Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Al Muirhead's Canadian Quintet Undertones

Al Muirhead's Canadian Quintet
Chronograph Records

Western Canadian Jazz Icon, Al Muirhead, came to wider prominence in North America with the release of his JUNO-nominated debut album ‘It’s About Time’. At the age of 82 years old, he is making up for lost time with his fourth release in just three years. This recording features Al on the rare bass trumpet with his new Canadian Quintet, all Canadian jazz heavyweights: Kelly Jefferson (sax), Reg Schwager (guitar), Neil Swainson (bass) and Ted Warren (drums).

Muirhead, as trumpeter, composer, arranger, sideman and recording artist has been making listeners take notice for longer than jazz fans might realize. Born in Regina, Saskatchewan, in 1935, he was playing in the Regina Symphony and dance bands by age 12. Muirhead started listening to and being influenced by the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, and Louis Armstrong. While Muirhead’s playing is infused with the indelible influence of the jazz giants, he brought his own flowing, melodic sound to a career in which he has worked with legends such as Diana Krall, Paul Anka, Rosemary Clooney, Frank Mills and Dizzy Gillespie.

The bass trumpet looks like an oversized version of that brass instrument with a sound like a valve trombone. There are ten songs, eight of them are standards and two originals with the overall tenor of the music being swing to bebop. It is a swinging ensemble and Jefferson is a fine solo foil for Muirhead's melodic trombone sorties with a clean tone and a driving style while guitarist Schwager has more than several occasions to display a fluid attack and thoughtful solos. His comping and the support of Swainson and Warren help generate the nicely paced swinging performances.

The album opens with this he easy bluesy stride of "A Tune For Cal," written for the memory his older brother. Muirhead has an ear for classics of the big band including "Rose Room" that opens with his attractive playing followed choice solos from Jefferson and Schwager with the bass and drums providing a sure foundation as well as a solid bass solo. I'm am most familiar with "'Deed I Do," from the Count Basie recording featuring Jimmy Rushing in which Muirhead delights with his slightly gruff lyricism. The relaxed swing of the rendition of "You're My Everything" is followed by Muirhead's "Take It To Bank Tom," dedicated to Canadian musician Tommy Banks, and also has a bluesy feel in the leader's relaxed solo. It is followed by a marvelous interpretation of the Mancini and Mercer classic waltz, "Charade," with Jefferson's driving, searching solo contrasting with the leader's raspy, yet lyrical, playing.

After a lovely "I Don't Stand a Chance With You," with a splendid solo from Muirhead, the album closes with a spirited rendition of "Four Brothers," a number chosen to honor his sister Elaine, with solo spots to the entire band. Muirhead and his quintet are an impressive, swinging ensemble that have produced a wonderful swinging release.

I received a download to review from a publicist. Here is an interview with Al Muirhead.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Grand Marquis Brighter Days

Grand Marquis
Brighter Days
Grand Marquis Music

Formed in the 1990's in Kansas City as a jump blues and swing band, Grand Marquis has established themselves as an institution in the region while morphing perhaps into a band mixing soul, New Orleans grooves and pop flavors that might be (as a reference point) likened to Blood, Sweat and Tears crossed with New Orleans brass bands. I say that because this writer would not describe this new release, their eighth album, as a blues album. But the description is not a comment on the merits of Grand Marquis or this recording.

The driving six-piece horn band is comprised of Bryan Redmond (lead vocals and saxophones); Chad Boydston (backing vocals and trumpet), Trevor Turla (backing vocals and trombone), Ryan Wurtz (guitar), Ben Ruth (backing vocals, uptown bass, and sousaphone), and Fritz Hutchinson (backing vocals and drums). While the publicity for this release likens Redmond's vocals to David Clayton-Thomas, I found his phrasing more in the vein of Van Morrison, although not quite as limber a singer. Still, there is much to enjoy whether in the opening "Another Love," or the title track with a strong trumpet solo as well as some shattering slide guitar. This is a well-rehearsed band with tight horns and a solid rhythm section.

A couple of songs take us musically to New Orleans with the Mardi Gras second-line feel of "Night Shift," where Redmond sings about not worrying about working on the night shift with the horns each strongly soloing as well as letting loose with some New Orleans polyphony with Ruth on sousaphone. After Boydston's strident trumpet, Redmond follows with some twisting clarinet and later some strong tailgating trombone from Turla. More New Orleans flavor can be heard on the brass band styled funk instrumental "It Don't Matter," where all the horns and Wurtz get to solo (Redmond wails on the baritone sax on this). "Ain't No Spark" is a funky number with a call and response between Redmond and the rest of the band with another burly trombone solo by Turla.

