Steve Monroe - jazzreview.com - Your Jazz Music Connection - jazzreview.com - Your Jazz Music Connection http://www.jazzreview.com Mon, 22 May 2017 15:05:30 -0500 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb In Pursuit of the 9th Man by Todd Marcus Jazz Orchestra http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/in-pursuit-of-the-9th-man-by-todd-marcus-jazz-orchestra.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/in-pursuit-of-the-9th-man-by-todd-marcus-jazz-orchestra.html In Pursuit of the 9th Man by Todd Marcus Jazz Orchestra
Oh, if I only I had been smart enough to continue those clarinet lessons in grade school. Maybe I’d have a niche all my own like Todd Marcus. Well, it’s not all his own …

Oh, if I only I had been smart enough to continue those clarinet lessons in grade school. Maybe I’d have a niche all my own like Todd Marcus. Well, it’s not all his own -- there are other contemporary purveyors of the instrument - but the Baltimore-based Marcus has fashioned a career on the bass clarinet of blending traditional bebop and swing with some world music touches that make him deserving of wider recognition. A sampling of his CD, "in Pursuit of the 9th Man," on HiPNOTIC Records label shows off his skills as a composer and arranger as well as a musician.

A "theme" disc, that begins with a brief, mood setting intro that fades into the snappy title tune, and ends with "Psalm," Marcus’ initial orchestra recording has all the colors of the rainbow and then some. It is entertaining in many places, quiet and too movie-theme sounding in others. But it certainly bears listening for anyone interested in a forward-looking perspective of our legacy-soaked genre. Marcus, self-taught as a player, composer and arranger, says his influences include Eric Dolphy and "so many of the masters like Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Gary Thomas, Charlie Parker, Gary Bartz, Kenny Dorham, Herbie Hancock, Woody Shaw, Sonny Rollins .... "

The title tune, "In Pursuit of the 9th Man," is carried early by Marcus’ own fluid, whipping lines over the brassy sax and trumpet choruses, and Joel Holmes’ work on piano. Then the arrangement has the other horns lead while Marcus helps accent underneath Marcus blends the Middle East with bop expertly on "Ma’aelssalama," which pays homage to his heritage, since his father is Egyptian and Marcus has traveled there several times. Issa Lambson on alto sax highlights "Harper’s Choice," - which has world music spices of its own, and is a deftly swinging homage to tenor sax innovator Billy Harper. Lyle Link shines as the tenor sax soloist on "Plummeting," possibly the most sparkling arrangement of the CD, with some crisp, efficiently bopping work by Mike Kuhl on drums. Trumpeter Theljon James and tenor sax man Russell Kirk highlight the lilting "If I Should Lose You" along with Marcus’ smooth bass clarinet lines. The brassy front line of the orchestra also features bassist Jeff Alan Reed, trombonist Reginald and Raul Soot on tenor sax.

With as much spice and promise as "in Pursuit of the 9th Man" has, some of the CD has more ruminative, exploratory tunes that don’t seem that different from others. Some of that just may be a first CD’s stepping a toe into the waters and wishing to display touch more than sass. Regardless, there is enough here, such as the sweeping "Pompeii," - for those of us who like our orchestras with a lot of sass - that shifts gears, rumbles, pops and then takes it to a higher level, as Marcus plays the swing, the blues and the bebop - sometimes all in one chorus. Kuhl and Holmes also sparkle along with Cyntje and Reed, a master of touch the whole way through, and who maybe deserves even more space for his bass.

"In Pursuit" is a fine beginning in the recording world for Marcus, who plays in combos as well as orchestra settings in his live dates often around the Baltimore/Washington area and up the coast to New York. He’ll no doubt be carving out a wider space of his own with his unique treatments on an instrument known more for flavoring than for innovating.

]]>
morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Steve Monroe) Contemporary Jazz - CD Reviews Wed, 19 Oct 2005 01:00:00 -0500
Starting Point by Benito Gonzalez http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/starting-point-by-benito-gonzalez.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/starting-point-by-benito-gonzalez.html If you were awaiting the release of pianist Benito Gonzalez’ first album with the anticipation that it would be a great feast of musicality, you certainly have a treat in s…
If you were awaiting the release of pianist Benito Gonzalez’ first album with the anticipation that it would be a great feast of musicality, you certainly have a treat in store for you.

The CD, "Starting Point," does provides its share of tastiness and spice. You just might want a few more main courses to satisfy your hunger.Gonzalez, the Venezuelan native who now lives and plays in the Washington, D.C., area as his home base, has wowed many between D.C. and New York and beyond with his live performances. He often displays a two-fisted Latino jazz sound that may one day have some comparing him to the likes of Hilton Ruiz or Danilo Perez. Gonzalez has a gritty originality in his approach that keeps you listening.

On "Starting Point" Gonzalez has surrounded himself with five-star players, in bassist Christian McBride, saxophonists Rene McLean and Ron Blake, and drummer Antonio Sanchez. It was recorded in March 2004 and released later in 2004 on Gonzalez’ Multi Dimensional Music label.

