad? Fortunately, I was dead wrong. Brown is one of the finest young pianists I've come across, and this debut album is nothing short of outstanding.

Alex Brown has managed to get around, having worked with Rivera's band since 2007, but also performing with Miguel Zenon and Wynton Marsalis. He studied with Danilo Perez and Charlie Banacos at the New England Conservatory and won some Young Composer Awards. He sometimes fronts his own group, and is poking around in classical music on the side. So, he has no dust on him, but what does he sound like?

The first word that comes to mind is "complex." His arrangements fill the ear, but not needlessly so. Brown plays fast, but can slow it down when he wants to. He works with a fair number of musicians, as you might expect when playing Latin jazz, but he puts them to good use with everything carefully constructed, while leaving plenty of room for improvisation. His choice of Latin styles range from Cuban to Brazilian, having absorbed a lot from his mentors. Forces vary on each track, and when Brown goes for a mainstream sound, he pares down to a quartet or trio. The second word is "strong." Brown has no timidity in his playing. He can be gentle, but that's very different from weak, and he knows where he is going and what sound he wants.

Lastly, I would use the word "generous." The pianist is out front a substantial portion of the time, but so is Vivek Patel on flugelhorn, and Warren Wolf on marimba. D'Rivera makes an appearance on three tracks, "The Wrong Jacket," "Lamentos," and "Buleria," getting some time in on both alto sax and clarinet. Patel is often where D'Rivera is not, supplying different colors and variety to the tracks. Everybody gets solo time, but for much of the rest Brown has the musicians playing in combinations, trading phrases and keeping the music moving.

The recording was produced in two days, with the larger group on Day One, the smaller quartet/trio work on the next day. The only musicians who play on every track are Brown, Ben Williams, and Eric Doob. The three are by themselves for two tracks, "Waltz," and "Just One of Those Things," the latter one of the two tunes not written by Brown. The first is a slower piece, contemplative and warm. The second starts in similar fashion, but speeds up quickly, with lots of fine work by Williams on bass. Days

One and Two are mixed on the album, lending even more variety from track to track.

As a debut album, this is as good as one is likely to find. The playing is superb, with Brown everywhere but not overwhelming. My interest never flagged, because with every minute came something new, a combination of instruments, a set of colors and tones, a new rhythmic direction. This is great Latin jazz combined with great mainstream jazz, and I recommend it highly.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Jeff Wanser) Latin Jazz / Latin Funk - CD Reviews Tue, 21 Feb 2012 19:05:04 -0600
Hocus Focus by the Ed Barrett Trio http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/hocus-focus-by-the-ed-barrett-trio.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/hocus-focus-by-the-ed-barrett-trio.html Hocus Focus by the Ed Barrett Trio
Ed Barrett has a presence on YouTube, but there isn't a lot of rousing concert footage or material from his albums. You'll find instead a short interview piece where he talks about why he plays jazz, his background, and some footage of him goofing around on drums and piano. He seems like a quiet, unassuming guy who loves to play jazz guitar; sort of like an accountant who does gigs on the side. But his latest release, Hocus Focus, demonstrates his abilities and passions in a very direct way.

Ed Barrett has a presence on YouTube, but there isn't a lot of rousing concert footage or material from his albums. You'll find instead a short interview piece where he talks about why he plays jazz, his background, and some footage of him goofing around on drums and piano. He seems like a quiet, unassuming guy who loves to play jazz guitar; sort of like an accountant who does gigs on the side. But his latest release, Hocus Focus, demonstrates his abilities and passions in a very direct way.

He is quite the expert guitar picker. Barrett plays mostly mainstream jazz with his trio, with some progressive elements thrown in. There's not much funky stuff or anything that suggests that he is surrounded by the environment of his New Orleans home in here. He apparently also plays with other groups locally, such as Les Syncopators de Bayou, and perhaps that comes out. This is not a problem or a criticism, since his playing is really excellent in his chosen style, as he varies from quiet, introspective pieces to more burning, swinging, even rocking-out pieces with this trio. Grant Green and Pat Martino come to mind when Barrett plays, although he isn't just imitating his influences or predecessors.

