Russell has really come into his own after making a name for himself backing Diana Krall. Russell was with Jimmy Smith's band for two years in the late '80's and toured with and appeared on CDs with Harry Connick, Jr. in the early '90's. He has five albums to his own credit, most recently "Look Who's Here" 2000 Polygram. He has also appeared on albums throughout the '90's with the Ray Brown Trio, Benny Green, Dave Grusin, B.B. King, Gary Bartz, David Benoit, Roy Hargrove's award winning "Habana" and of course four albums with Diana Krall. Russell took his early influences with gospel, blues, swing and R&B and developed an appealing bop-oriented, yet contemporary guitar styling that has critics calling him the "Wes Montgomery of the new millennium."
At this year's appearance, Russell and band members Robert Glasbar-piano, Richie Goods-bass (who appears on Russell's latest album) and Donald Edwards-drums presented a healthy mix of ballads, blues and swing, with exceptional improvisational solos by Malone. Crowds of enthusiastic fans who couldn't get enough of Russell's tasty works, also caught him three hours later when he lead a scintillating jam session in the large Spiegel tent just outside Staten Hall.
LILS MACKINTOSH (Edison Award Winner) & THE BEETS BROTHERS with special guest, HANS DULFER
It doesn't take long to swing into a good mood, especially when you have the hot and sassy Lils Mackintosh belting out the songs and the Beets Brothers firing up the furnace. Maris Hall was packed solid from stage to the entrance doors and halfway down the hallway. I imagine people in the hallway figured if they couldn't be part of the party, at least they could hear it. There are those times when performers are having so much fun, the audience can't help jump on the bandwagon. This was one such occasion. Lils is just that kind of performer, upbeat, outgoing and lots of fun.
Lils Mackintosh won this year's prestigious National Edison Award for her latest CD "Black Girl," a tribute to blues legend, Huddie Ledbetter, commonly referred to as Leadbelly. Europe's Edison awards can be compared to the American Grammy awards and Lils was thrilled to have won. Alexander and Peter Beets also played on the award-winning album and Alexander Beets was co-executive producer, so it was only natural that everyone wanted to catch their performance. As an added treat, Hans Dulfer, tenor saxman and producer of Lils award-winning album in Holland, joined the quartet for a few rousing numbers. Hans is Holland's most popular jazz musicians in Japan and his live-album "Papa's Got a Brand New Sax," consists of more screams of the audience than of Hans on his sax.
In her black-fringed dress that shook all over, Lils wowed everyone with her upbeat bluesy jazz styling and gigantic vocal tones, while Alexander-tenor sax, Peter-piano and Marius-bass simply went off. I've heard Holland's fabulous Beets Brothers several times, but never with such explosive energy. Lils had the "fever" and everybody caught the bug, including the audience who was on their feet and really into it. Later the next day, when I caught up with Lils at the Bel Air Hotel, she told me she really did have a fever that night, but you would never have known it from her exuberant performance. Now that's show biz! Selections performed from her "Black Girl" CD were well received and the concluding Leadbelly standard, "Goodnight Irene, " seemed only fitting as the audience sang along.
The Beets Brothers have a new CD coming out in October entitled "Powerhouse," and I expect Lils career will see new avenues, having just won the Edison. For more information on Lils and the Beets Brothers, go to (in Dutch) www.maxanter.nl. Also, look for my upcoming personal interview with Lils Mackintosh on jazzreview.com.
Full of jazz and soul, Denise Jannah was the first Dutch jazz singer to be signed by an international label as prestigious as Blue Note. This certainly says something about her vocal ability. She is not only a great singer, but also an exciting entertainer, having starred and toured in the soul musical "R.E.S.P.E.C.T." which will continue to be staged next season. Singing, acting and dancing, she performed and starred in "A Night at the Cotton Club," Fats Waller's musical show "Ain't Misbehavin,'" and "Joe, the Musical." Since 1991, Denise has cut two albums on the Dutch Timeless label and three albums on Blue Note, the latest being, "The Madness of Our Love," Blue Note May 2000, where her versatility and command for the jazz standard can be well appreciated. It also features three of her own compositions. Also to her credit, her 1994 album "A Heart Full of Music," won her the prestigious Edison Jazz Award.
Denise has been teaching at the Rotterdam Conservatory and is currently a vocal coach and director with both The New Amsterdam and Comic Theatres. She has performed numerous times before royalty and world leaders, including the Clinton's, and has been seen this year at many international jazz festivals, opening for Wynton Marsalis at the Barbados Jazz Festival (January 2000). If all this isn't enough, she has been featured as a guest vocalist with numerous orchestras and bands including the Metropole Orchestra, Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, Rotterdam Philharmonic, the Dutch Jazz Orchestra, Brueker Collective and the Cyrus Chestnut Trio. What a busy and talented lady!
The dream team accompanying Denise at his year's North Sea Jazz Festival were Rob van Kreeveld-grand piano, Hein van de Geyn-double bass and Chris Strik-drums, some of the finest Dutch jazz musicians around. Hein van de Geyn is a virtuoso of the double bass and always stuns the audience with his intricate interplay.
The set opened with a swinging instrumental vocalization by Denise to Erroll Garner's "Misty." She has impeccable diction and phrasing and her creative interplay with the lyrics was a real-eye opener right from the get-go. When the last note of her phrase stops and the next one begins, the change is smoothly superb.
"Sourire de Mon Amour," (The Shadow of Your Smile) sung in French was so beautifully done. Other selections from her latest Blue Note album included, "If Only" and "Teach Me Tonight." After a standing ovation, Denise came back to sing an utterly grand delivery of "Just You, Just Me," also from her latest album. Her back-to-back concerts on Sunday were simply divine and Denise must be counted among the best female vocalists on the jazz scene today.