Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Radio Interview with Robert Lockwood

Robert Lockwood at the 2005 Pocono Blues Festival - Photo © Ron Weinstock

I was pleasantly surprised when someone on facebook sent me a radio interview I did of Robert Lockwood, Jr., in the Spring of 1971 over WRUW-FM in Cleveland, Ohio. This may be the earliest radio interview with the late blues legend and I hope there are some details folks find interesting. Note this is a nearly forty minute audio file

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Regina Carter Ella: Accentuate the Positive Okeh Records

Regina Carter
Ella: Accentuate the Positive
Okeh Records

The wonderful jazz violinist Regina Carter helps celebrate the centennial of Ella Fitzgerald on her latest recording. Speaking of Ella, she explains, "One of the many things that I adore about Ella is that she just loved music and didn't box herself in. She recorded everything, not just the American Songbook--doo-wop, Stevie Wonder and Beatles songs, even some country western music.  The fact that she experimented with so many different styles made me feel that, with this record, I would pay respect to her by taking the music and doing something else with it.  I feel that she would smile in agreement."

To realize this vision, which transforms the songs through a lens of classic 1950s-'60s soul and blues, Carter calls on an impressive roster of musicians and arrangers including her longtime rhythm section of bassist Chris Lightcap and drummer Alvester Garnett. She is also joined by pianist Xavier Davis and guitarist Marvin Sewell, both of whom serve double-duty as arrangers, and they hey are supplemented by bassist Ben Williams; producer and hitmaker, Ray Angry; vocalist, Charnee Wade and pianist Mike Wofford; Fitzgerald's own former accompanist and musical director.  Two tracks feature vocals by Regina's fellow Detroiters, actress and singer, Miche Braden; and longtime friend and vocalist extraordinaire, Carla Cook.

The result of this imaginative fusion is an album that is less akin to Ella's own music as opposed to taking songs associated with Ella as springboard for Carter's imagination and strong musical personality. Braden contributes a soulful, let's go to church, vocal on the opening "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive," with a funky groove underlying comping from pianist Davis, Williams rock solid bass before Sewell's blues-rock toned guitar and Carter's own full-bodied, and free ranging violin. A nice take on "Crying in the Chapel," showcases the warmth and romanticism Carter invests her playing with with Davis on Fender Rhodes and Sewell adding a neat riff. Bassist Lightcap provided the bluesy arrangement for "I’ll Never Be Free,” with Davis' accompaniment complementing Carter's very bluesy playing.

Wofford arranged the piano, bass, violin trio performance of "Dedicated To You," with Carter at her lyrical best. Another highlight is the most charming, intimate duo between Carter and guitarist Sewell on "Judy," a song the performance of which at the Apollo Theater jump-started Fitzgerald’s career. Wade's R&B flavored take opens "Undecided," which after some vibrant violin also features strong singing from Cook. Sewell's slide guitar provides a down home blues feel for "I'll Chase the Blues Away," with some down-in-the-alley violin opening segueing into a bluesy small band performance with biting slide guitar interacting with Carter's violin and Fender Rhodes on a rootsy close to an imaginative, captivating tribute to the great Ella Fitzgerald

I received as a download from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the November-December 017 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 375). Here is a video Regina made to promote her recording celebrating Ella Fitzgerald.


Friday, November 17, 2017

Rick Estrin & The Nightcats Groovin' In Greaseland

Rick Estrin & The Nightcats
Groovin' In Greaseland
Alligator Records

Its been 30 years since Alligator signed Little Charlie and the Nitecats. Guitarist Charle Baty was the bandleader, by Rick Estrin fronted the band with his somewhat gruff, heartfelt wise-guy vocals (a phrase Bruce Iglauer employs describing Estrin's singing), authoritative harmonica and songwriting, full of wit and wisdom. In 2009, when Baty retired from touring, Estrin took over the band and this is the fourth CD under his leadership. Greaseland in the title refers to the studio that Nitecats guitarist Kid Andersen operates where this disc was recorded. His productions have been among the finest recent straight-ahead blues and roots recordings from any source and this disc has much of the same qualities with clean crisp sound. Lorenzo Farrell is on keyboards while Alex Pettersen occupies the drum chair. There are a number of guests on various tracks including saxophonist Nancy Wright, bassist Jerome Jemmott and electric pianist Jim Pugh. Estrin contributed 11 of the tunes here (one a collaboration with Andersen), while Andersen added one as did keyboardist Farrell.