Barrett moves easily between standards like "Stella by Starlight" and "All the Things You Are" to his own compositions. Some pieces are played pretty straight, such as the closer, "Moonlight Serenade," while others like "Autumn Leaves" are molded into pretty much unrecognizable shapes. I don't mind a bit, especially on this tune, since I never cared for it. Barrett's version I like a lot, with its fast forward motion and heavy, almost surf music beat. The centerpiece for me is "Shark Tooth," an original piece that lets him stretch out and move from bop riffs to rock to more progressive elements. Here he also displays best his interactions with bassist Joshua Gouzy, as they trade phrases back and forth.

If there is a shortcoming to this album it has to do with the slightly limiting trio format. Barrett's guitar dominates every tune, and while his bandmates get a little time of their own (especially Chris Davis on "Stella"), there needs to be a bit more variety. A guest appearance on two tracks by a horn player would have been a perfect change-up for the album, allowing the listener to take a short break from Barrett's somewhat overwhelming presence. However, overall, this is a fine straight-ahead jazz guitar album, deserving of a wide audience.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Jeff Wanser) Straight-Ahead - CD Reviews Tue, 14 Feb 2012 15:51:29 -0600
Chillin Out in Dark Places by Joe Blessett http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/smooth-jazz-cd-reviews/chillin-out-in-dark-places-by-joe-blessett.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/smooth-jazz-cd-reviews/chillin-out-in-dark-places-by-joe-blessett.html Chillin Out in Dark Places by Joe Blessett
Joe Blessett makes an interesting case for going into the studio and doing your own thing.  His sixth release as a solo artist has him everywhere, laying down music tracks on several instruments, voicing over for effect, mixing, and even marketing his own product.  The result is a pastiche of music that runs from smooth to funk, and tracks that run in and out like a fever dream. 

 Joe Blessett makes an interesting case for going into the studio and doing your own thing.  His sixth release as a solo artist has him everywhere, laying down music tracks on several instruments, voicing over for effect, mixing, and even marketing his own product.  The result is a pastiche of music that runs from smooth to funk, and tracks that run in and out like a fever dream. 

He's certainly an individualist, and has his own take on creating music.  Classifying his music is pointless, because he eclectically combines several styles as the mood suits him.  He describes it as "a private library of music," a sort of personal soundtrack from his head.  Some tracks sound very much along the lines of smooth jazz, while others are more funky, with electronics and vocals making a case.  In a few places, he is closer to dance music, going heavy on the electronic side with a strong beat.  Whichever way he turns, he quickly changes his direction, flowing from mood to mood.  The overall effect is of the artist searching for something, a restless, ethereal quality that some may find intriguing, and others a bit annoying.  Stay put for a minute.

"What's Your Secret" features some unidentified guest vocalizations by a woman apparently having a good time, along the lines of the sounds Meg Ryan made in the restaurant scene in "When Harry Met Sally."  As the woman at the adjacent table said,
"I'll have what she's having."  Several other tracks also have female voices repeating phrases, fading in and out, acting much like the instruments Blessett includes.  These are often in the more funky, electronic tracks.  Sax dominates on the smoother pieces.  Blessett has a fine sound on the sax, one that sings and cries, sometimes wails or has a ghostly feel, but is never weak and is always spot on.  

If you're looking for musical eclecticism that combines styles in unique ways, Joe Blessett may just be your ticket to a different sound experience.  But don't look for him at your local club.  He is apparently a studio-only artist.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Jeff Wanser) Smooth Jazz - CD Reviews Sun, 01 Jan 2012 07:00:32 -0600
Don’t Bring Me Down, by The Heavyweights Brass Band http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/traditional-/-new-orleans-cd-reviews/dont-bring-me-down-by-the-heavyweights-brass-band.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/traditional-/-new-orleans-cd-reviews/dont-bring-me-down-by-the-heavyweights-brass-band.html Don’t Bring Me Down, by The Heavyweights Brass Band
One could alternately describe these five young Canadian musicians as a New-Orleans-style brass band, a funk band, an R&B band, or simply an eclectic group who play what pleases them. They're very good, versatile musicians, with a tight, well-rehearsed sound, clearly very much into the music that they're creating. So why has it taken me so much time to warm up to their debut album?

