New Jazz & Blues News – 7/27/2021
Wayne Alpern – Frankenstein (Self-produced): “My musical grammar is neither radical nor experimental. Its vitality lies in the familiarity of genres, recollection of themes, and the unpretentious interpolation of the dance floor, the saloon, and the iPod. It tempers serious music with the social, inviting listeners to come as they are. It opens the window to the street and lets in fresh air. And though it may aim slightly lower than the concert hall, what it concedes in erudition may hopefully be compensated in charm. If it succeeds, its reward is less an applause, and more a smile…. Alpern is a New York City composer, arranger, and scholar who integrates popular and jazz idioms with classical techniques and repertoire to create a sophisticated contemporary style of cross-genre, or even post-genre music. After years of composing complex new music, he embraced his personal history and indigenous musical culture and fused them with his classical background and training. His work includes numerous jazz arrangements, string quartets, woodwind and brass quintets, mixed ensembles, pieces for string orchestra, and several piano works. Alpern’s innovative compositions, re-compositions, and rearrangements have been performed and recorded by distinguished artists from diverse musical traditions. A native of Detroit immersed in the Motown sound, he studied at Oberlin College, University of Michigan, Yale University, and City University of New York, with additional work at Harvard, Juilliard, Wesleyan, and University of Pennsylvania. His musical scholarship and theoretical expertise focuses on Schenkerian analysis and 20th-century music. He holds a law degree from Yale Law School and practiced civil litigation for nearly twenty years. He taught at Mannes College of Music, Brooklyn College, Hunter College, and Cardozo Law School, worked at General Music Publishing, United Artists Music Publishing, and was Steve Reich’s editor. He is President and owner of Henri Elkan Music Publishing, Inc. and a lifetime member of the Society for Music Theory and American Musicological Society. He has lectured extensively in North America, Europe, and Russia. In his capacity as Founder and Director of the internationally acclaimed Mannes Institute for Advanced Studies in Music Theory, Alpern received the highly coveted Society for Music Theory Honorary Lifetime Membership Award recognizing his “substantial and longstanding accomplishments distinguishing the recipient and our discipline through his many good works on behalf of his fellow scholars and students of music theory for our collective benefit.” (https://www.waynealpern.com/about) Now, you’ll have the opportunity to decide how you like it. Click here to listen to the songs on this release.
Ryan Berg / Karl Latham / Alex Collins – Together (Drop Zone Jazz): “An album emerging from diverse musical and generational backgrounds, “Together” is an inviting release from renowned drummer Karl Latham and fast rising New York area musicians pianist: Alex Collins and bassist Ryan Berg. “Together” created from live streaming events, presents spirited explorations with creative soaring solos, stunning introductions and constant interplay – Alex Collins is a New York City pianist, composer and arranger, performing with Michelle Coltrane; Gerry Gibbs on his #1 record, Weather or Not (2017) and Our People (June 2019). Dizzy Gillespie All-Stars; Lenny White; Lonnie Plaxico,and Ronnie Burrage; Ryan Berg has made himself a staple on the New York jazz scene performing with Gregory Porter, Ravi Coltrane, Mark Whitfield, Lindsey Webster, JD Allen, Jeff Coffin, Lenny White, Rashid Ali, Gerald Clayton, Logan Richardson, Roy Hargrove, The Brianna Thomas Band, and Frank Lacy Sextet; and Karl Latham internationally recognized in a variety of musical styles with artists including Bernie Worrell; The Dizzy Gillespie All-Stars; Jerry Vivino… and many others. Karl is listed in DrummerWorld “Top” Drummers. (https://karllatham.com/alex-collins-ryan-berg-karl-latham) Very interesting takes on songs ranging from “Stella By Starlight”, “On Green Dolphin Street” and others. Click here to listen to “Alone Together” from this release.
Blind Lemon Pledge – A Satchel Full of Blues (Self-produced): “Blues poet and roots music savant from the Bay area, Blind Lemon Pledge (aka James Byfield), spent his lockdown year away from the stage digging deeper into the metaphysical minutiae of songwriting and lyrical exploration at the heart of American music. The prolific writer and recording artist returns with his ninth album, A Satchel Full Of Blues, the expedited follow up to the well-received 2020 release, Goin’ Home; Pledge’s stripped down set of acoustic blues and Americana classics. The collection of a dozen new tracks, delivered as a mostly mellow but not entirely acoustic affair, are an homage to the songwriters, who influenced him since his youth and as he says, “launched his ongoing fascination with the magic synergy between melody and lyrics.” In the liner notes Pledge gives thanks to Gene Autry, Willie Dixon, Randy Newman, Mose Allison and Hoagy Carmichael, a short but expansive list of songwriters that clues you in to the breadth and scope of the musical landscape held within…. The album’s lone cover song is a lovely acoustic take on a traditional tune, “Alberta,” accredited to Lead Belly and oft recorded by folk music mavens. Pledge works his Dreadnaught and Dobro guitars with equal measure creating a high lonesome sound…. (https://blindraccoon.com/clients/blind-lemon-pledge/) Always intriguing! Click here for a quick sample from this release.