As suggested above, this is a wonderfully played recording by a super band, starting with the kicking opening shuffle, "The Blues Ain't Going Nowhere," with a litany of reasons why the blues ain't dying with some fat chromatic playing. Then there is the humor of "Dissed Again," with Farrell's rollicking piano. It is followed "Tender Hearted" with Estrin's talking about the experiences with back biting rats so he is tender hearted no more. It has  scintillating tremolo-laced guitar from Andersen along with more strong chromatic harp. Joe Kyle on bass and Pettersen lay down a nicely restrained groove here. Andersen's terrific tribute to Lonnie Mack, ""MWAH!" is a reworking of Mack's classic instrumental "WHAM!," and he captures Mack's Magnetone amp sound.

"Another Lonesome Day," is a slow blues with Andersen evoking Otis Rush and Ike Turner, while Estrin is in a Sonny Boy Williamson II vein with his crying harp playing here. It is followed by the Estrin-Andersen collaboration "Hands of Time," with a groove evocative of "High Heel Sneakers," and some strong amplified hard. Farrell is featured with his greasy organ on the jazzy "Cole Slaw," with a short harp break and some very nice fretwork from Andersen. After a heated shuffle celebrating partying going on at Greaseland, "Hot in Here," there is a strong topical blues "Living Hand To Mouth."

The album closes with a harmonica feature "So Long (for Jay P.)" that showcases not simply Estrin's virtuosity, but his taste and how he shapes his solo. With the excellent backing here, and the throughout this recording, it is fitting coda to another marvelous recording from Rick Estrin & the Nitecats.

I received my review copy from Alligator Records. Here Rick Estrin & The Nightcats are seen performing "The Blues Ain't Going Nowhere."


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Bill Evans Another Time: The Hilversum Concert

Bill Evans
Another Time: The Hilversum Concert
Resonance Records

This is a follow-up to Resonance Records' highly acclaimed "Some Other Time" that similarly documented the short-lived Evans trio of bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Jack DeJohnette (who would leave Evans when recruited by Miles Davis). While that album was a studio recording, this was live recording made at the studios of the Netherlands Radio Union two days after the studio album. Like all Resonance reissues, the production is exquisite with a wonderfully illustrated booklet containing essays from Marc Myers on the music contained; Dutch music critic Bert Vuijsje; producer of the radio broadcast, Joop De Roo; recollections of the concert and performing in Holland by Gomez and Dejohnette and pianist Steve Kuhn's recollections on Evans and his piano style.

The music is sublime with Evans brilliance and dynamic lyricism evident from the opening moments of Andre and Dory Previn's "You're Gonna Hear From Me," with Gomez's brawny bass anchoring the performance while DeJohnette's use of brushes adding accents while Gomez takes a dynamic solo. It is followed by Evan's waltz, "Very Early," that opens slowly before quickly accelerating into a brisk frolic. Evans' romanticism and intelligence is evident on the treatment of the standards, "Who Can I Turn To," "Alfie," and "Embraceable You."  After Evan swings "Who Can I," Gomez is superb on his solo, with DeJohnette helping drive things along, and then DeJohnette's brush work is impeccable on "Alfie." A brilliant Gomez bass solo opens the Gershwin classic and after stating the theme, Evans and Dejohnette enter but serving as support for the bassist. A lovely "Emily" is followed by an energetic interpretation of Miles' "Nardis," with DeJohnette imaginatively, and vigorously, soloing.

A spirited "Turn Out the Stars," and a quick "Five," close this recording. It is another superb Resonance reissue of musical history that has been lovingly been made available for contemporary audiences and certain to receive the same accolades that were given to "Some Other Time."

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review appeared originally in the September-October 2017 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 374).  


