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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.