Given his proclivity for wildly eclectic, big-concept musical projects featuring improbable combinations of multi-ethnic instrumentalists, Joel Harrison is about the last guitarist I'd expect to record a funky slab of power-trio jazz-rock-funk fusion. Across the board, his guitaristic skills have taken a back seat to compositional concerns and rich, detailed arrangements. Yet, here is Mother Stump, Harrison's paean to 70s-era jazz-rooted, rock-powered, funked-up guitar-centric instrumental music. Moreover, Harrison has pointedly eschewed all of the studio polish and post-production nonsense that bogs down must fusion albums these days. Like the best music in any genre, Mother Stump derives its potency from ...read more
Jazz has always had a soft spot for pop music. Icons like trumpeter Louis Armstrong blessed the masses with his positivity and raspy voice in 1967's What a Wonderful World" and saxophonist John Coltrane transformed Rodgers and Hammerstein's 1960 musical smash My Favorite Things" into a swinging affair. Fast forward to 2014 as singer, songwriter and producer Jose James continues the practice with a fine rendition of 1972's Simply Beautiful" by the one-time prince of R&B, vocalist Al Green. James is a singer with a commanding presence, his tenor like velvet with exceptional range that includes folk, ...read more
Pioneering trumpeter, composer Cuong Vu and pianist Richard Karpen push the envelope by not releasing a cut and dry tribute to Duke Ellington and his counterpart Billy Strayhorn . With a standard jazz quartet supported by iPad and electronics performers, to say this album follows mainstream jazz guidelines would be a miscue of sorts. Unconventional wisdom and atypical treatments accentuate this production of three Ellington-Strayhorn compositions and several originals by the quartet. According to Vu, the spirit of Ellington and Strayhorn presided during the recording session, amid references to the music taking on the semblance of an extended ...read more
Meet Kevin Ahart: I'm a native of Austin, Texas but swapped my cowboy boots for a tuxedo when, at age five, I started singing the Great American Songbook--I've been at it ever since. My debut album, Let's Take the World featuring Jane Monheit and Jeff Franzel, and recorded by Phil Ramone, is out June 23--you can listen to it here: https://soundcloud.com/ahartmusic I'm also pretty excited about playing two London dates on June 17 at the Pheasantry at Pizza Express, King's Rd and June 18 at The Spice of Life, 6 Moor Street, Soho, London, W1D 5NA.read more
To properly appreciate The Omar Hakim Experience one must look back to move forward. By the time Hakim slipped behind the drum kit of Weather Report in 1983, the band was staggering under the weight of personnel departures, management problems and family issues. Founding member Joe Zawinul went in search of new recruits and in walked Hakim with bassist Victor Bailey and percussionist Jose Rossy. Curt Bianchi's well-researched blog, The Weather Report Annotated Discography, is the go-to site for all things related to the band and on it Hakim explained what he brought to the group besides his ...read more
Long associated, for better or worse, with the so-called jam band phenomenon of the mid-to-late 1990s, the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey continues to generate intelligent, daring, genre-defying music. JFJO's first live recording in a decade or so, Millions: Live In Denver, is part celebration of their 20th year of existence and part revelry in their new sound: a pared-down lineup of keys, drums and guitar. The Tulsa, Oklahoma-based brainchild of keyboardist and composer Brian Haas, JFJO has gone through a dizzying number of personnel changes and instrumental configurations over the years. Starting out in 1994 as a funky octet with ...read more
After winning the Spellemannpris (Norwegian Grammy) for her first release on the fledgling Susanna Sonata label, the career-defining collaboration with Ensemble neoN, The Forester (2013), singer Susanna resists the urge to repeat herself by moving on to even more experimental territory with Meshes of Voice, this time together with fellow Norwegian vocalist Jenny Hval--a collaboration that, in retrospect, seems absolutely inevitable. Prior to launching her Susanna Sonata label, Susanna was a (largely) Rune Grammofon recording artist, releasing albums like 2009's Flower of Evil under her own name, and others, like 3, from the same year, as one-half of ...read more