Lyn Stanley The Moonlight Sessions Volume One

Lyn Stanley
The Moonlight Sessions Volume One
A.T. Music LLC

A former corporate marketing executive, Southern California vocalist Lyn Stanley has produced this, the first of two volumes that is directed not simply at jazz enthusiasts but also audiophiles with SACD, hi resolution downloads, high end 45 RPM vinyl editions and even 15ips reel to reel tapes. She certainly has assembled a stellar cast of players for this recording session: pianists Mike Garson, Christian Jacob and Tamir Hendelman, guitarist John Chiodini, bassist Chuck Berghofer, drummer Joe La Barbara, percussionist Luis Conte, harmonica maestro Hendrik Meurkens, tenor-saxophonist Rickey Woodard, and trumpeter/trombone player Chuck Findley. Garson, Hendelman, Jacob, Chiodini and Doug Walter provided the arrangements on the standards and adaptations of pop songs.

Stanley is a marvelous song stylist as opposed to a scatting jazz vocalist who delivers a program "All or Nothing at All," "My Funny Valentine," "Embraceable You," "Why Don't You Do Right," "Crazy," "Close Your Eyes," and "In the Wee Small Hours," with a soft, sultry voice and direct, clean articulation of the lyrics. Her natural phrasing and delivery also contributes to the wonderful performances, along with the marvelous musicians such as Findlay's trumpet on the opening "All or Nothing at All," with wonderful piano and the brassy horn riffs. Woodard's tenor sax adds his magic to "Willow Weep For Me," as he embroiders her vocal with guitarist Chiodini adding chords and fills. Meurkens adds his harmonica to a Brazilian tinged treatment of "Close Your Eyes," while harmonica, and Chiodini's guitar to the lament, "How Insensitive, " that she sings in a heartfelt fashion.

One here's a definite Peggy Lee influence on her rendition of "Why Don't You Do Right?' that opens with finger-snapping, bass and guitar before La Barbara lightly uses brushes with Berghofer taking a solo. The choice of the Willie Nelson penned Patsy Cline hit, "Crazy," is an inspired choice with Berghofer opening playing the opening line before the band comes in with a juke joint feel and Findlay and the horns contribute extra spice. Another softly sung late night lament, "In the Wee Wee Hours," with Meurkens' harmonica complemented by Chiodini's guitar accompaniment and La Barbara's brushes providing the right atmosphere for this marvelous closing performance on a wonderfully sung, played, and recorded album of sophisticated jazz vocals.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the September-October 2017 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 374). Here is Lyn Stanley performing live.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Flip Phillips Your Place Or Mine

Flip Phillips
Your Place Or Mine
Jump/Delmark Records

Best remembered for his stint on the Jazz at the Philharmonic tours with his barn-burning solos in the company of Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Charlie Parker and others, tenor saxophonist Flip Phillips had moved to south Florida after those days, playing locally but otherwise in semi-retirement. He got together with guitarist Dell Staton and would jammed for the fun of it at either's home. in 1963 they went to a recording studio for the kicks of it and this is one of the only two Flip made in the twenty years after leaving JATP. Staton in addition to his guitar, adds bass using a foot organ attachment.

From the opening moments of "Come Rain Or Shine," Phillips impresses with the warmth and rhapsodic quality of his playing whether on tenor sax or on bass clarinet (for example the tenderness heard on "Just Say I Loved Her"). Listening to "It's the Talk of the Town," the airy, breathy quality of his playing evokes the great Ben Webster, while Staton, who chords his simple accompaniment, shows a similar attention to tone in his solo interlude. Phillips returns to the bass clarinet for a lovely "Summertime," while against Staton's chording brings his romanticism to Django Reinhardt's "Nuages."

A nicely swinging "Jada" provides a change in pace from ballads that predominate here along with the driving "Scatterbrain," with some marvelous chording and single note guitar along with Phillips here. Then there is the bass clarinet on "Chloe," with some exquisite playing evocative of Webster and clarinetist Barney Bigard on this number that was also part of the Ellington repertoire. Brisk takes on "Jazz Me Blues" and "Gone With the Wind" (with Staton superb here) are among other performances on a marvelously, delightful recording.

I received my review copy from Delmark. This review originally appeared in the September-October Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 374). Here is Filp Phillips at his 80th Birthday Party.