There is a reflective interpretation of Jimmy Cliff's "Many Rivers To Cross," with a solid Redmond vocal and a nice arrangement of the brass to help frame his singing here (along with an imaginative trombone solo). A spirited take on the traditional "Down By the Riverside," is given a solid New Orleans brass band styled setting, taking out this very intriguing and entertaining recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. I have a few minor changes to the review that appeared in the September-October Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 380). Here is a recent performance of "Night Shift."

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Blue & Lonesome Duo Pacing the Floor

Blue & Lonesome Duo
Pacing the Floor
EllerSoul Records

The Blue & Lonesome Duo is comprised of Richmond's Ronnie Owens on vocals, harmonica and foot drum and Gordon Harrower on vocals and guitar for an unassuming set of informal, stripped down blues performances that perhaps break new ground, but provides some very enjoyable listening. There is a mix of covers and some originals starting with a nice rendition of John Estes "Drop Down Mama" (wrongly credited to Honeyboy Edwards) with a nice vocal by Harrower with Owens providing some dynamic harp. It is followed by a traditionally based original, "Wine Headed Woman," with Owens singing through his harp mike (like Papa Lightfoot) and Harrower providing a strong bass line to anchor the performance.

"Mean Red Spider" is a nice take on a Robert Lockwood song that Muddy Waters covered. Harrower's attractive vocal is more in the vein of Lockwood. It is followed by a rollicking rendition of Jimmy Rogers' "Act Like You Love Me," with Owens playing superbly in the manner of the legendary Big Walter Horton. Another notable track is "Careless Love," with a heartfelt vocal and more fine harp from Owens. The title track is an original, easy rocking blues boogie with Owens upfront and Harrower providing simple, effective backing. There is even a blues duo cover of James Brown's lament "Try Me," along with a nicely rendered covers of Jimmy Rogers' "Out on the Road," and Slim Harpo's recording of "Raining in My Heart." On the latter song the two capture the feeling of Harpo's swamp blues Excello original.

While one would be hard-pressed to call this an essential recording, there is plenty to enjoy on this highly diverting recording.

I received a review copy from Ellersoul.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Vanessa Collier Honey Up

Vanessa Collier
Honey Up
Phenix Fire Records

After having her second album on Ruf, Vanessa Collier's latest is a crowd-funded, self-produced CD. The Berklee graduate (with degrees in Performance and Music Production & Engineering) is a threat as a singer, songwriter (she wrote 9 of the ten songs on this) multi-instrumentalist (playing various saxophones as well as guitar on this) and arranger. She has recruited quite a group of musicians for this including Nick Stevens on drums and percussion, Nick Trautmann on bass, Sparky Parker on guitar for several tracks, William Gorman on keyboards, Laura Chavez on guitar (8 of the ten tracks), Quinn Carson on trombone (5 tracks) and Doug Woolverton on trumpet (5 tracks).

Her website notes that she "weaves funk, soul, rock, and blues into every powerful performance," and that is quite evident on the varied musical program here which includes songs ranging from the opening New Orleans flavored "Sweatin' Like A Pig, Singin' Like An Angel," as she shouts about singing in the Southland. Vocally, she impresses with her presence while Laura Chavez blasts a some hot West Coast blues guitar prior to Collier taking a funky tenor sax solo in a King Curtis vein, and then trades fours with Woolverton. It isn't simply the performance of her and the core band, but her arrangement of the horns and the production, all of which is first-rate on this party track. There is more of a party mood on "Don't Nobody Got Time To Waste," with the brassy horns riffing in support set against a jubilant gospel-rooted groove. Gorman is very greasy on the organ while her sax soars against the rest of the band.

The title track is a funky song where she sings about being held up in her relationship and another who wants her to "honey up and kiss his behind." She takes a punchy sax solo while Gorman takes a keyboard solo set against Stevens' driving drumming. "Percolatin'" is a funky instrumental that showcases her funky R&B sax playing. Bassist Trautmann is spotlighted here as well. One of the most interesting, and enjoyable songs here is "Icarus," an imaginative telling of the Greek mythological figure. She plays acoustic guitar (providing an effective sparse backing) behind her melodious singing and a strong short saxophone solo. It is a change of pace from some of the more hard-hitting songs, including "The Fault Line," with more searing guitar from Laura Chavez. There is the effective employment of resonator guitars by Collier and Parker, along with Chavez's focused fretwork on "Bless Your Heart." For variety, there is a touch of country in her vocal on the horn-driven shuffle, "You're a Pill." Again Chavez shines while Collier's booting solo helps ride this track out. "Making lemonade out of lime can get a little crazy… " opens up the New Orleans-Ray Charles flavor on "You Get What You Get."

