Joe Montague - jazzreview.com - Your Jazz Music Connection - jazzreview.com - Your Jazz Music Connection http://www.jazzreview.com Tue, 23 May 2017 10:07:20 -0500 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb One Wish by Johanna Sillanpaa http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/jazz-vocals-cd-reviews/one-wish-by-johanna-sillanpaa.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/jazz-vocals-cd-reviews/one-wish-by-johanna-sillanpaa.html One Wish by Johanna Sillanpaa
Early in December, Johanna Sillanpaa, who is quickly establishing herself as a top R&B singer in Canada released her first Christmas album, One Wish. The advance …

Early in December, Johanna Sillanpaa, who is quickly establishing herself as a top R&B singer in Canada released her first Christmas album, One Wish. The advance publicity for the CD billed it as being unique among holiday recordings, particularly because of its diversity, and this writer would concur. While there are a lot of very good, and timeless Christmas recordings, One Wish has the potential to reach a much wider audience than most, because it covers traditional carols such as, "O Come All Ye Faithful," original compositions like the funky, "Cinnamon & Sugarcones," and nods to her Swedish heritage with songs such as "Bright Shining Star," which Sillanpaa translated into English, from the original "Jul, Jul Stralande Jul."

Sillanpaa, who has been singing professionally since her early teens, is proficient at covering songs, or performing her original compositions, however, as one would expect her strongest connection is with the tunes that she has penned. By far the best three songs on this album were written or co-written by the singer. Her superb R&B vocals shine on "Grateful," a song that she co-wrote with co-producer Chris Andrew. Tatiana Lund’s background vocals for "Grateful," are incredibly beautiful, and compliment Sillanpaa nicely.

For the fanciful, original composition "Cinnamon & Sugarcones," co-written with her old friend Aaron Young, Sillanpaa is joined, as she is throughout the CD, by longtime friends, including the virtuoso acoustic guitarist Young, and bassist Kodi Hutchinson whose work on this record, is only surpassed by seeing him perform live. Also on hand are drummer Tyler Hornby and elegant pianist / keyboardist Chris Andrew.

It is however the title track, the soulful "One Wish," that will blow your mind, pull at your heartstrings, and have you firing up your computer to see how you can purchase this CD. About eighteen months ago, when I first heard one of Sillanpaa’s songs on the Calgary radio station California 103, I recall being struck by how emotive her vocals were. The larger American markets may not yet be familiar with the name Johanna Sillanpaa, but it is only a matter of time, because she can more than hold her own with any of the great R&B / soul singers, whose music is now in high rotation. Aaron Young’s guitar bridge is as beautiful as the singer’s voice, and as elegant as Andrew’s keys. "One Wish," is a song that will be with us for many years, and our children will probably be listening to it for many Christmases to come.

The last four tracks of this thirteen song CD are sung in Swedish, but just before she gets there, Sillanpaa delivers a beautiful interpretation of Joni Mitchell’s "River." For those unfamiliar with the Mitchell tune, this is a peaceful, contemplative song.

Since I do not speak Swedish, the insights that I can provide to the remaining four tracks are restricted to the instrumental portions of the songs. The gentle, "När Det Lider Mot Jul," has a pretty piano solo. "Ett Barn Är Fött På Denna Dag," is the second song featured on One Wish that has music originally penned by Martin Luther, the other being "A Child Is Born Upon This Day." Lyrics for "Ett Barn Är Fött På Denna Dag," were written by Olaus Martini and Johan Olaf Wallin. If like me you do not understand the Swedish language, don’t worry there are enough great instrumentals provided by Andrew, Young, Hornby and Hutchinson to keep you listening. The remaining songs are, "Jul, Jul Strålande Jul," recorded in English on an earlier track, and "Dagen Ar Kommen."

