January 2006

Glenn Astarita BY

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Steuart Liebig/Stigtette



West Coast electric bassist Steuart Liebig could be counted among the area's most enterprising, jazz-based musicians. On this outing, he aligns with a flute-clarinet-bassoon based ensemble for chamber formatted infusions of jazz/classical structures and improvisation. One of the more interesting aspects here is how Liebig brandishes a limber attack while serving as the foundation and propulsive element to these varied works. He also implements prepared bass techniques as a means of diversity. With ostinato motifs, and nimble maneuvers, the bassist lithely steers the current of the ensemble's multidirectional passages.

Mats/Morgan Band
Thanks for Flying with Us



Swedish wunderkinds, Mats Oberg (keys) and Morgan Agren (drums) have been performing together since their teen years. Thus, all that shedding and commitment reaps fruitful dividends here, on this polished prog-rock foray. Along with a cute vocoder like vocal tune and a narration/parody of armed airline pilots, their knotty time signatures and flair for the dynamic generates gobs of excitement. This engagement is not quite as frenetic as previous recordings might discern. The duo is augmented by a band makeup featuring guitarist Jimmy Agren, bassist Tommy Thordsson and others. Nonetheless, there's an abundance of peppery soloing maneuvers to whet the ardent prog-rock fan's appetite. Also included are live bonus tracks where Mat and Morgan perform as a duo. Regardless, these Swedes are terrific musicians who combine insurmountable energy with a poised sense of determination!

Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord
All The Pretty Ponies (a live recording)



Chicago-reared and now an active participant in New York City's improvising scene, guitarist Jon Lundbom fuses avant-garde, jazz-rock scenarios with odd-metered rhythms and more. The quintet is augmented by the twin sax attack of Bryan Murray and Jon Irabagon, whereas Lundbom occasionally puts the pedal to the metal. But there's quite a bit of improvisational forays based upon the soloists' interweaving lines and soaring momentum along with a cavalcade of variables. At times, the band tosses in notions of angst and shock-therapy to coincide with its semi-loud modus operandi. Fans of New York City's wily downtown scene should welcome this outing with open arms!

David Borgo



Director of Jazz at the University of California in San Diego, saxophonist David Borgo steers a group of modern jazz all-stars through this homage to South African jazz. Trombonist George Lewis and pianist Anthony Davis provide plenty of punch during these alternating, quartet-quintet-sextet performances. Borgo is a consummate multi-reedman who triumphantly merges traditional African jazz elements with a state-of-the-art outlook. These pieces move forward with a noticeable degrees of impudence and ballsy characteristics often tempered by the musicians' jubilant choruses and stinging solos. Add to that, the radiantly processed sonic characteristics of a session that surfaces as a top-10 pick for 2005.

TriO & Sainkho
Forgotten Streets of St. Petersburg



The Russian sax-basson-trumpet trio aligns with Russian throat-vocalist Sainkho Namchylak for an avant-garde foray that often yields to the dreary environs of the Soviet era. The stark grayish blue and sepia toned photo of alley ways between decaying buildings intimates a hint of what the music is about. However, Ms Namchylak's near-Herculean vocalese adds eerie warmth to her counterparts, odd phrasings and multihued pastels. This is music that rejects strict classification, but offers yet another perspective of Russian musicians who base their premises upon pushing the envelope. Haunting, suggestive, bleak and partially optimistic, the artists render a gamut of emotive panoramas here.

Steve Kimock Band



Drummer Rodney Holmes and bassist Alphonso Johnson deliver the driving force behind multifaceted guitarist Steve Kimock's slick picking drills. He possesses a clean, medium-toned sound and turns up the heat when dynamics rule the roost. Kimock performs on electric guitar, mandolin, ukulele and lap steel. His palate includes expressive country-rock stylizations, bone-crunching e-guitar riffs, funk and bluesy dreamscapes. He's a very articulate technician, abetted by his penchant for exercising restraint via contrasting tonalities. Kimock and his band also execute climactically oriented opuses, bustling rockers and other nicely orchestrated, genre-splitting movements.

Harry Kapeliaris
Journey to Light

CD Baby (distribution)


Greek guitarist/composer Harry Kapeliaris and his band dish out fiery progressive rock/jazz fusion stylizations, much in the mold of better-known guitar heroes: Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. Kapeliaris turns in some killer licks, while also focusing on compositional form. Ultimately, he distinguishes himself from the hordes of guitar wankers who are more content with technical gymnastics in lieu of nurturing tangible ideas and motifs.