Chris Daniels – What We Did (Moon Voyage): “In times of crisis musicians are always among the first to respond when the call goes out for volunteers to lend their time and talents to aid a benefit for a cause. Guitarist Chris Daniels, leader of Colorado Music Hall of Fame band Chris Daniels and the Kings, was asked to perform a virtual concert for Inner City Health, he did not hesitate. The organization’s mission is to reduce the inequity of health and wellness access and delivery in underserved populations of Denver. For two online sessions during the pandemic, Daniels was joined by Hazel Miller on vocals and Dana Marsh on keys, forming a trio to record ten songs that produced What We Did. Daniels invited a collection of friends and cohorts to add to the tracks including vocalist Freddi Gowdy, guitarist Todd Park Mohr (Big Head Todd and the Monsters), Greg Garrison (Leftover Salmon) and International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame mandolin player Sam Bush, plus acclaimed bassist, and author Victor Wooten (Bela Fleck and the Flecktones) and drummer, Christian Teele, best known for his work as the house drummer for the internationally syndicated radio show, eTown. In addition, one of classic rock’s most sought after bass players, Kenny Passarelli, and fellow Colorado musicians, Tom Capek on Hammond B3 with Mark Oblinger and Linda Lawson adding background vocals, round out the album of faithful readings and adventurous interpretations of original songs and sing-along classics.” (https://blindraccoon.com/clients/chris-daniels-hazel-miller-dana-marsh-friends/ ) Blended voices and the variety of songs create a warm session. I regret I am unable to find a sample from this set.
Raul De Souza Generations Band – Plenitude (PAO): “Raul de Souza, whose real name is João Jose Pereira de Souza, was born on the 23rd of August 1934 in Rio de Janeiro. Over the past decades, this brilliant trombonist has reinvented Brazilian music, and Brazilian Jazz in particular, of which he has become an icon. His last album « Brazilian Samba Jazz » celebrates 60 years of career. From Bossa Nova to Samba in the 60s, surrounded by Sérgio Mendes and Milton Nascimento, Raul experimented Funk in the 80s with his friend George Duke and Hard Bop with Sonny Rollins. He also recorded with Flora Purim, Airto Moreira and Cal Tjader. Raul de Souza invented the « Souzabone », a specific type of electric trombone.” (https://rauldesouza.net/biographie-rauldesouza/) “The Brazilian jazz and funk musician and composer Raul de Souza, considered one of the greatest trombonists in the world and renowned for his swing improvisation and samba-jazz stylings, died on Sunday (13 June) night from throat cancer at the age of 86, his family has reported…. His first album recording was in 1957, as a member of the nine-piece group Turma da Gafieira, where his talent stood out. He soon began playing with renowned musicians such as Sérgio Mendes, with whom he recorded and toured internationally in the 1960s as a member of the group Bossa Rio. He also recorded with the likes of Airto Moreira, Milton Nascimento and Flora Purim, while a period living in Los Angeles in the ’70s saw collaborations with stars the included Cannonball Adderley, Jack DeJohnette, Herbie Hancock and Jaco Pastorius. He also worked with George Duke, who produced his 1977 hit ‘Sweet Lucy’. De Souza relocated to France in the late 1990s and in recent years had been leader of a much younger crop of musicians that developed its own infectious blend of funk with traditional and contemporary Brazilian jazz; de Souza also incorporated the striking and unusual sound of a two-trombone front line in his groups.” (https://www.jazzwise.com/news/article/raul-de-souza-23-8-1934-13-6-2021) Click here for a sample and commentary about Raul de Souza who recently passed away.
Diane Delin – Chicago Standard Time (blujazz): “The violin is one of those time-honored instruments that is sometimes overlooked in the instrumental jazz world. Jean-Luc Ponty and Stéphane Grappelli aside, violinists may not be quite as well represented as guitarists and pianists in both jazz and pop music, yet that oversight is resolved with the 2021 CD release of Chicago Standard Time by violinist / composer Diane Delin. Spotlighting the skills of pianist Jodie Christian, the 5-track, 28-minute EP also features the rhythm section of Kelly Sill (bass) and Steve Davis (drums). The sound of the disc makes for a pure mainstream jazz experience that is quite easy on the ears. During the pandemic of 2020, Diane was going through tapes recorded in the past and she found this set recorded way back in 1991 featuring her quartet with the late, great Chicago-based pianist Jodie Christian.” https://www.rootsmusicreport.com/reviews/view/album-review-of-chicago-standard-time-by-diane-delin Click here to listen to samples of this set.