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Joe Montague) Jazz Vocals - CD Reviews Fri, 25 May 2007 19:00:00 -0500
Trio West Plays Holiday Songs by Trio West http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/holiday-jazz-cd-reviews/trio-west-plays-holiday-songs-by-trio-west.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/holiday-jazz-cd-reviews/trio-west-plays-holiday-songs-by-trio-west.html Trio West Plays Holiday Songs by Trio West
When I spun Trio West Plays Holiday Songs for the first time, what really appealed to me was the intimacy that was created on this album by Tobias T. Gebb (drumme…

When I spun Trio West Plays Holiday Songs for the first time, what really appealed to me was the intimacy that was created on this album by Tobias T. Gebb (drummer, arranger, producer), Eldad Zvulun (piano), bass player Neal Miner and bass player (tracks 1, 10, 12) Miles Brown. Zvulun’s piano sensibilities, particularly on the opening two tracks "O Tannenbaum" and "Silent Night," put you in a front-row seat of a cozy lounge. Although this is a studio production, the artists have retained the warmth of a live performance, something that is rare in today’s world of technological wizardry.

Gebb’s gentle drumming, an oxymoron I am sure in some circles, contribute to the gentle interpretations of "O Tannenbaum" and "Silent Night" as he makes liberal use of his brushes and he wields a pair of soft drumsticks. Gebb created new arrangements for "Silent Night," which lengthens the song, reminds us that this is still a jazz CD, but at the same time remains respectful to the original composition.

In terms of song selection, there are not a lot of surprises as the songs are all seasonal classics or carols, including "What Child Is This," "Winter Wonderland," "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and "I’ll Be Home For Christmas." "Christmas Time Is Here," a song written by Vince Gauraldi and Lee Mendelson, but forever linked to Charles M. Schulz’s character Charlie Brown, is contemplative. We remember the scraggly Christmas tree that Charlie Brown brought to the Christmas pageant and the reminder that all of us are deserving of unconditional love.

Trio West takes a very lyrical approach to their music and that is particularly noticeable with "Winter Wonderland" and the Mel Torme/Robert Wells’s tune "The Christmas Song." If you didn’t know the words to these songs, I suspect that you would find yourself improvising lyrics to accompany the ensemble’s emotive playing.

When it comes to Christmas songs, I tend to be a traditionalist and know how I like my familiar tunes to sound, but Trio West’s CD really got under my skin in a good way. For instance, I quite enjoyed "O Little Town Of Bethlehem," which combines the traditional with new and livelier arrangements. I would not refer to this as a solemn or humble offering, but I do think it is celebratory and for Christians, that is exactly what Christmas is supposed to represent.

I really liked bassist Neal Miner’s emotive playing on Frank Loesser’s "What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve," a song that is further enhanced by the romantic inflections of pianist Zvulun, serving up proof that not all sentimental tunes need words to evoke a strong emotional response. If you are making a shopping list for Christmas music, the CD Trio West Plays Holiday Songs should be on it.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Joe Montague) Holiday Jazz - CD Reviews Fri, 25 May 2007 13:00:00 -0500
Smashed For The Holidays by Jacqui Naylor http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/jazz-vocals-cd-reviews/smashed-for-the-holidays-by-jacqui-naylor.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/jazz-vocals-cd-reviews/smashed-for-the-holidays-by-jacqui-naylor.html For those not familiar with the term ‘smashed,’ when used in a musical sense or the similar description ‘mashed,’ Jacqui Naylor’s CD Smashed For The Holidays, is …

For those not familiar with the term ‘smashed,’ when used in a musical sense or the similar description ‘mashed,’ Jacqui Naylor’s CD Smashed For The Holidays, is not an encouragement to get inebriated, but refers to the process of combining two songs from very different genres, to create a new composition. If you love music that is experimental, cutting edge, but performed by a vocalist and a backing band, both of whom possess an abundance of talent, then you will want to tuck this splendid album into your digital or retail shopping cart.

The southern rock rhythms of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s "Sweet Home Alabama," greet us as the disc starts to spin, but wait this is not how we remember "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town." Fasten your seat belts folks, because the lady with deep alto vocals is backed by some terrific guitar riffs, courtesy of Michael Romanowski’s bass and steel string guitar, as well as Art Khu’s electric six strings.

Led Zeppelin fans are going to be blown away by what Naylor has done with the British band’s 1973 hit tune, "D’yer Mak’er," as she smashes the rhythm and beat with the melody and lyrics for "Santa Baby." Cooing sensually, Naylor delivers an outstanding performance.