Gerald Wilson Orchestra
In My Time

Mack Avenue


Famed composer/big-band icon Gerald Wilson's latest effort includes a sparkling three-part original composition, jazz standards and brash soloing by trumpeter Jon Faddis, among other luminaries. These blithely swinging arrangements contain plenty of pop, and zing. Featuring an all-world cast, Wilson's enlightening charts only add credence to his stature among the greats. This brilliantly crafted session should not be overlooked. (A top-five pick for 2005).

Carol Robbins
Jazz Play

(CD Baby distribution for Jazzcats


Carol Robbins uses her harp with an uncanny pursuance of the jazz vernacular. With her sextet, Ms Robbins churns out lightly swinging grooves enhanced by her nimble plucking and melodic phrasings. It's silky smooth and a thoroughly enjoyable foray into contemporary jazz, with straight-ahead implications and softly-woven tone poems.

Scott Whitfield Jazz Orchestra East
Diamonds for Nat



Top-notch trombonist Scott Whitfield leads this little big-band through late, trumpeter Nat Adderley's songbook with vigor, sensitivity and buoyant horn charts. The swing element prevails as the ensemble tackles "Work Song, "Jive Samba, and other Adderley favorites. Special guests, alto saxophonist Vincent Herring and trumpeter Marvin Stamm add to the festivities while appearing on selected tracks. Simply put, Whitfield's upbeat interpretations of these choice works generate a celebratory vibe.

Nickel Creek
Why Should the Fire Die?

Sugar Hill


No doubt, this young outfit has been garnering quite a bit of attention—and deservedly so. With its stylistic brand of country-rock-bluegrass to complement memorable compositions that are constructed upon attractive melodies, this trio could seemingly conquer the world. In addition, the musicians' occasionally kick up a hard-core instrumental storm, where they seamlessly fuse Americana-based genres into a distinctly personalized sound and approach. It's music that should appeal to a wide spectrum of listeners, in concurrence with a radio-friendly approach.

Edsel Gomez
Cubist Music



Pianist Edsel Gomez's third date as a leader transmits unparalleled development and focus for an artist just getting out of the gate. He complexly morphs Afro-Cuban jazz with a dictum (cubism) that mirrors the creative aspects of portraying an object from simultaneous viewpoints. And with clarinetist Don Byron, saxophonist David Sanchez and others of note, the pianist composed these pieces with multidirectional flows and knotty time signatures. He reformulates melodies into lofty improvisational forums. Gomez is most assuredly one to watch and along with his estimable band-mates, has created a work that looms as one of the more compelling jazz releases of 2006.

Maya Homburger—Barry Guy—with guest: Pierre Favre



On paper, Baroque composition coupled with modern jazz improvisation might spur notions of oil and water. Well, such is not the case here. Baroque violinist Maya Homburger and bass great Barry Guy create free-flowing and budding passages, swarming with mood altering overtines. And Swiss drummer Pierre Favre performs on selected tracks. The instrumentalists' perceptive counteractions amid Ms Homburger's soaring and effortlessly rendered melodic phrasings equalize the avant aspects of this wonderful engagement.

Steve Dalachinsky & Matthew Shipp
Phenomena of Interference



New York "downtown poet Steve Dalachinsky recites hipster-like prose atop pianist Matthew Shipp's generally, melodic and animated chord voicings. The poet blends humor, with nods to nature and a few dour musings, to complement his glib demeanor. Overall, Dalachinsky's poetry excites the mind's eye and serves up food-for-thought to counterbalance his enigmatic verse.

Michael Attias

Clean Feed


Alto/baritone saxophonist Michael Attias and his quartet raises some havoc during these complex and linearly designed compositions. Violinist Sam Bardfeld and French hornist Mark Taylor perform on selected tracks. Attias' rippling lines atop richly harmonic themes equate to a nicely balanced program consisting of hard-hitting modern jazz by way of an attainable presentation. Attias is one of the more exciting instrumentalists within this wide-ranging idiom.

Forgas Band Phenomena

Soleil 12



Notions of the '70s Canterbury scene are modernized via French composer/drummer Patrick Forgas' effervescent progressive-rock strategies. With Frederic Norel's streaming violin passages and jazzy choruses from the two-man horn section, the leader pushes and prods the band via a spirited impetus. Forward movement and strong soloing serve as the determining factors. But Forgas' attractive melodies and the ensemble's tightly executed unison lines offer an added treat here.

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