As producer (with wife Ashley Elise as co-producer), bandleader, and composer of all but one track ("Round Midnight") Gonzalez orchestrated a commendable effort -- but for purist jazz piano fans scrutinizing his work to see if he is a candidate for the pantheon of masters one day, there may be a little too much orchestration and not enough Benito pianissimo.

One compositional gem is "Plaza Bolivar," a pleasantly meandering stroll full of Gonzalez’ vibrant colors and sound pictures and melodic story telling as well as Blake and McLean’s accenting work on horns. It delivers bite and form. Another original, "Taking Roads," a bright rocker, is highlighted by Blake’s haunting solo, and some of Gonzalez’ best riffs throughout. "Multidimensional II," a too-short teaser, has its moments as a blend of McBride and Sanchez doing the funk thing underneath and Gonzalez rippling over the top on piano.

The other tracks, however, show off Blake, McLean, McBride and Sanchez and all their worthy gifts as first-rate musicians, but have too many passages of repetitive chord figures and not enough daring and imagination. Much of the music is catchy, and might be commercially successful, which is fine. It’s just that, Gonzalez, who says his influences are the Latin masters along with legends Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell and McCoy Tyner, among others, seems capable of much more demanding music.

Hopefully his next recording will show a little more seasoning, feature a little less sharing of the spotlight, and be a more sumptuous feast for all of us to savor.

]]>
morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Steve Monroe) Straight-Ahead - CD Reviews Sat, 17 Jul 2004 07:09:00 -0500
Liz Briones by Liz Briones http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/jazz-vocals-cd-reviews/liz-briones-by-liz-briones.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/jazz-vocals-cd-reviews/liz-briones-by-liz-briones.html If you’re a guy like me, there’s always something fresh and anticipatory about a debut CD by a female jazz vocalist, a romantic kind of excitement that makes you anxious…

If you’re a guy like me, there’s always something fresh and anticipatory about a debut CD by a female jazz vocalist, a romantic kind of excitement that makes you anxious to be carried away.

Liz Briones does the carrying away on much of "Liz Briones," produced by her Kiss My Jazz Entertainment LLC. "Liz Briones," recorded, mixed and mastered by pianist and session leader Wayne Wilentz, was finished in late 2003, and then released in mid-2004. Potential is the word here for Briones, a native of Ecuador who grew up in Washington, D.C. She’s not there yet - as far as being able to carry you away on every tune -- but she could become a cross cultural star in her own right, with impressive readings of "Embraceable You," "West Coast Blues," and the Latin rocker, "Besame Mucho," among others.

A blues and R&B maven in many of her gigs around D.C., one hears, however, that it’s more jazz - and her own Latin blend of blues and jazz -- that may be her path to fame and fortune. While gutsy enough to get down for a decent rendition of Aretha Franklin’s warhorse "Chain of Fools," it’s her talent for making you feel her reach into the many moods of your own emotions that makes her special, for instance, on "Embraceable You." And it’s her playful entreaties on "Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby/Hit the Road Jack," and her lilting caresses on "Sabor A Mi" that set her apart from your run of the mill lounge crooner or blues belter.

Check out "Round Midnight."

Here Briones turns the Thelonious Monk standard into a sparkling gem, featuring her suggestive peaks and valleys and some now spicy, now dreamy laments. All the while pianist Wilentz spurs his band through a snappy romp - yes, "Round Midnight" a romp, and it works. "West Coast Blues" especially glistens with Briones making it a perfect vehicle for her bluesy, jazzy improvisation.

On the other hand, "You Don’t Know What Love Is" seems a missed opportunity - it becomes a flat, bluesy song, and lacks the many hues of her plaintive cries heard so entertainingly elsewhere. Really bringing it on every phrase can put Briones over the top.

She is supported ably on her debut CD. Wilentz, a native New Yorker who has R&B roots - he’s performed with the Shirelles and Marvelettes among others - found a niche for himself upon moving to the D.C. area by specializing in a blend of Brazilian and American jazz since the late 1980’s. Behind Briones he displays his trademark light touch of lyrical charm and Latino spice on piano, and is complemented well by sidemen like bassist Wardell Howell, guitarist Dave Cosby and saxophonist Bruce Swaim.

Briones says she likes all the musical genres - her idols growing up ranged from Aretha and Etta James to Nancy Wilson and Minnie Ripperton, but she says her influences also come from Dianne Reeves, Marc Anthony, Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, Willie Colon and others. She admits she will "blur the line often between genres," but that her "underlying music" will always be jazz.

"Liz Briones" scratches the surface of what could be a star turn about to happen. A little more letting go, a little more full-bodied confidence in the multi-shaded power of her own voice, and she’ll be on her way.

]]>
morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Steve Monroe) Jazz Vocals - CD Reviews Thu, 15 Jul 2004 07:08:54 -0500