Monday, November 13, 2017

Mark Whitfield Live & Uncut

Mark Whitfield
Live & Uncut
Chesky Records

Recorded live at Manattan's Rockwood Music Hall (on the lower East Side), this new album by the celebrated guitarist Mark Whitfield has him joined by drummer Billy Drummond and bassist Ben Allison. It was recorded with a single binaural microphone and is part of Chesky's Virtual Audio Series. This is a MQA CD that plays back on all CD players but apparently will reveal the original master quality on a MQA enabled device.

Listening to the performances of four standards and two Drummond originals, one observes in addition to the excellence of the playing that Drummond sounds a tad bit too prominent in the mix (and at times too noticeable). Musically things start off on a strong note with a superb "Without a Song," with Whitfield's fresh, and imaginative take matched with his impeccable technique followed by equally brilliant, imaginative explorations of "Invitation" (with a solid Allison solo), and "Willow Weep For Me," as Whitfield takes us for quite a ride with his scintillating fretwork with Allison providing an anchor before Drummond solos, and the audio details of his stick and brushwork is captured wonderfully here. Drummond's intriguing "Changes For Monk And Trane," is followed by a solid rendition of Monk's "Jackie-ing" with Allison superb providing a foundation for the leader's improvisation with Drummond taking another solo.

"Live & Uncut" closes with Drummond's evocative "Dubai," and is another sterling performance by this trio, with another feature for the composer. Whitfield, Allison and Drummond are superb throughout and my only reservation is the prominence of Drummond in the mix, likely the result of the use of only a single microphone (or possibly my not having a MQA CD player).

I received from my review copy from a publicist. Here with organist Pat Bianchi, Mark performs Duke Ellington's, "In a Sentimental Mood."

Sunday, November 12, 2017



3Divas is an offshoot of the Diva Jazz Orchestra which is led by drummer Sherrie Muncie and also includes Orchestra members, Jackie Warren on piano, and Any Shook on bass. As a resident of the Mid-Atlantic, I am most familiar with bassist Shook, who is quite busy in addition to being part of this trio, but all three have impressive resumes as players, composers and educators.

The trio certainly has its very distinctive approach to the ballad "Beautiful Love," which quickly establishes the complete authority they have as they transform this. Warren certainly displays technique, touch, drive and imaginative invention while complemented by the other two. They then turn there attention to John Denver's "Sunshine on My Shoulders" that opens as an exuberant romp before Shook's bowed solo engenders a sober mood to close this performance. A lyrical "Tennessee Waltz" follows and then a jaunty "I Thought About You." Jobim's "Favela" opens wistfully before they launch a spicy latin groove and Warren dazzles here with Shook an anchor and Muncie crisp stick work and use of her cymbals accenting the torrid piano with Shook also soloing strongly and Muncie also generating fireworks. Warren opens "In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning" in a reflective manner before Shook takes a thoughtful bass solo with Muncie's deftly employing brushes and Warren spare runs and chord.

A fresh, dynamic take on the old Sonny and Cher hit "The Beat Goes On," based on Alan Baylock's arrangement of Sonny Bono's number, closes a marvelous recording by a superb trio.

I received as a download from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the September-October Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 374). Here are the 3Divas performing "The Beat Goes On."

Friday, November 10, 2017

Classic Blues Artwork From the 1920s - Vol. 15

Various Artists
Classic Blues Artwork From the 1920s - Vol. 15
Blues Images

John Tefteller's annual Calendar with accompanying CD of remastered rare 78s is certainly one that blues fans will want. The Calendar has each month illustrated with reproductions of original advertisements from African-American newspapers of the time, or rare photos of the artists (in this case newly discovered images of Johnny Temple and Isaiah Nettles also known as The Mississippi Moaner).  There are songs by the performers that are the subject of the illustrations, along with brief comments on the performers and the recordings. There also is a selection of birth and death dates for selected blues artists as part of the Calendar.

In addition to these twelve selections that tie to the Calendar, there are twelve bonus selections that include  the other sides for some of the 78s along with other rarities. This is the third straight year that he has employed the technology that was employed on the recent American Epic PBS television series, and reissue recordings associated with that series, to remaster original 78s (generally the best existing copy which usually are from his own collection) to present the music with the best possible sound.