Jacqui Naylor is not a novelty act, nor is she to be confused with the entertaining parodies of "Weird Al" Yankovic. Since the early nineties, fans with eclectic musical tastes have been enjoying the jazz trained and gifted vocals of Naylor. Her vocal chops come to the forefront on "Celebrate Early And Often," which she co-wrote with Art Khu. The song is followed up by a strong cover of John Lennon’s "Happy X-mas (War Is Over)."

Naylor serves up a trio of very pretty vocal performances in the middle of this CD, Mel Torme’s "The Christmas Song," and two original songs, "Thank You Baby," and "Winter," both of which were also Naylor / Khu collaborations. "Thank You Baby," is once highlights Khu’s excellent musicianship as he serves up some memorable riffs. After hearing the opening tracks of Smashed For The Holidays, you cannot help be impressed by the sensitivity with which Naylor sings these three songs. Very seldom do you find someone who is vocally gifted enough to span a number of genres, and who can also bring the insight and emotion necessary to impact the music. Jacqui Naylor has that ability.

I was impressed with how well Art Khu’s arrangements for the Police’s "Every Breath You Take," worked with the lyrics to the classic Christmas song, "Silver Bells." If you had previously never heard either song, you would probably think this is how the music was intended to sound.

Other highlights include Naylor’s Edie Brickell like singing of "Father Christmas," the original track, "Christmas Ain’t What It Used To Be," and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Jon Evans’s acoustic bass vibes and Khu’s gentle caressing of the piano keys, provide the perfect accompaniment for another pretty performance by Naylor.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Joe Montague) Jazz Vocals - CD Reviews Fri, 25 May 2007 07:00:00 -0500
Jacintha Goes To Hollywood by Jacintha http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/jazz-vocals-cd-reviews/jacintha-goes-to-hollywood-by-jacintha.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/jazz-vocals-cd-reviews/jacintha-goes-to-hollywood-by-jacintha.html Jacintha Goes To Hollywood by Jacintha
Music and movies have always formed a good marriage, because both evoke memories. Sometimes those recollections are joyous reminders of romantic relationships, or specia…

Music and movies have always formed a good marriage, because both evoke memories. Sometimes those recollections are joyous reminders of romantic relationships, or special occasions, while at other times, they may be sadder memories. Movies and music may also cause us to recall periods of our life, or phases that we were going through. Malaysian artist Jacíntha, appearing on the Groove Note label, recently teamed up with producers Joe Harley and Ying Tan, to release the CD Jacíntha Goes To Hollywood, featuring several memorable hit songs, from movies such as The Italian Job, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, Alfie, The Thomas Crown Affair, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and Chinatown.

The label has surrounded Jacíntha with an outstanding cast of musicians, who for the most part provide a gauzy backdrop for the singer’s gentle and elegant vocals. The mood for this fine album is set early when Howlett Smith whistles in the laid back "On Days Like These," originally sung by Matt Monro for the 1969 film The Italian Job. In addition to possessing outstanding vocals, Jacíntha has one of those voices that sounds pleasant, and endears the vocalist to you immediately. She’s not seductive or flirtatious, but she is definitely charming and romantic. The producers achieved a simple, vintage sound for this CD by recording it in analogue.

If you are going to cover a song, particularly a well know tune, you had better bring something different to the recording, or the listener might as well save his or her money, and purchase the CD or soundtrack by the original artist. Jacíntha, the producers, as well as the arrangers Anthony Wilson and Iskandar Ismail, bring new arrangements and elegance to "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head," a song we are used to hearing as a more up-tempo melody.

Throughout Jacíntha Goes To Hollywood, Ismail delivers some very graceful piano chops that enhance the music, and provide the perfect accompaniment for the singer. He is at his best in the song "Alfie," from the movie of the same name.

At first glance, it would appear that the CD is a little light on tracks with only nine songs; however, six of those tunes exceed five minutes in length, with one of them being over six minutes long. At 47:29, the album is about the length it should be without the artist giving away more songs than she should, and leaving the listener with fair value for their money. More importantly, there is not a wasted track on this CD, whereas there are plenty of recordings out there that may have twelve or fourteen tracks that we wish only had half as many.