One of the numerous talents that Israel has produced in the last decade is pianist Omer Klein. He is a much sought-after guest at various music venues in Europe, Israel and the U.S and last April he had his first tour in Canada. Klein, grew up in Netanya, Israel. After he received a special scholarship Klein moved to jny: Boston where he attended the New England Conservatory. In 2006 he moved to New York where he quickly became a notable member of the NYC jazz scene. Nowadays Klein lives with his wife in Düsseldorf. He has given numerous master classes ...read more
Otis Brown III + Revive Big Band Blue Note Records 75th Anniversary at Central Park Summerstage August 3, 2014 New York, NY On an evening dedicated to the 75th anniversary of Blue Note Records (now a subsidiary of Universal Music), drummer Otis Brown III began the proceedings by leading his quintet through hard-bopping original material, opening with The Way to the Light," a rumba-based tune with a simple structure that became fodder for great improvised moments from everyone involved. A heartfelt take on Herbie Hancock's I Have a Dream" followed, which Brown ...read more
Ayal Tsubery is a Berklee-educated bassist and composer influenced, as he puts it, by ..." jazz, Israeli folk, African and Middle Eastern grooves and old-school gritty rock 'n' roll." On his debut album, Decisions, he brings most of those influences together to create a strong set of tunes--not so much of the gritty rock 'n' roll, but jazz and the middle east are very much in evidence. Percussionist Jon Nellen opens Blue Nights," setting a mood that conjures visions of midnight trysts beneath the moonlight. The band retains the mood throughout the tune, including Tsubery's smooth electric bass ...read more
The eclectic, even eccentric musical tastes of German, Netherlands- based flute master Mark Alban Lotz may be attributed to his personal history. He grew up in Thailand, Germany, and Uganda, while studying jazz, contemporary music, and Indian bansuri flute playing in Amsterdam, New York, and jny: Los Angeles. This globe-trotting biography is reflected in his flute solo performances of contemporary composed music and associative improvisations, all recorded in one go with no overdubs or sound processing. Lotz is a musician who sees and plays the flute beyond its conventional instrumental characteristics. After all, the flute, any ...read more
Soprano saxophonist Joe Rosenberg, who splits his time between Paris, France and Bali, Indonesia, has a highly personal approach to playing and improvising. He stresses a spiritual search for an inner sound that may enlighten his music with profound, timeless meaning. Regrettably, Rosenberg records rarely. His last effort with the Signal to Noise quartet, Tag, was released in 2009 (Quark). His highly impressive new albums feature a distinct approach and unique compositions. Joe Rosenberg Ensemble Resolution Quark Records 2014 Rosenberg frames the debut album of his French chamber ensemble with ...read more
"Free Jazz" and Avant-Garde Jazz" are catch phrases often associated with musical pioneers such as Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor but more broadly refer to music that goes outside of the mainstream of melody, harmony, rhythm, and structure. When that happens, opinions and emotions abound. Reactions vary from disgust to excitement and enthusiasm, and it is rare to find a balanced view on the subject. The question arises, why does the same music so strongly attract and repel? To seek answers to this and related questions about music that presses the limits of the expectable, All About Jazz initiated a ...read more
Translating guitarist/producer Daniel Lanois' evocative guitar and ability to create stratified soundscapes into soundtrack music for actor Billy Bob Thornton's directorial debut Sling Blade may seem an unusual choice, but the outcome turns into an interesting and unique blend of his darker, moodier incidental guitar and a variety of other instrumental touches. Lanois' music has always been about mood and ambience and other people have benefited from his unusual gift of capturing or creating all kinds of ambiences. This multitalented musician, thinker and a driving force behind the creation of many great records is a creator of sonic witchcraft. His ...read more
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