Their are some terrific music to be heard here starting with Memphis Minnie's debut as she sings "Frisco Town" that was originally issued as by Kansas Joe and Memphis Minnie. Several of my favorite recordings are here including Blind Lemon Jefferson's superb "Hot Dogs"; Blind Willie Johnson's magnificent song inspired by the sinking of Titanic, "God Moves on the Water" and Charlie Patton recordings "Screamin' and Hollerin' The Blues" (and the other side of this is a bonus track and equally good, "Mississippi Boweavil Blues." Blind Blake's "Hard Road Blues," may not be his best known song but a typically fine performance of this masterful guitarist and singer. Blake is also heard backing Bertha Henderson on "Lead Hearted Blues."

It is certainly nice to hear a much cleaner remastering of the rare Tommy Johnson coupling "Slidin' Delta" and "I Wonder To Myself," on which he plays kazoo. The Beale Street Sheiks (Frank Stokes and Dan Sane) are present in the solid "Wasn't That Doggin' Me," while "The Evil Devil Blues" by Johnny 'Geechie' Temple is a terrific cover of Skip James' "Devil Got My Woman." Then there is the Mississippi Moaner's superb "Its Cold in China," a recording Johnny Shines reworked as "So Cold in Vietnam," three decades later. Also related to the images on the Calendar are a novelty by Tampa Red and Georgia Tom, "Strewin' Your Mess," along with a gospel performance Rev. Steamboat Bill's Revival Singers, "Happy As The Day Is Long."

I have mentioned a few of the bonus tracks which include Blind Lemon's "Weary Dog Blues," the flip side to "Hot Dogs "; Johnny Temple's "Jacksonville Blues," (a superb selection that was the flip to "Evil Devil Woman Blues"); and Kansas Joe and Memphis Minnie's "Goin' Back To Texas," which is an actual vocal duet and musically even better than "Frisco Town." Other selections include a superb pair from St. Louis artist, 'Hi' Henry Brown with the great Charlie Jordan also on guitar, ("Brown Skin Angel" and "Hospital Blues"), and a spectacular couple from Sam Butler under the name Bo Weavil Jackson ("The Devil and My Brown" and "You Can't Keep No Brown"). The Memphis Jug Band (coming off like a skiffle band) is heard backing pianist jab Jones on a pair of songs that were thought to have been lost as well as backing Charlie Nickerson on an excellent and ebullient "Going Back to Memphis."

Once again John Tefteller has produced a remarkable Blues Calendar and fabulous reissue CD. This year's Calendar also includes some observations from Bernard MacMahon, one of the creators of the PBS film documentary "American Epic." Among his observations are "These recordings represent some of the most powerful, sociologically important music of the early blues era.They are especially relevant in these parlous times when hard-won freedoms are sorely threatened." Also, these recordings have never sounded better on this latest Blues Calendar, which can be obtained from and online retailers. It certainly makes for a wonderful gift for the blues lover on your holiday gift list.

I purchased this from Blues Iamges.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

The Nighthawks All You Gotta Do

The Nighthawks
All You Gotta Do
EllerSoul Records

I believe this is the fourth album by the current lineup of The Nighthawks when Mark Stutso replaced Pete Ragusa on drums, joining Mark Wenner on harmonica, Paul Bell on guitar and Johnny Castle on bass. It is another generous helping of blues and roots rock by one of the hardest working bands around with as eclectic a group as songs as they have ever recorded ranging from the opening updating of a Brenda Lee recording "That's All You Gotta Do" sung by Mark;  Willie Dixon's "Baby, I Want To Be Loved"; to Jesse Winchester's "Isn't That So"; to a rowdy rendition of Randy Newman's "Let Burn Down the Cornfield."