It is always difficult to be objective about an artist who covers a song that is one of your favorites, as is the case with "California Dreaming," a song that I have always loved. Written by John Phillips and Michelle Phillips, and performed by them as part of the sixties group The Mamas and The Papas, "California Dreaming," went all the way to # 4 on the US charts in 1965. While the original recording was a swinging pop hippie tune, Jacíntha serves up very mellow vocals, and Larry Goldings infuses the song with some very good Hammond B3 chords.

Of all the songs on this disc, "A Man And A Woman," probably most closely resembles the original. That being said, Jacintha’s vocal are perfectly suited for the song, and the songbird sparkles.

If you are looking for some romantic music for New Year’s Eve pick up a copy of Jacintha Goes To Hollywood, then turn the lights down low.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Joe Montague) Jazz Vocals - CD Reviews Fri, 25 May 2007 01:00:00 -0500
The Toys Of Men by Stanley Clarke http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/fusion-cd-reviews/the-toys-of-men-by-stanley-clarke.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/fusion-cd-reviews/the-toys-of-men-by-stanley-clarke.html The Toys Of Men by Stanley Clarke
Stanley Clarke has long been considered a musical genius and his new CD The Toys Of Men only serves to enhance that notion. The composer and musician extraordinai…

Stanley Clarke has long been considered a musical genius and his new CD The Toys Of Men only serves to enhance that notion. The composer and musician extraordinaire who is considered to be one of the innovators of jazz fusion and invented the piccolo and tenor bass instruments, opens the 13 track album The Toys Of Men with the title track, a composition consisting of six movements. Thematically "The Toys Of Men" poses hard questions concerning what happens if someone gives the order to launch nuclear missiles. Clarke’s voice introduces the first movement "Draconian" with a countdown to launch. Just as another Clarke (author Arthur C.) did more than three decades ago with his book and screenplay 2001 A Space Odyssey, from which sprang the Stanley Kubrick film of the same name, Stanley Clarke leaves us in wonderment and with unanswered questions (Wow, that’s a whole lot of Stanley’s and a lot of creative genius).

What unfolds in the six movements comprising "The Toys Of Men" is truly spectacular and breathtaking. During the first movement "Fear," the charts and the talented musicians take us through a harrowing adventure. Pandemonium breaks out in the third movement "Chaos," signified by Mads Tolling’s frenzied violin notes. The fourth track "Cosmic Intervention" is followed by the beautiful and ethereal vocalese of Esperanza Spalding, who offers hope in "The Opening Of The Gates." "The Toys Of Men" ends with "God Light," a movement in which Clarke’s electric bass fuses with Ruslan Sirota’s keyboarding to create a sense of awe.

If you are not into exploring musical themes as deep as those presented in the opening track, fear not for the album The Toys Of Men is an eclectic presentation of images and musical styles, including the R&B overtures of "All Over Again," which once again features the vocals of Esperanza Spalding, this time delivering smooth soulful lyrics. If you enjoy Anita Baker, you are going to love this lady. Spalding began playing the bass professionally when she was only fifteen years old. However, with vocal performances such as she serves up this original composition, which she co-authored with Stanley Clarke, the Berklee College of Music alumni may find just as many people clamoring to hear her sing as play. Oh, we almost forgot (smile) Spalding is accompanied by the incomparable Clarke as he plays acoustic bass guitar. Sirota on keys and Ronald Bruner Jr. also provide a very smooth, laid-back accompaniment.

"Hmm, Hmm" is 1:53 of Clarke soloing on his acoustic double bass. It is an easygoing bridge to the harder bop/fusion sounds of "Bad Asses," which highlights the drumming of Bruner Jr. The ultra modern jazz foray that is "Game" was recorded at The Boat Studio and Topanga Studios, both in California. The creativity of Clarke and engineer Ed Thacker prompts the question, why haven’t we heard more of this type of jazz? The answer is simple, there is only one Stanley Clarke. During this funky tune, it seems like Clarke’s bass takes on an almost human like voice.