Julian Gerstin – Music for the Exploration of Elusive Phenomena (Zabap Music): “This is a Covid-19 album, recorded in a year when it was impossible for musicians to gather together or bring music to live audiences. Each musician recorded at home and our engineer Gary Henry assembled their separate tracks into something coherent. It’s also a Covid-19 album in the choice of material: these are not-really-jazz pieces that my main band, the Julian Gerstin Sextet, couldn’t use, but the band wasn’t working so why not record them? The songs are in styles I love from around the world, and are mostly fun and danceable. (Please don’t call them “world beat,” a patronizing, racist term.) The album is dedicated to my teachers Milford Graves and Diane Moser, both of whom passed away during this difficult year.” (https://juliangerstin.bandcamp.com/album/music-for-the-exploration-of-elusive-phenomena) Click here to list to the songs on this release.
Tom Kubis Big Band – Take Me Out To The Ball Game (Raycat): Tom Kubis has been the leader of this band for thirty-five years and it is still going strong. Of course, they open with “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” but the majority of songs are Kubis’ originals with a few classics from some times back. Of course, must of us have heard the opener, so why not check out the end of the game when Kubis is in charge? Click here to listen to Kubis’ “WT…!”
Dennis Mitcheltree – Nevermind The Circus (Dengor Music): “Recorded in Los Angeles directly before the pandemic hit, Nevermind The Circus is a reunion of the original Dennis Mitcheltree Trio from New York City. Maturity and passion are words that describe the music performed by the trio and the compositions within. The trio has now been together for nearly thirty years – that strong bond of familiarity results in a musical cohesiveness that shines bright and deep.” (https://dennismitcheltree.bandcamp.com/album/nevermind-the-circus) Players are Dennis Mitcheltree (tenor sax, compositions), Jesse Crawford (bass) and Bill McClellan (drums). Click here to listen to the songs on this release.
Sam Pilnick’s Nonet Project – The Adler Suite (Next Level): “Saxophonist, multi-instrumentalist and music educator Sam Pilnick presents The Adler Suite – his debut recording with his steadfast ensemble, Sam Pilnick’s Nonet Project. On this ardent introductory statement, the Chicago-based bandleader takes his listeners on a trip to outer space with a nine-movement suite inspired by the Windy City’s scenic Adler Planetarium. This stunning display of compositional acuity from Sam Pilnick was sparked by the artist’s 2017 trip to the Adler Planetarium as a chaperone for a school trip. A recent transplant to Chicago, Pilnick was struck by the sight of the Adler’s rounded dome of marble sitting on its perch at the end of the museum campus, overlooking views of the city, and of Lake Michigan and the sky above. “As we entered The Adler, I was immediately inspired to write music, as I saw the original space craft that brought home the astronauts from the Gemini II mission and various other exhibits. Reading the explanations of our planet, solar system and galaxy filled my mind with musical thoughts. Over the next two years, I would venture back to the Adler to find inspiration for what would now be known as The Adler Suite.” (https://sampilnick.bandcamp.com/album/the-adler-suite) Click here to listen to songs on this expansive and beautiful suite.
Kenny Shanker – Beautiful Things (Wise Cat): “Kenny Shanker is a saxophonist, pianist, vocalist, and award-winning composer. He grew up in Pleasanton, CA and began playing piano when he was two years old….”(https://kennyshanker.com/biography) Beautiful Things is his fourth release as a leader. Backing players on the set are Daisuke Abe (guitar), Mike Eckroth (piano), Yoshi Waki (bass), and Brian Fishler (drums) with Bill Mobley on trumpet three songs. Five of the twelve songs on offer are Shanker originals. The set is very nice throughout. Click here to listen to “Cool Mint”, the opening song which is also a Shanker original.
Billy Test Trio – Coming Down Roses (ATM): “Pennsylvania native Billy Test is a pianist, composer, arranger, and educator. Currently holding the piano chair in the Grammy award winning WDR Big Band in Köln, Germany, Billy splits his time between Europe and the United States, maintaining a busy schedule as a performer, composer, and educator. Billy’s piano playing blends the joys and sorrows of jazz and blues with the finesse and harmonic depth of classical music. His warm touch and clear tone can roar with excitement or sigh with woe. His improvisations are always in the moment, preferring to take risks and be daring rather than play it safe…. Billy has held the piano chair with the Grammy Award Winning WDR Big Band in Köln, Germany since September 2018. Playing under the direction of Chief Conductor Bob Mintzer and Composer in Residence Vince Mendoza, Billy has appeared on several WDR Recordings and radio/television broadcasts and performed with the band at a plethora of leading European jazz festivals, including the London Jazz Festival and the Berlin Jazz Festival. The WDR Big Band has played Test’s arrangements and compositions, and his abilities as a soloist have been extensively featured.” (https://www.billytest.com/bio) Click here to listen to samples of the songs on this release.