Highpoints include Stutso's singing on Larry Campbell's country gospel song "When I Go Away," that served as Levon Helm's personal farewell, his original hoodoo blues, "VooDoo Doll," and a wonderful swamp pop ballad "Three Times Your Fool"; Bell's stunning slide guitar backing on "Let Burn Down the Cornfield"; Wenner's harp and vocal on a rollicking cover of the second Sonny Boy Williamson's "Ninety Nine," his swamp blues reworking of Winchester's "Isn't that So" with marvelous tremolo laced guitar from Bell, and the instrumental recasting of "Frere Jacques" as "Blues For Brother John," with some jazzy playing from Bell; the band's reworking of R.L. Burnside's "Snake Drive" with terrific harp and slide; and Castle's grungy garage rock rendition of the Standell's "Dirty Water," with references to Boston changed to DC and Bell's guitar solo evoking the group, Them.

Other than the range of material, there will be no surprises for fans of The Nighthawks on another solid addition to their large body of recordings.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is an August 2017 performance by The Nighthawks.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Jason Stein Quartet Lucille!

Jason Stein Quartet
Delmark Records

Very welcome is this new release from Stein, one of the few bass clarinet specialists. As on Stein's Delmark debut "This Story, this Time," Keefe Jackson is present with his tenor sax (and contrabass clarinet for a couple numbers) and Joshua Abrams is on bass. Drummer Tom Rainey replaces Frank Rosaly who was on the earlier release as the quintet negotiate here several originals along with some songs representing the Tristano school as well as bop standards from Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk.

About the earlier album I wrote, "Some might describe this as free jazz, but that may refer to the looser musical structures they build their improvisations and with few exceptions do not relate to frenzied or frenetic playing … ." Certainly the interplay between Jackson's tenor sax and Stein on Warne Marsh's "Marshmallow' establishes the 'in the moment' quality of the performances here with Abrams and Rainey providing an almost atemporal underpinning between their well crafted intricate interplay. Stein's own "Halls and Room" has Stein stretching out as his serpentine lines illustrate his focus on the normal range of the instrument (say compared to Dolphy's bluesy employment of the upper range) and followed by a sober tenor sax from Jackson, set against Abrams' bass before Rainey joins in to support the smoldering heat in Jackson's solo.

Jackson's contrabass clarinet sets out the theme on Parker's "Dexterity," a nicely loose rendition of this modern music classic (to use the phrase Symphony Sid employed in radio broadcasts of Bird). Equally engrossing is the performance of Monk's "Little Rootie Tootie," again with Jackson on contrabass clarinet), with some honking, squawks and other effects again with the two clarinets weaving in and around each other. The interplay between tenor sax and bass clarinet also is present in their vibrant handling of Tristano's "Wow."

Stein's own "
I Knew You Were" has a floating drone-like quality as a duet by him with Abrams as Rainey adds some understated accompaniment and on Tristano's "April," Stein states the theme as well as ably negotiates the twists and turns of the melody before Jackson's tenor joins in adding his weight and counterpoint to Stein's lead. It is a strong close to a terrific new recording from Jason Stein.

I received my review copy from Delmark. Here is "Marshmallow" from this album.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Kris Funn CornerStore

Kris Funn

The CornerStore - "On the corner of bebop and hiphop, hard rock and hard knocks … Here in West Baltimore. This ain't just a store. It's a metaphor for our lives. … So take a look around. We ain't got what you need, but I know we got what you want. … Thank You For Shopping With Us… Welcome to the corner store." This bits and pieces excerpt comes from Paige Hernadez's narration of the opening track of bassist Kris Funn's long-awaited recording "CornerStore," which is also the group under which this music is presented in public.

Funn is a second generation jazz artist whose father Charles is also a noted educator who was honored a couple years ago by the Jazz Journalists Association as a jazz hero. Kris Funn may be familiar to those who are fans of trumpeter Christian Scott's music as he has been part of Scott's band for a number of years as well as is heard on Scott's recordings. Funn has also played and recorded with vibraphonist Warren Wolf and too many others to note, and when the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival needed a rhythm section for the great Benny Golson, Funn was on bass.

The rest of the CornerStore includes drummer John Lampkin (or Quincy Phillips), guitarist John Lee and saxophonist Tim Green. Allyn Johnson and Janelle Gill add piano to a few tracks. When this writer first saw Kris Funn and CornerStore at a Capital Bop (Local DC jazzgroup) produced show several years ago, it was Lee and Lampkin. Seeing the group on this and other occasions I told Kris he needed to record this group. I was not alone in this, and finally we have this recording.