One could alternately describe these five young Canadian musicians as a New-Orleans-style brass band, a funk band, an R&B band, or simply an eclectic group who play what pleases them.  They're very good, versatile musicians, with a tight, well-rehearsed sound, clearly very much into the music that they're creating.  So why has it taken me so much time to warm up to their debut album?

I don't think it's that they don't understand what they're doing, because some songs sound great.  But in comparing them to Dirty Dozen Brass Band, or Rebirth Brass Band, they sound thin and emaciated.  However, look at the comparative sizes of the groups.  Other brass bands work with eight, ten, or twelve members.  The Heavyweights are trying for the same sound with five.  No wonder.  Another problem is that they attempt to do some songs that were done so well by the original artists that they can't help but pale by comparison.  If you're going to do "Beat It," "Why Can't We Be Friends," or "Just the Two of Us," you'd better bring something fresh and new to the table, or don't bother.  Sad to say, the Heavyweights aren't up to the task, either through sheer numbers, arrangements, or funky/smoothness.  

So, what do they do right?  The two funkiest songs, that are just delightful, are "Nueva Orleans" and "Rock Me," both featuring guest singers, Ogguere on the first, Saidah Baba Talibah on the second.  Ogguere is a Cuban singer/rapper, who combines his voice with the Heavyweights' significantly inspired New Orleans-style playing to arrive at something fresh and original.  With English/Spanish singing and banter, the guys take off and sound authentic.  Saidah Baba Talibah is a young Toronto-based R&B singer who moves the Heavyweights into a bluesy mode, and they play at a higher level than in most of their instrumental pieces.  What is it about the singers that makes them sound better?  Perhaps it's just the greater forces.  I don't think they're fated to be a backup group.  Paul Metcalfe and Jonathan Challoner have some fine solos on sax and trumpet, for example, in "The Plunge" and "Sexy Ways," where they carry the pieces very well.

I suspect that my reticence has something to do with, for lack of a better term, the squareness of their playing, especially on the New Orleans-style tunes and the covers.  It's not fair, perhaps to compare them to another Canadian group, the Diamonds, a 1950s vocal group who covered songs of several R&B groups for Mercury Records, but I will anyway.  The Diamonds' first hit was "Why Do Fools Fall in Love," competing on the charts with the far superior original by Frankie Lyman & the Teenagers.  It was terrible, the arrangement as dull as dishwater, without an ounce of soul.  After a year or so, they started to understand the style, and had a big hit with "Little Darlin'," a cover of a tune by the Gladiolas.  They got better, and they got better fast.  I suspect that once the Heavyweights figure out how to sound funkier, larger, and frankly, heavier, they will do just fine.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Jeff Wanser) Traditional / New Orleans - CD Reviews Sat, 31 Dec 2011 04:44:47 -0600
Charles Rendition by Fjordne http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/ambient-jazz-cd-reviews/charles-rendition-by-fjordne.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/ambient-jazz-cd-reviews/charles-rendition-by-fjordne.html Charles Rendition by Fjordne
Fjordne (given name, Shunichiro Fujimoto) produces music that is adventurous, expansive and a bit other-worldly, yet highly listenable and absorbing. His approach is to feature the piano as the melodic centerpiece and have electronic sounds create various moods around it. The effects change from track to track, but are sometimes wistful, other times nostalgic and occasionally mysterious.