The lamenting "La Cancion De Sofia" may be the most beautiful song from The Toys For Men. Any one of Clarke on acoustic bass, Sirota on acoustic piano, Tolling on violin and Phil Davis on keys makes this song worth listening to. Not to diminish the efforts of the other musicians who play on "La Cancion De Sofia," but the aforementioned instrumentalists play with passion and stir your heart.

Stanley Clarke’s The Toys of Men consists of 58:14 of delectable tunes. Each song comes with its own story, some sad, some ominous, some joyful, but all are enjoyable.
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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Joe Montague) Fusion - CD Reviews Thu, 26 Apr 2007 01:00:00 -0500
Sun Set by Linda Ciofalo http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/jazz-vocals-cd-reviews/sun-set-by-linda-ciofalo.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/jazz-vocals-cd-reviews/sun-set-by-linda-ciofalo.html Jazz vocalist Linda Ciofalo’s music is as pretty as the images of the singer that grace the liner notes of her CD Sun Set. She is not about bop, nor is she going …

Jazz vocalist Linda Ciofalo’s music is as pretty as the images of the singer that grace the liner notes of her CD Sun Set. She is not about bop, nor is she going to bowl you over with powerful vocals that are brash and in your face. Even on her smokier tunes she is not what you would describe as sultry. In some respects her approach to her music reminds me of Sara Gazarek. Both artists seem to subscribe to the belief that less is more, and instead of busy, high-powered instrumentals that vie for attention, the music is more stripped down, allowing the vocals to come through clearly. Ciofalo’s delivery is soothing, emotive and full of warmth.

The singer dips into a pool of songs representing some classic composers such as Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein ("Oh What A Beautiful Morning") and Lionel Hampton/Johnny Mercer ("Midnight Sun"), as well as two tunes from former Beatles, George Harrison’s "Here Comes The Sun," and the McCartney/Lennon song, "I’ll Follow The Sun."

Ciofalo gives a sparkling performance on "Here Comes The Sun," infusing the tune with a bright cheery demeanor that would make Harrison proud. Harrison never received the same credit for his songwriting abilities as Lennon and McCartney, or enjoyed the same post-Beatle era commercial success, but his artistic merit is without reproach. There is no denying his writing ability, as you listen to "Here Comes The Sun," or "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." He also helped found the legendary, but short-lived group (1988-90), The Traveling Wilburys, which consisted of Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty.

In her own elegant way, Ciofalo provides a smokey rendition of "Comes Love," (Sammy Stept / Lew Brown / Charles Tobias). She is dreamy on "Love Is Stronger Far Than We," as she is courted first by the smooth playing of pianist John di Martino, and then the genteel guitar of John Hart.

The singer also delivers a great performance of "I’ll Follow The Sun." Ciofalo’s vocals gently rise and fall, like a leaf floating in a slowly meandering stream. Once again she infuses a cheeriness into her music. I found her vocal style to be soothing and her phrasing impeccable.

It is questionable whether or not the tune "You Took Advantage of Me," is a good fit for Ciofalo’s sweet voice. In listening to her sing the song it seems that she fails to authenticate the emotional angst or accusatory tone of voice necessary for a song of this nature.

I also find her to be a little too mellow for Madonna’s "La Isla Bonita." She does however shine, as she gently coos the languid "Orange Blossoms In Summertime," a song that is based on Curtis Lundy’s music, and Ira and George Gershwin’s lyrics, with 21st century additions by Kurt Elling.

Other highlights include saxophonist Joel Frahm’s playing on "Midnight Sun," and Ciofalo’s ability to infuse the melancholy "The Last Day Of Summer," with a sense of sadness. Her vocal style is well suited for the opening track "Oh What A Beautiful Morning."