The music here brings together the mix of lyricism, blues feeling, funk and more, that characterize the CornerStore performances. Blues is a root of Funn's compositions, often repeating a melodic phrase before the compositions open in unexpected and delightful fashions. The opening "Visceral," a trio performance with Funn, Lampkin and Lee imaginatively and energetically taking us through this blues. It was on the following "Gemini," with Green's alto added, that one starts to appreciate the melodic elements of Funn's music with his singing tone in harmony with Lee's guitar on stating the theme. The performances are full of fun (no pun intended) as well as imaginative playing with unexpected twists.

The only number on this that was a bit disappointing was "Thursday Night Prayer Meeting," and that is because pianist Allyn Johnson is spectacular as usual, but he dominates the performance that it minimizes the stop-time, bass break that is part of why this such a favorite of the CornerStore's live performances. At the CD release party at the Kennedy Center (viewable at the Kennedy Center's website), they closed with this. While Johnson was perhaps even more astonishing, the bass break was also more prominent. But it still is a very good performance. In any event, this terrific album has been well worth the wait for us.

I purchased this. It is available from various internet stores including at bandcamp, At another CD release party at the Washington DC Leica Store, Kris Funn and the CornerStore are seen performing "Thursday Night Prayer Meeting," with Herb Scott on alto sax, John Lee on guitar and John Lampkin on drums.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Billy Porter Presents The Soul of Richard Rogers

Billy Porter Presents
The Soul of Richard Rodgers
Sony Masterworks

A quick and dirty description of this new recording by the Tony and Grammy Award winner Billy Porter is hip hop meets the classic songs of Richard Rodgers. Included are includes solos and duets from the a variety of artists  (in addition to Porter himself) including  Tony and Grammy Award winners Cynthia Erivo (The Color Purple), Renée Elise Goldsberry (Hamilton) and Leslie Odom Jr. (Hamilton), Tony Award-winner Patina Miller (Pippin), Grammy Award winners Pentatonix and India.Arie, Tony Award nominees Brandon Victor Dixon (Shuffle Along), Joshua Henry (Violet), and Christopher Jackson (Hamilton), alongside YouTube sensation and Kinky Boots star Todrick Hall and multiple Grammy Award nominees Deborah Cox and Ledisi.

"I like to think of this as the Richard Rodgers version of the Hamilton Mixtapes," Porter said.  "These are classic songs that everybody knows and loves, and I'm so excited for people to hear them in a brand new way." Certainly listening to Ledisi singing "Bewitched," the hip hop groove recasts a familiar melody, elongating and transforming it as well as incorporating an explicit rap from Zaire Park. India.arie sings "Carefully Taught," from the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic musical "South Pacific" and its 1949 lyric is unfortunately so relevant today, "You got to be taught to hate and fear; You got to be taught from year to year; It's got to be drummed in your dear little ear; You got to be carefully taught." Porter himself provides the lovely interpretation of "Edelweiss" from "The Sound of Music," and a brief narration notes that the flower exists in the harshest of environment and reminds us we must flourish in the harshest of times, again not only reworking the song for contemporary tastes, but showing its continued relevance,

There is the hip hop rendition of "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair" with a politically charged rap mixed with the singing of the lyrics. Not everything has political connotations as the dreamy duet between Renée Elise Goldsberry & Christopher Jackson on "If I Loved You," Cynthia Erivo's lovely "My Funny Valentine," or Porter's interpretation of "The Lady Is a Tramp," with a Zaire Park rap playing off the lyrics, incorporated in this performance. Then there is Pentatonix's optimistic and spirited take on "What a Beautiful Morning."

Billy Porter has put together this imaginative re-imagination of some classic songs that are well established parts of the American Songbook, and these performances show the contemporary relevance of these songs in introducing them to new audiences. At the same time, there is no question that some will be put off by the musical settings and there are some explicit raps on a couple of tracks on a very intriguing recording.

I received a review download from a publicist. This review appeared in the September-October 2017  Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 374). Here Billy Porter and others talk about this recording.