Marsalis Music: Bluestate and J

Mark F. Turner By

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The fledgling Marsalis Music Label celebrates another anniversary with sophomore releases by two of its most exciting young artists: Bluestate by guitarist Doug Wamble and Jibaro by saxophonist Miguel Zenon. Their debuts recordings were well received by the jazz community by delivering music filled with diversity and fresh outlooks. One of the key freedoms allowed by producer Branford Marsalis to these artists was to let them simply be themselves and channel their own ideas and experiences into the music and the mindset continues on these noteworthy recordings.

Doug Wamble
Marsalis Music

If you thought that Wamble's style of mixing jazz, blues, gospel, and popular music was just a fluke; then think again because his new recording proclaims that he for real. What continues to impress, is his abilities as a singer, guitar picker, and improviser. With equal strengths the question is asked: Does he sing better or does he play guitar better? The unqualified answer is simply yes on both counts. Whereas his acclaimed debut Country Libation offered the obligatory "get to know me" recording; Bluestate has a more focused and relaxed vibe due to the return of his longtime band members, who are now given more of a chance to show their wares with fine performances as things open up on the socially conscious "If I Live to See the Day" with Wamble's dissonant vocals layered against a jazzy and upbeat melody interspersed with solid solos. The music is fueled with a touch of soul and spirituality on the lamenting yet beautiful ballad "Washing of the Water" written by Peter Gabriel and a burning rendition of the Negro Spiritual "Rockin' In Jerusalem" featuring Branford Marsalis on saxophone filled with gospel and hard bop goodness with extended solos and soulful vocals. Make no mistake * this is a serious jazz band with nifty instrumental pieces like the groovy "Homewrecker Hump," "No More Schrubs in Casablanca," and the nod to bluegrass on "The Bear and the Toad" as they serve up jazz - "Southern-fried" style on this outstanding and progressive release.

Miguel Zenon
Marsalis Music

With its many prescribed definitions, jazz music is about having roots. The third release by saxophonist Miguel Zenon explores Jibaro (pronounced he-bar-ro), the musical roots of his rural homeland in Puerto Rico with new sounds that are extracted and infused with his own ideas in this most captivating recording. Continuing on the heels of 2004's promising Ceremonial , Jibaro shows that Zenon is one of the many shining lights in jazz music today, with fresh concepts and fluid angularity from his slightly acidic-toned alto.

Zenon's "dream band" returns with Luis Perdomo on acoustic piano, Hans Glawischnig on bass, and Antonio Sanchez on drums. They have gelled to a consistency of consummate musicianship and the ten compositions incorporate traditional Jibaro music and modern jazz with stunning results. The almost tribal-like cadence of "Seis Cinco," the festive atmosphere of "Punto Cubano," or the majestic beauty of "Aquinaldo": each piece is imbued with complex patterns, colorful rhythms, and Zenon's fresh perspective.

Superb contributions from the band abound with pianist Perdomo, who is also a key member in Ravi Coltrane's quartet, providing some if his most elegant and gutsy work to date, backed by the taut and dynamic rhythm section of Glawischnig and Sanchez on "Villaran" and "Llanera" as Zenon's alto burns brightly. His soloing on "Marianda" is spacious, free, and as the recording concludes with the infectious title piece "Jibaro" it simply leaves the listener wanting more.

Personnel: Doug Wamble - guitar & vocals; Roy Dunlap - piano; Jeff Hanley - bass; Peter Miles - drums.

Track Listing: 1. If I Live to See the Day 2. Washing of the Water 3. The Homewrecker Hump 4. Antoine's Pillow Rock 5. Rockin' Jerusalem 6. One-Ninin' 7. No More Shrubs in Casablanca 8. Have a Talk with God 9. Gone Away 10. The Bear and the Toad

Personnel: Miguel Zenon - alto saxophone; Luis Perdomo - piano; Hans Glawischnig - bass; Antonio Sanchez - drums.

Track Listing: 1. Seis Cinco; 2. Fajardeno; 3. Punto Cubano; 4. Aguinaldo; 5. Chorreao; 6. Enramada; 7. Villaran; 8. Llanera; 9. Marianda; 10. Jibaro.


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