The album closes with a nice rendition of Chris Smithers' "Love Me Like a Man," that opens as a duet with just Parker's backing before the full band joins in to add punch behind her heartfelt singing and saxophone solo. As a matter of taste, there are a couple songs that I might have preferred a slightly slower tempo or a tad lighter touch on the drums, but I am again impressed by Collier as a singer, saxophonist, songwriter, and a producer. "Honey Do" is a striking recording that will have strong appeal to many.

I received my review copy from a publicist. I have made stylistic changes to the review that originally appeared in the September-October 2018 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 380). Here she performs "Sweatin' Like A Pig, Singin' Like An Angel."

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Sullivan Fortner Moments Preserved

Sullivan Fortner
Moments Preserved

I was aware of pianist Sullivan Fortner from recorded accompaniments to vocalist C├ęcile McLorin Salvant. The New Orleans-bred pianist and composer has a gem of a new recording that certainly should delight many. With a career that has already had him playing with Ms. Salvant, as well as Roberta Gambarini; trumpeters Roy Hargrove (in whose band he was in for 8 years), Etienne Charles, and Ambrose Akinmusire; and guitarists John Scofield and Peter Bernstein, he sparkles on this recording with a trio that includes bassist Ameen Saleem (who played with him in Hargrove's band for seven years) and drummer Jeremy "Bean" Clemons. It also includes a couple of numbers with Hargrove.

There is a range of material including standards, imaginative interpretations of themes from television shows and poignant originals, starting with the lively rendition of "Changing Keys," the theme of TV's "Wheel of Fortune." Fortner's touch, inventiveness and his articulation might suggest Barry Harris who he studied with, but he is no Harris clone. He also benefits from the splendid rhythm section. Bud Powell's influence, through Barry Harris' mentoring, is evident on Fortner's original "Pep Talk," that also places the spotlight on Saleem and Clemons. "Elegy For Clyde Kerr" is an alluring ballad that was dedicated to the late New Orleans trumpeter and educator. Fortner's thoughtful, restrained playing is complemented by the rhythm. Bassist Saleem composed and kicks off "Beans and Cornbread," with its jaunty melody, Fortner's spirited playing and Saleem's own strongly played solo.

Roy Hargrove, on flugelhorn, joins the ensemble for a hauntingly lovely rendition of Elmo Hope's ballad, "Eyes So Beautiful As Yours," followed an exquisite reading of Duke Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood." Fortner's original "Barbara's Strut," displays echoes of Monk and Bud Powell. He follows it with a dazzling, Tatum-esque rendition of "Just in Time." Saleem and Clemons both also are featured on this breakneck performance. Then Fortner takes us to the Caribbean with the jubilantly performed calypso, New Port," followed by his solo impressionistic interpretation of Earth Wind & Fire's "Fantasy," with his mix of cascading passages and dissonance.

Other performances include a marvelous duet with Roy Hargrove "Monk Medley" which was comprised of Monk's "Ask Me Now" and "Monk's Mood." Fortner's beautiful solo rendition of a traditional gospel hymn, "The Solid Rock," also displays his taste as well as technique. It is another wonderful performance on a terrific recording.

I received a download to review from a publicist. I have made some minor stylistic edits to the review that originally appeared in the September-October 2018 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 380). Here is a performance of him at Blues Alley in Washington DC for "Beyond Category with Eric Felton."

Monday, October 15, 2018

Ran Blake Christine Correa Streaming

Ran Blake Christine Correa
Red Piano Records

This is the latest recorded collaboration between Blake, the celebrated pianist and educator who is the founder and long-time chairperson of the Third Stream Department (currently called Contemporary Improvisation Department) at the New England Conservatory in Boston, MA, and Correa, the Mumbai born avant-garde vocalist who is on the faculty of The Louis Armstrong Jazz Performance Program at Columbia University. Consisting mostly of duets on material ranging from standards to Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman," there are also three improvised piano solos and one solo vocal.

This is not one's usual piano-vocal duet although it starts with "Don't Explain," with Blake's spare, dissonant chords providing a foundation for Correa's haunting mix of half-spoken, half-sung vocal with Blake's own solo having an evocative quality. Correa's vocal on "Out of This World" is arresting as Blake's chords and short single note runs are more a response than a simple accompaniment. Correa sounds almost like a Cantor at the beginning of Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman," followed by Blake's spare statement of the theme and then she explores Margo Gunyan's lyrics with horn-like phrasing and a vocal having the passion of a raucous Sidney Bechet soprano sax. After this, the first of three interpretations of George Russell's "Stratusphunk" with unusual voicings and use of silence is a relief.