Fjordne (given name, Shunichiro Fujimoto) produces music that is adventurous, expansive and a bit other-worldly, yet highly listenable and absorbing. His approach is to feature the piano as the melodic centerpiece and have electronic sounds create various moods around it. The effects change from track to track, but are sometimes wistful, other times nostalgic and occasionally mysterious.

This is not Fjordne's first recording, having made four previously, and this is his second for the Kitchen label. The label is known for high-end art productions. The limited-run CD normally comes in a 7-inch cover with specially produced accompanying materials, including a short story by the composer, program and artwork. None of this came with the review copy and so we will focus on the music rather than the printed product.

The inspiration for this work comes from Charles Dickens' novel "Great Expectations," from which his short story derives, and the tracks are a series of vignettes that evoke a sense of wonder, loss and decadence. Presumably, the Charles of the title refers to Dickens. Much of the beauty of the album comes from Fjordne's remarkable piano melodies that continue unabated throughout, although they change with more nostalgic sounds in earlier tracks, swinging, groove-based playing in the middle and greater dissonance towards the end. The last track brings us back to a mood evoking the earliest ones. Influenced by pianists such as Bobo Stenson and Paul Bley, one can hear some elements of free jazz and European third stream in Fjordne's playing.

The electronic sounds add or run counter to the mood of the piano and vary from percussion, to strings, to vocals to ambient sounds. In some cases, they offer a countermelody, giving the impression of an Ivesian polytonality or the feeling that one is listening to two pieces of music coming from different rooms. The effect is both startling and quite lovely. The vocal pieces, such as in "Gathering" and "hope," sound like cabaret music from another country, world-weary and regretful. With "forfeiture" Fjordne starts to get his groove on and while the rhythm is never fast, it is always insistent, forcing an intensity to the piece. "hope" is anything but hopeful and the listener is not disappointed to hear a female voice break in with a sad, childlike refrain, followed by a swirling chaos of fragmented melody and ambient sounds. "Ald square" continues the mood, replacing the vocals with saxophone and seeming like a fever dream. A beautiful melody slowly breaks apart in "Ebenze" before coming back to a resolution, while "antidotal" does nearly the opposite, beginning with a set of fragments that dissolve into a melody, that is then joined by an distant, dissonant chorus.

Fjordne clearly has a unique vision for his work and I would certainly like to hear more. The print run for the physical edition of this CD is 700 copies, but the music is also available in digital format.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Jeff Wanser) Ambient Jazz - CD Reviews Wed, 28 Dec 2011 12:19:34 -0600
Culmination by Donovan Mixon http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/culmination-by-donovan-mixon.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/culmination-by-donovan-mixon.html Culmination by Donovan Mixon
Donovan Mixon has seen some of the world in the last two decades, and the influences show in Culmination. After teaching at the Berklee College of Music, the guitarist spent seven years in Italy, then ten in Turkey, bouncing between freelance work and teaching. Now he's back, with a group of mostly Turkish musicians, and the result is a mix of chamber jazz, world music, and bop that is intense, yet quiet and film-like in atmosphere.

Donovan Mixon has seen some of the world in the last two decades, and the influences show in Culmination. After teaching at the Berklee College of Music, the guitarist spent seven years in Italy, then ten in Turkey, bouncing between freelance work and teaching. Now he's back, with a group of mostly Turkish musicians, and the result is a mix of chamber jazz, world music, and bop that is intense, yet quiet and film-like in atmosphere.

While the title track won Mixon an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, it is only one of several excellent compositions on this release. Each one features a different combination of instrumentation, with sax, trumpet, and cello coming and going, occasionally featured, but never for long. Serhan Erkol has a beautiful tone on saxophone, especially when he plays baritone, and Senova Ulker mixes in nicely with trumpet and flugelhorn. More constant is Ayca Ergin on the ney, a Turkish wooden flute, who takes quite a few solos, and carries much of the melody on many tracks. Some tunes, such as "Summer of '78," have a distinctly Mediterranean feel, with Mixon's gentle guitar runs interweaving through the more prominent ney out front. Others, including "The Dance of Life" and the title track, are closer to contemporary jazz with a European flair. The complex rhythm changes suggest contemporary classical music as well. The group switches up the atmosphere with "We Are Yo Kids," a fun tune with Italian flavorings and some nice baritone sax work from Erkol.