The arrangements for Sun Set were created by John di Martino and Linda Ciofalo. Ciofalo also produced her own record with di Martino acting as co-producer. Katherine Miller did a wonderful job of engineering this project at The Studio and Gene had an equally good hand when it came to the final mix.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Joe Montague) Jazz Vocals - CD Reviews Sun, 22 Apr 2007 13:00:00 -0500
Rising Sun by Najee Najee http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/smooth-jazz-cd-reviews/rising-sun-by-najee-najee.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/smooth-jazz-cd-reviews/rising-sun-by-najee-najee.html Rising Sun by Najee Najee
Close your eyes and think about the very best Belgian chocolate and a truffle melting on the tip of your tongue. Imagine the lingering taste of the finest French red win…

Close your eyes and think about the very best Belgian chocolate and a truffle melting on the tip of your tongue. Imagine the lingering taste of the finest French red wine. Now you are in the mood for Rising Sun, the new CD from soprano saxophonist/flautist Najee. Sisaundra Lewis’ words, "If this would last forever," from the opening track "Clarity," express what you will feel as you listen to this wonderful CD. I know I could easily have listened to the lush songs on this album, over and over again (and I did). This collection of songs boasts some great R&B vibes, mixed with some excellent smooth jazz grooves.

"Clarity" was written by John Mayer (yes that John Mayer!), just one of several outstanding songwriters, including Najee, whose tunes appear on this album. The gorgeous arrangements and excellent musicianship testify to why Rising Sun debuted in the number-one spot on Billboard’s jazz charts. The warm, deep notes of Nick Reider’s flugelhorn regularly compliment the higher soprano voice of Najee’s saxophone. The sensitive piano chops of Phil Davis emerge during his solo in "Child At Heart," a song in which Najee sparkles on one of the many instruments with which he is skilled, the flute. The fourth track, "I Can’t Wait Another Minute," rests gently on the cusp of jazz and R&B. Timmy Maya and Isaac Clemon treat us to rich, smooth vocals and the groove invites you to dance.

Funky is the order of the day as "Come What May" dawns on the musical horizon. Najee co-wrote "Come What May" with James Lloyd and the personal connection is evident when Lloyd lets loose on the keyboards. Najee finds the sweet spot in his groove on sax while guitarists Randy Bowland and John Grant, bassist David Dyson, drummer Kentrick Morris and the amazing Victor Williams on percussion complete the rhythm section. Special mention should be made of Jeff Antoniuk’s horn arrangements for "Out Of A Dream," a song on which he also plays his tenor saxophone. Antoniuk, in my opinion, is one of the most underappreciated sax men in the world of jazz. "Out Of A Dream" is lively and has a quick tempo.

Let me hear you say, ‘I love you, just one more time,’ are the words that come to mind while listening to "Moody’s Mood For Love," a song that was authored by& stellar jazz artist James Moody and two iconic writers, Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh. The elegant, romantic playing of pianist Chris "Big Dog" Davis are all you need to know about this song and this CD before you purchase it. As great as the other songs on this album are, "Moody’s Mood For Love" is the one that captured my heart.

"Romance The Night" features Phil Perry on lead vocals and he is capably backed by Timmy Maia and his own overdubbed vocals. Perry co-wrote the song with Chris Davis and again the person connection is evident with Perry’s emotive vocals. Perry has sung background vocals with Anita Baker, Peabo Bryson, Boz Scaggs and Rod Stewart.

Do yourself a favor and scoop up a copy of Rising Sun from Najee and Heads Up International. You can’t go wrong with this album.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Joe Montague) Smooth Jazz - CD Reviews Sat, 21 Apr 2007 01:00:00 -0500
Stay With Me by Norman Brown http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/smooth-jazz-cd-reviews/stay-with-me-by-norman-brown.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/smooth-jazz-cd-reviews/stay-with-me-by-norman-brown.html Smooth like creamy butter icing melting on the tip of your tongue is the image that comes to mind when describing the jazz vibes of guitar virtuoso Norman Brown. In May …

Smooth like creamy butter icing melting on the tip of your tongue is the image that comes to mind when describing the jazz vibes of guitar virtuoso Norman Brown. In May of this year, I was privileged to take in Brown’s performance at the Gaslamp Jazz Festival in San Diego, California and although he was sharing the stage with several jazz icons, including Peabo Bryson, Jeff Lorber and Marion Meadows, an electric vibe went through the crowd when Brown took to the stage. That vibe is revisited with his CD Stay With Me.