The bouncy "Bebopper" is comparatively mainstream with hints of the "I Love Lucy" theme and "Lullaby of Birdland" in Blake's accompaniment and solo. The brief "Ah, El Novio No Quiere Dinero," stands out with the minimal see-saw accompaniment and a wordless vocal that evokes the Mideast. A haunting rendition of Ivan Lins "Love Dance" is the longest performance here, while "Wende," composed in part by Blake, is a striking unaccompanied vocal. This album closes with "No More," which again displays both Correa's vocal and expressive range as she opens in a defiant manner before singing more traditionally. It is set against an intriguing accompaniment. One may wish to preview a few selections, as some may not be enamored by Correa's singing. Others, including this writer, will find the performances here compelling.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is a performance of the two from an earlier recording.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

The Lucky Losers Blind Spot

The Lucky Losers
Blind Spot
Dirty Cat Records

This is the third recording by the San Francisco band fronted by singers Cathy Lemons and Phil Berkowitz (who also plays harmonica), backed by the core and of Ian Lamson on guitars, Chris Burns on keyboards, Endre Tarczy on bass and Robi Bean on drums. Kid Andersen, who produced this at his Greaseland Studios with Lemons and Berkowitz, adds his guitar to several tracks while other guests include guitarist Laura Chavez, saxophonist Nancy Wright, and violinist Annie Staninec. All the songs are originals by the two, mostly in conjunction with one-time Charles Brown guitarist Danny Caron.

Blues and classic soul are infused in these eleven rocking originals which display the strong vocals and ensemble playing of the prior recordings. There is plenty of solid, danceable grooves and plenty of treats in the backing whether the vocal duet on the opening "It's Never Too Early," with sound effects and solid harmonica. Laura Chavez adds her shattering guitar break behind Lemons' vocal on "Take the Long Road." There is a nifty lyric along with deep riffing horns on "Alligator Baptism" with a fine Berkowitz vocal against an insistent groove, a striking Kid Andersen solo, more solid harmonica. It is a performance that oddly suggests Sheryl Crow to this listener, perhaps because of the casualness that the vocal is delivered.

Lemons' "The River" has a swampy feel behind a pleading vocal with Lamson on slide guitar. "Supernatural Blues" has hints of Sonny Landreth's "Congo Square," and is an original twisting rocker with more shattering Chavez guitar and a nice harmonica solo, "Make a Right Turn" has a country-cajun feel with Staninec's violin standing out along with the strong singing here with Lemon being particularly robust.

The other songs all have their own charms and hooks with "Last Ride" standing out with Andersen's carefully employed sound effects adding to the atmosphere behind Lemons' vocal while "Love is Blind" has a swampy blues feel with Andersen adding a taut solo followed by Berkowitz's crying harp. "Blind Spot" is another fine recording from The Lucky Losers with fresh material, wonderful playing and first-rate vocals.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here are the Lucky Losers in performance.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Jacqueline Tabor The Lady in the Gown

Jacqueline Tabor
The Lady in the Gown
Big Daddy Tabor Productions

This is the third album by Seattle chanteuse Tabor who is backed by her trio of Cole Schuster: guitar; Greg Feingold: bass; and Max Holmberg: drums. She penned the title track on this album that is otherwise comprised of jazz standards imaginatively backed by this guitar-led trio. Guitarist Schuster's clipped guitar set against Feingold's bass riff and Holmberg's drums introduces her vocal on "Green Dolphin Street." This performance displays the clarity of her straight-forward vocals and also has an imaginative solo from Schuster. It is followed by a wonderful "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" strongly backed only by Feingold's bass. Then there is a brisk "Autumn Leaves," which further shows her direct approach to the songs. Her vocals reveal subtle shifts in phrasing and pitch and on this selection Schuster shines as well as then trades fours with Holmberg.

The title track is a strongly delivered driving blues with the trio's backing adding to the pleasure here. She also brings her own personality to the B.B. King classic "Never Make a Move Too Soon," that was also associated with the late Etta Jones. There is a lively rendition of the Duke Ellington's "Caravan" and a beautiful, wistful interpretation of Ellington's "Mood Indigo," with Schuster providing scrumptious guitar accompaniment while Holmberg adeptly used brushes here. On the opening of "When Lights Are Low" she is backed only by Holmberg who provides a latin groove before Schuster and Feingold join in on an imaginative arrangement of this Benny Carter standard. The trio also provides a low-key setting for her heartfelt singing on Jobim's "Dindi."

An exquisite rendition of “Crazy He Calls Me” closes this delightful album. Tabor impresses throughout on this fine vocal jazz recording.

Received a download to review from a publicist. I have made some stylistic edits to the review that originally appeared in the July-August Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 379). Here is a performance of "On the Green Dolphin Street."