With "Eddi & Daniela" the group begins to get a bit more mystical, with Jeff McAuley's cello and Ergin's ney trading solos, and Turkish rhythms entering and morphing the piece as it develops. Mixon's guitar sparkles briefly, but doesn't stay long enough. Where he really lets loose is in the longest track, "Quando Il Lupo Annusa i Fiori" (When the Wolf Smells the Flowers), when he picks up the electric guitar and solos extensively. The piece has a distant, noir-like feel, far more a bop tune than much of the rest of the album, and my personal favorite. Mixon is a very fine guitarist, and my major complaint about this release is that he doesn't showcase his own playing enough. Everyone else's playing is fine, and Mixon does a great job in the background for many pieces, holding things together, but sometimes the leader needs to be in the foreground. Mixon certainly deserves to be.

Mixon's years in other countries has influenced both his guitar playing and his approach to jazz in many ways. In some of his earlier releases from the 1990s he includes at least a few tracks that take a more decisive attitude with the electric guitar. Now he is more laid back in style and more willing to give up the lead, which for this introspective release is a good move. However, I'd still like to hear him ring the rafters once in a while with his ax, and am looking forward to his next album.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Jeff Wanser) Contemporary Jazz - CD Reviews Fri, 02 Dec 2011 21:46:32 -0600
Source Material by the Mike Baggetta Quartet http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/source-material-by-the-mike-baggetta-quartet.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/source-material-by-the-mike-baggetta-quartet.html Source Material by the Mike Baggetta Quartet
It's not often that one begins an album with a drum solo, but that's the sort of thing that makes one take notice. Guitarist Mike Baggetta is full of surprises on his second release with this quartet, with unusual moods and textures the order of the day. A hot young gun on the New York scene and winner of an ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award, comparisons will be made to Bill Frisell and Ralph Towner, but that's certainly not all there is to Baggetta. While he shares some stylistic elements and sense of space with both, he goes his own…

It's not often that one begins an album with a drum solo, but that's the sort of thing that makes one take notice. Guitarist Mike Baggetta is full of surprises on his second release with this quartet, with unusual moods and textures the order of the day. A hot young gun on the New York scene and winner of an ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award, comparisons will be made to Bill Frisell and Ralph Towner, but that's certainly not all there is to Baggetta. While he shares some stylistic elements and sense of space with both, he goes his own way more often than not.

The quartet certainly changes up the feel from track to track, from ballads to burners. "Momentum" is a raucous workout for both Baggetta and saxophonist Jason Rigby in a "Salt Peanuts" vein, where everyone seems to be having a great time. Other tunes, such as "The Sky & the Sea" are quiet, contemplative studies that require patience that is well-rewarded. The musicians display patience too, as they let the portions of the quieter works unfold. No need to rush when you know where you're going and want to enjoy the landscape.

Solos are traded back and forth liberally, with an ease that suggests they have played together for years. While Baggetta and Rigby take the lion's share out front, George Schuller has some fine moments in several tunes as well. Eivind Opsvik anchors the rhythm section like the veteran that he is. However, the focus is on melody, as "The Winter Moon" attests, with Baggetta's gorgeous work on acoustic guitar. Rigby plays sax as if he's talking on the faster tunes such as "A Trust Issue," which makes for more of a bop approach, while the slower compositions take on a singing or crying feel. The contrast with Baggetta works well, and the conversation never falters.

Lush and sultry in most instances, somewhat edgy in a few, the quartet is still in the process of exploring and maturing. Individually, the musicians have done a lot as sidemen, but together there is every chance that they could become a bright star.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Jeff Wanser) Contemporary Jazz - CD Reviews Tue, 22 Nov 2011 00:50:37 -0600