Two Norman Brown originals, "A Quiet Place" and "It Ain’t Over BWB," keep you hoping for more. Brown’s guitar flirts with the idea of engaging Kirk Whalum’s saxophone in a call and response, but never quite goes all the way. Rick Braun’s trumpet and flugelhorn complete the horn section. What can I say about Braun that has not already been said? There is only one standard of excellence that Braun needs to meet and that is the one he set a long time ago.

Two absolutely gorgeous romantic murals appear on this album, "Soul Dance" and "So In Love." The later tune is an uplifting song that paints beautiful pastel images. Drummer Teddy Campbell uses his sticks on the rims of his drums to great effect. "Soul Dance" is filled with delicious ear candy, including Brown’s amazing and seamless chord changes as well as a superb saxophone solo by Sam Riney. Brown collaborated with Jeff Caruthers and Paul Brown to write the song. Caruthers also developed the arrangements and Paul Brown donned the producer’s hat during the recording session at Funky Joint Studios.

The R&B title track "Stay With Me," was written, arranged and produced by Brian McKnight. At times it sounds very Boyz II Men like, which to coin a phrase isn’t exactly chopped liver. Both Brown and McKnight sing on "Stay With Me." McKnight also compliments Brown’s guitar licks, playing an assortment of instruments, keyboards, bass and rhythm guitar. The CD opens with the sweeping melody and the delicious vibes of "Let’s Take A Ride." Brown’s guitar wizardry ensures a quick pace, building upon the strong foundation built by bass player Alex Al.

R&B vocalist Nikkole, who has reached unbelievable heights as an independent artist and is considered one of the bright young stars on the music scene, lends her beautiful vocals to "You Keep Lifting Me Higher." The singer collaborated with Brown and Lloyd Tolbert to write "You Keep Lifting Me Higher," with Brown and Tolbert co-producing and collaborating on the arrangements. The CD Stay With Me by Norman Brown is another in a growing list of gems from an outstanding artist.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Joe Montague) Smooth Jazz - CD Reviews Wed, 11 Apr 2007 07:00:00 -0500
One Night by Marsha Heydt http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/various-jazz-styles-cd-reviews/one-night-by-marsha-heydt.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/various-jazz-styles-cd-reviews/one-night-by-marsha-heydt.html One Night by Marsha Heydt
I had not heard of jazz saxophonist / flautist Marsha Heydt before her debut CD One Night landed on my desk recently, but I was blown away by her emotive playing,…

I had not heard of jazz saxophonist / flautist Marsha Heydt before her debut CD One Night landed on my desk recently, but I was blown away by her emotive playing, her instincts as an arranger, and her finely tuned skills as a composer. Flying under the Blue Toucan Records banner, Heydt has surrounded herself with some outstanding musicians including, Marlon Simon (percussion), pianist Norman Pors, and a string section comprised of cellists Erik Friedlander, Nioka Kim Workman, violist Anne Marie Bedney and Rob Thomas (violin). Carla Cook’s beautiful vocals also grace this CD.

Heydt has done a good job transferring to the opening track "Good Feelin’" the feelings that she experienced while on a star filled night she surveyed the cityscape. The music is uplifting and the lively Afro Cuban rhythms are enhanced by the magical hands of percussionist Marlon Simon. In contrast, the second song that we hear from On Night is "Green Dolphin Street," with a lighter more ethereal melody, which is complimented by the elegant piano playing of Pors and Heydt on the flute. Strings play overtop of the melody adding more texture.

The real treasure that comes with this booklet of songs is found on the last track "Afrikaan," a Norman Pors composition. Although no mention is made in the liner notes of the individual percussion instruments used it sounds as though bells, shakers, tambourine and perhaps claves are used to create a South African ambience. I never however underestimate the imagination and creativity of percussionists who continually introduce us to instruments from many cultures or often incorporate everyday household items into their music. If you are looking to be swept away on an adventure by some very pretty music, you will want to forward your CD player to this track and start listening here. It may be difficult for you to find this song on a radio station so you better shell out at your digital store now, because you do not want to miss out on "Afrikaan."