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Jungsu Choi Tiny Orkester Tschuss Jazz Era

Jungsu Choi Tiny Orkester
Tschuss Jazz Era
Challenge Records

Jungsu Choi has brought together a contemporary jazz ensemble with twelve of Korea's finest jazz musicians including: Jinho Pyo (voice), Eunmi Kim (flute), Yusun Nam (alto saxophone), Hachul Song (tenor saxophone), Yejung Kim (trumpet), and Junyeon Lee (trombone) to perform his compositions and his arrangements of jazz standards. This ensemble has an unusual instrumentation of five horns, cello, male voice, a four-piece rhythm section. This is the group's first European and North American release.

Jungsu Choi's compositional and arranging skills are readily evident on the opening "Stolen Yellow" with its tempo shifts as well as employment of Pyo's scatting as another horn voice, along with the fusion guitar styled solo by Sungyun Hong, a fiery trumpet solo by Kim and Nam's free-sounding alto sax with interesting mix of horns to help frame the solos. Choi's arrangement of Charlie Parker's "Anthropology" similarly displays his imagination in the reconstruction of the Parker melody with the horns playing short unison phrases and pianist Lee taking an Monk-influenced approach in his solo. Bae's tenor sax solo is outstanding and then there is an interlude where Bae and flautist Kim playing off each other unaccompanied, before the band joins in on the repeated phrase they state. Even those who have heard countless version of this tune will be impressed by this inspired and very original performance.

"What If Ellington Didn't Take The 'A' Train?" similarly reworks the Billy Strayhorn in a manner that again displays the originality and invention of Choi and the superb playing by the Orkester. There is also another inspired original, "Nach Wien 224," and an inspired interpretation of Chick Corea's "Spain," with Pyo's hornlike scatting to the fore. Jungsu Choi Tiny Orkester is a terrific large ensemble and with Choi's creative leadership, compositional and arranging skills has produced this exceptional recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review appeared originally in the July-August 2018 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 379), although I made minor stylistic edits to that review. Here is a live performance of "What If Ellington Didn't Take The 'A' Train?"

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Whitney Shay A Woman Rules The World

Whitney Shay
A Woman Rules The World
Little Village Foundation

There is something about a recording that makes one take notice, especially when it is by an artist that one was previously unaware of. San Diego vocalist Whitney Shay made that impression when I first started listening to her assertive "Ain't No Weak Woman," that opens up this new release of modern urban blues and classically oriented soul. Supporting her expressive singing is the excellent support that producer and guitarist Christoffer 'Kid' Andersen has provided. On this she is supported by a studio band that includes Jim Pugh on keyboards, Kedar Roy on bass, Alex Pettersen on drums and 'Sax" Gordon Beadle on saxophones with Igor Prado and Aki Kumar among those guesting on selected tracks.

"Ain't No Weak Woman" is one of four songs Shay co-wrote with Adam Eros, and she vigorously delivers her lyric that having a weak moment does not make her a weak woman. It is a moving vocal set against a driving groove with a superb Sax Beadle tenor sax solo. More raspy sax opens a lesser known Dinah Washington number "Blues Down Home." The terrific horn arrangement and her superb vocal suggests she could handle a straight jazz recording as well as she handles the blues and soul here. This track also has Jim Pugh's greasy organ accompaniment, a nice harp break from Aki Kumar and booting sax that evokes Eddie Chamblee and the like. After a hint of New Orleans on another original, "Don't You Fool Me No More," Igor Prado adds his slashing guitar and a  vocal on another original, the funky "Love's Creeping Up On You."

The title track was Denise LaSalle's answer to James Brown's "It's a Man's World." Sdt against the firm accompaniment, moaning and shouting, she delivers another knockout vocal. Andersen's sitar helps open her fervent blues shouting on a reworking of Little Richard's "Freedom Blues," followed by a strong deep soul interpretation of Candi Staton's "Get It When I Want It," with Sax Beadle's baritone sax a significant part of the backing. Among the other selections is the low-key original lament, "Empty Hand," where her phrasing and vocal dynamics stands out.

Another driving Little Richard number "Get Down With It," closes this recording. The terrific studio band and Andersen's production along with Shay's powerful, nuanced singing result in a superb recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. I have made some stylistic edits to the review that originally appeared in the July-August Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 379). Here is a video of Whitney Shay performing.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Hendrik Meurkens - Bill Cunliffe Cabin in the Sky

Hendrik Meurkens - Bill Cunliffe
Cabin in the Sky
Height Advantage

A new album of duets between the harmonica wizard Meurkens and pianist Cunliffe mixes some originals with some Broadway and pop standards that will delight listeners. The elegance of Cunliffe's piano and  Meurkens harmonica mastery is evident with the opening title track  Meurkens certainly displays the skills that have some to label him as the successor to Toots Thielemans, while Cuniliffe's accompaniment and solo dances in its own way as well. Cunliffe provided a string arrangement for the wistful original from Meurkens, "Afternoon," followed by the duo's lovely rendition of Wayne Shorter's "Miyako," and a lively rendition of Joe Zawinul's "Young and Fine."

