For more than sixteen years, jazz fans in and around Portland, Oregon, have had the pleasure of seeing and hearing drummer Mel Brown's hard-blowing Jazz Messengers-style septet each Tuesday Night at Jimmy Mak's nightclub. Among its mainstays is pianist Gordon Lee who has been writing and arranging for the group almost since he enlisted shortly afterward and in fact much earlier, as the then-sextet recorded an album of his music, Gordon Bleu, in the late 1980s, a brief time before Brown's ensemble vanquished some seven hundred other groups to win the 1989 Hennessy Jazz Search competition sponsored by Playboy magazine. ...read more
The uncommonly talented Mike LeDonne continues his transition from piano to Hammond B3, if that is what one may call it, with yet another superb album, the suitably named I Love Music. And while using the organ throughout is a good idea, it is but the first of two, as whenever LeDonne schedules a recording session he's almost sure to invite his friend and colleague, the stellar tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, a decision that is bound to please almost any listener. As a matter of record, Alexander has been a member of LeDonne's Groover Quartet" for more than fourteen years, ...read more
Harlem has long been known as an incubator for talent, birthing and/or nurturing some of the all-time greats in music, literature, and art. Nearly a century separates the dawning of the famed Harlem Renaissance and the creation of this album, but Great Voices Of Harlem serves as undeniable proof that this large neighborhood at the north end of Manhattan still holds artistic treasures within its borders. Great Voices Of Harlem, in some respects, isn't just a nod to three great talents that were honed and developed in Harlem; it's a recorded microcosm of the vocal jazz scene ...read more
Internationally renowned guitarist and vocalist Tomás Doncker has worked with such greats as Bootsy Collins and Ivan Neville. His newest release, Moanin' at Midnight: The Howlin Wolf Project (True Groove, 2014), a tribute to blues legend Chester Burnett, otherwise known as Howlin' Wolf, has all the raw energy that a blues record like this needs. The intensity and swagger with which he and his band approach the music really do justice to the spirit of the man they're celebrating, which is no easy feat when the man in question was as imposing as Howlin' Wolf. In terms of ...read more
Tenor saxophone legend Dexter Gordon lived for much of the '60s and '70s in Copenhagen. Popular with the media as well as with the fans, Gordon was a regular on radio and TV. On the afternoon of August 5, 1967, he played a special concert at the Magleaas Højskole, a college for aspiring musicians. Danish TV recorded the event and a mere 47 years later three of the tunes are available on high-quality vinyl (plus a download code), courtesy of London's Gearbox Records, as Soy Califa: Live From Magleaas Højskole 1967. Far better late than never. The tunes--a ...read more
love dot com is an album of standards and contemporary jazz/pop songs from Scottish vocalist Todd Gordon. It follows his 2012 release with the Royal Air Force Squadronaires, Helping the Heroes (Specific Jazz) but while that album featured a big band and a series of top-flight guest singers, love dot com is a much gentler affair. Some excellent, and unexpected, song choices can be found here. Karl Wallinger's She's The One," Jimmy Webb's Didn't We" and Roddy Frame's Somewhere In My Heart" are all beautiful, catchy, songs that sit comfortably with Gordon's approach. Gordon is an avowed Frank ...read more
A glance at the name and song titles on Chris McDonald's new album might lead to an assumption that this is a Christian manifesto masquerading as big-band jazz, when in fact the reverse is true--McDonald, a superlative arranger, happens to be a man of faith who uses Christian themes as the basis for some of the most powerful and exhilarating big-band music you're likely to hear anywhere. This is in every respect the Chris McDonald JAZZ Orchestra, and the emphasis is first, last and always on jazz. Even a mournful serenade such as Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" ...read more
With this double album, Storyville Records--surely the greatest Danish invention since pastry--tells the story of a legend that never was. Dorothy Donegan, born in Chicago in 1924, trained as a classical pianist before switching to jazz and being hailed as the female Art Tatum." She made her recording debut when she was 18 and three years later appeared in the movie Sensations of 1945," sitting in with Cab Calloway's orchestra (see attached video). The following year, in July, she was featured on the cover of Ebony, Afro- American equivalent of Time magazine, and looked ...read more
Great Voices Of Harlem showcases the vocal talents of three most fascinating jazz singers--Gregory Porter, Donald Smith and Mansur Scott. Ably supported by Paul Zauner's Blue Brass, the vocalists put their very individual stamps on some classic songs. The result is a stylish, classy, recording. Scott gets the lion's share of credits, with appearances on seven tracks to Smith and Porter's four apiece (all three share vocals on Horace Silver's Peace"). Porter, a Grammy-winning international star, is the name likely to attract the most attention for this release. Smith--the brother of Lonnie Liston Smith--and Scott have been around ...read more
As a fanatical music consumer whose obsessive focus on modern jazz from places outside of the United States has become a source of bemused perplexity for my friends and family, I am always a little embarrassed when I encounter an artist whom I should have known about many years ago. Henrik Otto Donner is one such artist. I only found out about him a couple of years ago when I won a copy of his first recorded collaboration with saxophonist Juhani Aaltonen (Strings, Love Records, 1976) on eBay. I had no idea who Donner was at the time, but came ...read more
With Evolution of An Influenced Mind , drummer Donald Edwards makes a piercing statement about his percussiveness and musicality. Having gained attention for his craftsmanship on a number of noteworthy Criss Cross dates-- Introducing Opus 5 (2011) and Orrin Evans's excellent It was Beauty (2013)--Edwards's debut on the prolific Dutch jazz label is a cohesive work of forward thinking music. Dedicated to the memory of the great New Orleans clarinetist Alvin Batiste who mentored Edwards at Southern University in the 1980's the release exudes optimism and a modernist savor, illuminated by a killing ensemble of rising leaders ...read more
In recent years, Donald Edwards has become a familiar name in the Criss Cross catalogue. His drumming can be heard on six previous Criss Cross releases, but on Evolution of an Influenced Mind, Edwards makes his debut as a leader. His sensitive and protean drumming has made him a first-call sideman in New York, but this program focuses on his prowess as a composer; Edwards contributes ten of the eleven tunes, with pianist Orrin Evans leading the eleventh. Evolution of an Influenced Mind seems an appropriate title for this collection of originals. Though Edwards now resides in ...read more
Donald Edwards is one of those drummers that seem to be taken for granted. He's constantly being called upon to support others, shaping moods and grooves on record for everybody from saxophonist Dayna Stephens to trombonist Conrad Herwig to vocalist Carolyn Leonhart, but he's largely avoided being in the spotlight. He's only released two other leader dates in his two-plus decades as a professional drummer, and both records went largely unnoticed. Now, after serving as a sideman on a half dozen Criss Cross sessions, Edwards is stepping out with his own date for the venerable Dutch label. ...read more
The sound of his piano evokes treasured sounds from a small and hidden mountainous country full of cultural richness and history in the heart of Eurasia. On his thirteenth solo album, the New Yorker veteran musician Armen Donelian paid a homage to Armenia, the homeland of his forefathers. Donelian, a classically trained pianist who played and recorded with legends like Mongo Santamaria, Sonny Rollins, Chet Baker and Paquito D' Rivera, titled his latest record Sayat-Nova: Songs of my Ancestors, to tribute the famous Armenian poet, trobadour and musician Harutyun Sayatyan, whose nickname was Sayat-Nova.read more
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