Other songs to listen for include a capable rendition of Hoagy Carmichael / Stuart Gorrell "Georgia On My Mind," and "You Don’t Know What Love Is" (Gene DePaul / Don Raye). In the later song, cellist Friedlander creates a plodding movement that lends itself to darker moods. The song’s foundation is built more upon Friedlander’s cello than it is Marc Schmied’s upright bass, but that is more a matter of construction than it is a reflection upon Schmied, who is a very talent bass player. Heydt plays saxophone on "You Don’t Know What Love Is," and Sheryl Bailey who appears on several of the songs from One Night, does a good job on guitar.

Rising young star, Marsha Heydt, who has performed with Randy Brecker, Grover Washington, Bob Mintzer and George Gee, gives us an outstanding recording with her debut CD One Night. The album stands heads and shoulders above the projects that many much more seasoned artists are turning out today. You cannot go wrong by picking up a copy of One Night, so what are you waiting for?

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Joe Montague) Various Jazz Styles - CD Reviews Tue, 10 Apr 2007 19:00:00 -0500
Motion Of Love by Machan Machan http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/jazz-vocals-cd-reviews/motion-of-love-by-machan-machan.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/jazz-vocals-cd-reviews/motion-of-love-by-machan-machan.html Motion Of Love by Machan Machan
Once every few years a singer emerges whose voice is so uniquely different and of such a high quality that you immediately embrace their music. Jazz singer Machan is suc…

Once every few years a singer emerges whose voice is so uniquely different and of such a high quality that you immediately embrace their music. Jazz singer Machan is such an artist. Her CD Motion Of Love has beautiful hues and textures, fronted by Machan’s very pretty vocals.

Machan’s voice may be familiar to you, but perhaps not her name. She has been singing professionally since she was sixteen, having shared the stage with Pink Floyd and George Benson. She also toured extensively with Sting. Motion Of Love is her sophomore project as a solo artist.

Motion Of Love was co-produced by Machan, and opens with the title track, a pretty song in which addition to singing, she also plays her nylon string guitar. The song features a great bass clarinet bridge by Rick Depofi, who shares production credits for this album.

"Motion of Love" (the song), is followed by the flirtatious "More," a tune that no doubt she found even easier to sing, since her hubby Danny Louis plays synthesizer. As is the case with the entire album, the instrumentals are wonderful. William Galison lays down some sweet harmonica licks that give the song a bit of a European ambience.

What does not work for me nearly as well is the third track "Everyday," and it has nothing to do with the quality of the music, vocals or the theme. I think it is more a matter of the wrong type of music being combined with a song that explores social issues as serious as poverty. A jazz melody has been overlaid on top of a reggae rhythm and beat. You hear in the words and mood of Machan’s vocals genuine concern and empathy for the plight of the people about whom she is singing, but running counter to that is a jovial syncopated rhythm. "Everyday," does however contain some awesome guitar riffs from John Herington, whose playing is wonderful throughout this splendid CD.

My personal favorite on the album Motion Of Love is "Little Bird," and no this is not the one you sang in elementary school, that was up high in the banana tree!; This Little Bird is making a nest outside the singer’s window and is the object of her questions about life. This is a lighthearted song with a hooky melody, a great vocalist and absolutely stunning warm notes from saxophonist Aaron Heick. In the middle of "Little Bird," we have what may very well be one of the best sax performances recorded this year. Machan establishes the rhythm, this time on a steel guitar, but has plenty of help from Heick Nanny Assis (congas), Shawn Pelton (drums), Tim Lefebvre (double bass) and Steve Gaboury (Fender Rhodes). Machan wrote the music and the lyrics, while being aided on the arrangements by Gaboury.

John Medeski plays a sweet Hammond B3 organ solo and throughout the song, his chops build a deep groove.

John Scofield (electric guitar) appears on "Beautifully Broken," and Randy Brecker’s trumpet is heard on "A Broken Heart Like This."

I could talk at length about all ten tracks on this fantastic CD, but the fun is in you discovering the music. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Machan’s Motion Of Love. I hope the tracks from this album get the airplay they richly deserve.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Joe Montague) Jazz Vocals - CD Reviews Thu, 05 Apr 2007 07:00:00 -0500