Cunliffe's "You Don't Know," is a lightly swinging blues-inflected number, while "Invitation" is warmly interpreted. The Cunliffe/McConnell number, "Time to Say Goodbye," has a reflective quality. There is surprise to be heardin a performance of "Ode to Billie Joe," as Meurkens harmonica sings the Bobby Gentry lyrics.  Cuniliffe's piano provides some bounce to "Speak Low." An imaginative take of Jobim's "Wave," has references to "Smoke on the Water" in the closing performance of a recording by two kindred souls, full of marvelous playing that displays their virtuosity, imagination, and wit.

I received my review copy from a publicist. I have made some stylistic edits and corrections to the review that originally appeared in the July-August Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 379). Here is a promotional video for the recording.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Judith Lorick The Second Time Around

Judith Lorick
The Second Time Around
JLJ International

Besides being the title of one the standards, the title of this album (Lorick's second) also refers to her own story of a love lost in youth which gets rekindled 44 years later. She is joined on her exploration of love lost and found by pianist Eric Reed, who collaborated with her on her prior recording, Kiyoshi Kitigawa on bass, McClenty Hunter on drums, Jeremy Pelt on trumpet and Chris Lewis on tenor saxophone.

The cd package contains her reflections on the meaning of each song. For example, on the opening "Why Did I Choose You," she writes "We meet in 1967 and I see the heart you hide so well. For Tadd Dameron's classic "If You Could See Me Now," she notes "1970, You leave me, and I'm heartbroken." She states about the title track, "Lovelier, twice as wonderful, this miracle we found."

Her notes may relate to the selection of material, but what stands out it is her performance of these songs. This is an album of mostly ballads. Despite the predominance of languid tempos, the combination of Ms. Lorick's vocals, Eric Reed's arrangements, and the instrumental accompaniment leads to a marvelous recording. One is struck by the warmth and emotion that Ms. Lorick expresses throughout. she sings softly with clear enunciation, her vocal dynamics and phrasing that brings out the meaning of these songs, whether she expresses a longing for a love that seems to have been lost as in the Dameron classic (bassist Kitigawa stands out in his solo here as Hunter deftly plays with brushes), or celebrates in a restrained manner finding her lost love on the title track (accompanied solely by Reed's sophisticated backing). Reed's accompaniment on "He Needs Me," also gracefully supports the expression of longing in her vocal.

The support Kitigawa and Hunter provide adds to the appeal of these performances as do the solo contributions of Pelt (the soft, expressive playing on "Why Did I Choose You" or his bright middle register playing on "Wild Is the Wind") and Lewis (who provides a lovely tenor sax break on "Lucky to Be Me"), both enhancing the sophisticated elegance of the performances on this superlative, moving recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

New England Jazz Ensemble Peter and the Wolf

New England Jazz Ensemble
Peter and the Wolf

The New England Jazz Ensemble was created in 1991 as a weekly rehearsal band and a forum for new compositions. It was founded by trumpeter Mike Jones; Walt Gwardyak, pianist and composer/arranger, has been the music director from the beginning. Compositions by Gwardyak, John Mastroianni, Jeff Holmes, JP Merz, and others form the band's book. The 16-piece big band has a loyal following and sells its music through on-line CD sales and downloads far and wide. A not-for-profit organization the NEJE commissions new work, does extensive concertizing and collaborates with music educators in public schools and universities to perpetuate the jazz art form.

What the Ensemble does here is a jazz take on Sergei Prokofiev's “Peter and the Wolf.” The New England Jazz Ensemble use Prokofiev's music to introduce folks to contemporary jazz, just like the original narrative and musical adaptation of the animal sounds served to interest young audiences in the classical music of the day. Jazz vocalist Giacomo Gates provided a fresh take of the libretto with his narration as the ensemble negotiates Walt Gwardyak's arrangement. The arrangement  brings together a mix of a variety of jazz styles with specific instruments representing specific animals or the whole ensemble as Peter. It is a captivating performance that is a marvelously played gumbo of blues, salsa, cool jazz, bebop, big band jazz and more.

Jeff Holmes contributed the lively "Serge's Birds," based on several of Prokofiev's melodic lines which Holmes reset and arranged, as well as contributed the bright piccolo trumpet solo. John Mastroianni is featured on flute here. John Mastroianni also adapted and reset Prokofiev's melodic lines for "Power Serge," with its big band grooves. It features his alto sax solo along with Mike Leventhal's burly tenor sax solo. Mastroianni also contributed the lovely "Waltzin' With Wolves" (with trombonists Tim Atherton and Peter McEachern among those featured) while Holmes' original "Wolves" struts a bit as he growls on his trumpet on a performance that also includes an accordion solo from Gwardyak. Lisa LaDone impresses on baritone as part of the backing here.

Overall the music here isn't simply captivating, as there is much musical substance as well.

I received as a download from a publicist. This review appeared originally in the July-August 2018 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 379), although I made minor stylistic edits to that review. Here is a preview video of this recording.


Friday, October 05, 2018

Big Harp George Uptown Cool

Big Harp George
Uptown Cool
Blues Mountain Records

A follow-up to his outstanding debut, "Chromaticism," George Bisharat returns with a new dozen originals that reinforce the well-deserved praise the earlier release garnered. Here he is backed by an outstanding studio band that includes producer Chris Burns on keyboards, Kid Andersen on bass or guitars, and Little Charlie Baty on guitar, with well arranged horns throughout. He displays not only very strong harmonica playing horn like lines, but very appealing singing that is delivered honestly and in a straight-forward fashion.

There is plenty of wry humor, as well as perceptive social commentary such as the amusing "Internet Honey," which also has a choice trombone solo from Mike Rinta, sax solo from Michael Peloquin in addition to Kid Andersen's brief stinging guitar solo. Then there is more humor (and social commentary) in "Alternative Facts," where George notes, that while he thought truth matters, submits his alternative fact that he taught Little Walter everything he knew. "I Wanna Know" has a crisp latin rhythm groove, booting sax solo and Charlie Baty's Spanish-tinged acoustic solo prior to George's crisp, jazzy playing here. I could imagine Santana performing this song.

"In the First Place" is a crisp instrumental shuffle that displays his mastery without going all out as well as the wonderful backing throughout this track with their interplay with his harp lead and the nice relaxed tempo. "Cold Snap By The Bay," is a deep, slow you topical blues about living in this paradise but three died in San Jose due to a cold snap. Musically it evokes an Otis Spann recording "Look Like Twins," and Chris Burns plays wonderfully in a Spann-like fashion. It showcases how Big George updates classic Chicago blues settings while remaining true to his musical roots. The title track is a jazz-inflected instrumental, taking at a lazy, walking tempo with Burns on organ. Baty crafts a neat solo, before the leader's solo that I am sure the late Toots Thielemans would have enjoyed.

Simply stated this is another impressive recording that has a wonderful mix of grooves, wonderful playing, strong originals and heartfelt singing that should appeal to anyone with a love of real blues.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review appeared originally in the July-August 2018 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 379), although I made minor stylistic edits to that review. Here is a video for "Alternative Facts."

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Leroy Carr's In The Evening

Leroy Carr's legacy is perhaps not as appreciated today as it once was. A major recording star, his duets with guitarist Scrapper Blackwell, are classic blues recordings. Furthermore, he contributed countless classic blues songs that have become standards. Today we have an "In the Evening" playlist kicking off with his original recording.

While Ray Charles has also recorded this, let us not forget Charles Brown, who was an early influence on Brother Ray.

Big Bill Broonzy did this as hear here.

Robert Lockwood had a fondness for Leroy Carr as did most folks of his generation. Here he is playing his 12 string guitar and singing this classic.

Big Joe Turner did a nice rendition of this.

Here is Jimmy Witherspoon with a band that included Jay McShann on piano and was led by former Basie-ite, Budddy Tate.

Here is Ella Fitzgerald singing it for Decca Records,

Here is a Count Basie trio recording of this classic.

Here is Big Joe Williams and his 9-string guitar.

And here is the shouter Joe Williams at Newport in 1963 with a band including Howard McGhee and Clark Terry.

Here is Ernestine Anderson with Milt Jackson and others.

Then there is Gary Clark Jr. at the White House doing it.

Then there is Yusef Lateef's recording on the oboe.

I could include many more renditions, but here is a ringer to close this post with.  I wonder if the Carr estate gets royalties for Robert Johnson's recording, Love in Vain, that uses Carr's music.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Artur Menezes Keep Pushing

Artur Menezes
Keep Pushing

Menezes is a mainstay of the blues scene in his native Brazil who is based in Los Angeles. He was third place finisher in the band category at the 2018 International Blues Challenge where he winner of the Gibson/Albert King Award for Best Guitarist. This is his fourth album with a band that includes Carey Frank on keyboards, Daniel Aged on bass, Gary Novak on drums, Jamelle Adessa on brass and Dan Boisey on saxophones with producer Josh Smith adding rhythm guitar to several selections.

This is a strongly performed set of originals, mostly in a modern urban blues vein such as the opening "Now's the Time," although several tracks are in a rock vein including the driving "Keep On Pushing," where he plays some shattering guitar and "Come With Me," with perhaps too heavily distorted guitar. Much better is a nice slow "Any Day, Anytime," a tune that evokes classic Stax blues from Johnnie Taylor and Little Milton. His singing is outstanding without any hint of an accent and his guitar here is superb with its lean, clean tone. It iss followed by a sharp Albert Collins styled blues, "Should Have Never Left," with guitar that evokes the late legend.

"Love'n'Roll" is a rollicking jump blues styled with his jazzy single note playing evoking the likes of Johnny Rogers on some classic Roy Milton recordings along with a scorching trumpet solo. Then there is the funky groove of "Pull it Through," with his fuzz-toned effective, and the straight urban blues "Give My Money Back," with his string bending suggesting Albert King. "Can't Get You Out Of My Mind" is a low-key, late night blues with  nice jazzy playing, intriguing tempo changes and horn backing. "Till The Day I Die," which is too rock-based for my taste,  closes this recording. I was less enamored with the rock-rooted performances here, although they are well played. However, most of this recording had strong, impressive blues performances with his excellent singing and playing, as well as an terrific band.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review appeared originally in the July-August 2018 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 379), although I made minor stylistic edits to that review. Here Artur Menezes performs "Should Have Never Left."

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Bob Corritore and Friends Don't Let the Devil Ride

Bob Corritore and Friends
Don't Let the Devil Ride

This collection of choice Chicago blues covers and idiomatic originals is the latest from harmonica player Bob Corritore. From a variety of sessions, and with a variety of vocalists and musicians he has put together another choice dozen blues performances. Amongst those present here are vocalists Willie Buck, Oscar Willis, Bill 'Howl-N-Madd' Perry, George Bowman, Alabama Mike, Tail Dragger, and Sugaray Rayford. Among the supporting musicians are such guitarists as Big Jon Atkinson, Junior Watson, Jimi "Primetime" Smith, Chris James and Rockin ' Johnny; pianists Henry Gray, Bob Welch and Fred Kaplan; bassists Troy Sandow, Kedar Roy, Patrick Rynn, and Bob Stroger; and drummers Marty Dotson and Brian Fahey. This is not a complete listing of supporting musicians.

Just a few notes on the performances here. Willie Buck contributed the opening Jimmy Reed styled blues, "Woke Up This Morning," with his slightly mush-mouth singing and Corritore's Reed-styled harp playing making for an enjoyable performance. Oscar Wilson handles the singing on a straight cover of Little Walter's recording, "Tell Me Baby," with some real fine harp and Henry Gray pounding away on the piano. Wilson's other vocal is a solid, lazy Corritore original, "Fork in the Road," with Gray present again. It is followed by a lazy, amusing Sugaray Rayford original "The Glide," with a terrific vocal and a clever double entendre lyric. Behind Alabama Mike's moody vocal on a cover of "Laundromat Blues," Corritore plays some blistering chromatic harp. Bill 'Howl-N-Madd' Perry provides a swamp blues feel on his "Willie Mae," with a Gulf Coast rumba groove. On "I Was a Fool," George Bowman's gritty singing is backed by Corritore's big-toned chromatic along with austere backing from Atkinson, Sandow, and Fahey, while on Alabama Mike's "Blues Why You Worry Me?," the backing suggests "Scratch My Back."

Tail Dragger closes out this set for a Muddy Waters' styled blues, "Thundering and Raining," where he sings about a tornado coming and his baby not on the ground. It is not a fancy performance, but sung with heart and ably backed. That pretty much characterizes all the music on this latest album from Corritore. Fans of classic Chicago blues will find much to enjoy here. Recommended.

I received my review copy from VizzTone. This review appeared originally in the July-August 2018 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 379). Here is a performance by Corritore and Sugaray Rayford.

Monday, October 01, 2018

How Long How Long Blues

One of the most celebrated blues recording is " How Long How Long Blues," most famous from Leroy Carr's recording. It was so popular, Carr recorded a number of sequels. Today, we explore a variety of recordings and performances of this number starting with Carr's hit.

It derives somewhat from Ida Cox's "How Long Daddy" by the great Ida Cox with Papa Charlie Jackson on the accompaniment.

Here is T-Bone Walker doing this classic.

Jimmy Yancey may be my favorite blues and boogie-woogie pianist. Here is his poetical version.

Count Basie with Jimmy Rushing singing.

Here is one by Big Joe Turner, who recorded the song several times.

The great slide guitar master, Kokomo Arnold, an influence on Robert Johnson, recorded this.

The late Lou Rawls did a marvelous rendition.

Last up for this playlist is Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee and Leadbelly.

There are many I could have selected, but this gives an idea of the range of interpretations.