Friday, October 23, 2020

David Sills Double Guitar Quintet Natural Lines

David Sills Double Guitar Quintet
Natural Lines
Gut String Records

David Sills is a Los Angeles based reeds player based who a prolific recording career, both as a leader and with others. Influenced by saxophonist Gary Foster with whom he studied privately, the LA Times has called Sills' sound "as a meeting of Stan Getz and Joe Henderson." The double guitar quintet arose from Sills playing venues where there was no piano, so he added a second guitar, which "seemed to open up many musical possibilities and allowed for an interesting mix of musical colors." Sills is heard on this recording playing tenor sax and alto flute. The other Double Guitar Quintet members are guitarists Larry Koonse and Mike Scott, bassist Blake White, and drummer Tim Pleasant. Sills composed five tunes, Scott and Koonse, one each, while Sills, Koonse, and Scott collaborated on one. The other four songs are covers.

Sills is a wonderful player as well as a composer with a striking band on this strong bop-laced date. Things start with Scott's bright, bouncy "Minor Monk." I presume that Scott takes the guitar lead and solo here while Koonse chords and adds fills. Sills' full-bodied tenor follows Scott's clean-toned, fluid lines. Sills also displays a fluidity in constructing his solos. The rhythm section is sterling with Pleasant takes a short drum solo. Koonse contributed "Sync or Swim" with an intriguing melodic line. Koonse's scintillating solo is supported by Scott's chordal backing, followed by the leader's robust solo.

Sills' "Sonny's Side" is a salute to Sonny Rollins with more sweet-sounding guitar followed by more strong tenor sax. Excellent guitar backing is present backing Sills' superb ballad playing on "Lover Man." "Foggy Daze," a contrafact of "A Foggy Day," is a terrific swinging performance. Another contrafact, "Mellow Daze" (based on "In a Mellow Mood"), is another sublime performance with precious guitar and warm tenor sax. "All The Little Things" is a brief, imaginative free improvisation between Sills, Koonse, and Scott based on the structure "All The Things You Are."

Sills' lovely alto flute is showcased on Alan Broadbent's "Quiet As a Star." This performance also has exquisite interplay between the guitarist in support. Sills also plays alto flute on a rendition of Miles Davis' "Nardis," that begins sounding like free jazz before bassist White bridges the group into the Davis melody. Other selections are similarly of a high level.

Sills' Double Guitar Quintet has produced this marvelous straight-ahead bop recording of great appeal with the superior musicianship and strong material.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is a performance by David Sills with a group that includes Larry Koonze.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters Rise Up

Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters
Rise Up
Stony Plain

Ronnie Earl returns with a new album, the majority of which were recorded in "Living Room Sessions" at his house in March 2020, and several from a set at a "Daryl's House Club" show in 2019. Earl was recovering from back surgery at the time of these sessions. Recorded shortly before Covid-19 pandemic shut down most live music, "Rise Up" features the guitarist's band of Dave Limina on keys, Diane Blue on vocals, Paul Kochanski on bass, and Forrest Padgett on drums. Guitarist Peter Ward is also present on some of these recordings and contributed the liner notes. The album is his 13th for Stony Plain and 27th of his 45-year-old career.

Earl is one of the most distinctive and interesting guitarists in the blues. A nuanced player, Earl, is a master of tonal dynamics, phrasing, and solo construction. Earl builds solos like smoldering coals in a charcoal grill that bursts into flames when fat drips down. Furthermore, his accompaniments here cradle Ms. Blue's soulful vocals, while the band displays the cohesiveness and strong interplay of years together.

Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters seem incapable of playing poorly, and like his prior albums, one would be hard-pressed to find a weak chorus, much less track. There is a solo rendition of the traditional "I Shall Not Be Moved," opening this recording followed by Earl's original "Higher Love" with one of Blue's sterling vocals. Among her other memorable vocals are the performances of Fenton Robinson's "You Don't Know What Love Is," Little Johnny Jones' "Big Town Playboy," and the gospel-tinged interpretation of Bob Dylan's "Lord Protect My Child." Then there is the stone-cold topical blues with perhaps Diana Blue's most intense vocal, "Black Lives Matter." This song is an original from her and Earl, and Earl adds a spoken part where he celebrates Dave Maxwell and others who have passed on.

There are, of course, several superlative instrumentals, including the slow, brooding "Blues For George Floyd," where his playing drips with emotion. In addition to a tribute to Lucky Peterson, another slow mesmerizing instrumental is "Talking to Mr. Bromberg." Limina is a first-rate organist who is featured on piano on the old Ray Charles instrumental "Mess Around."

Peter Ward joins in on "Navajo Blues" that showcases both guitar stylists. It is the closing track on yet another exceptional Ronnie Earl recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is a relatively recent performance by Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Matt Haviland Something To Say

Matt Haviland
Something To Say
Connotation Records

Trombonist Matt Haviland has been performing and been a featured soloist with some of the top names in been jazz since the early 1980s. Past credits include work with the Illinois Jacquet Big Band, Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Maria Schneider, Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra, and the Mingus Big Band. Currently, he is a regular member of several ensembles in the New York area, notably the Pete McGuinness Jazz Orchestra, Scott Reeves Jazz Orchestra, Peter Leitch's New Life Orchestra, and Diane Moser's Composer's Big Band.

For this recording, he put together a stellar ensemble with Vincent Herring on alto sax, David Kikoski on piano, Ugonna Okegwo on bass, and Johnathan Blake on drums. Mark Gross on tenor sax and Bill Mobley on trumpet are each present on three selections. Four of the performances are by a quintet, one by a quartet, two by a sextet, and two by a septet. Whatever the format, this is a terrific contemporary jazz recording in the mode of classic sixties Blue Note recordings.

The bright sextet interpretation of Freddie Hubbard's "Arietis" gets the music off in a heated manner. Haviland exhibits a rowdy, gravelly tone while his solo develops fluidly. Gross's tenor contrasts with a somewhat dry tone followed by Herring's fiery trills kicking off an inspired solo that is energized by Blake's drums before Kikoski's follows with more spirited playing.

The leader's "Fillet of Soul" is built on a bass line with shifting minor harmonies that evokes "Body and Soul." This septet performance opens with Okegwo's statement of the bass figure over which the four horns all solo. In addition to the marvelous harmonies from Haviland's arrangement of the four horns, Gross and Mobley are exceptional here." The other septet performance is the energetic "The Way It Is," with the energy building with each of the horn solos.

Kikoski provided the arrangement for a lively rendition of Joe Henderson's "Inner Urge." Haviland and Herring are inspired before Blake provides some percussive fireworks. Kikoski provides a lovely setting for Haviland's wooly, lyrical solo on the quartet performance of Cole Porter's "Get Out Of Town." Blake adds to this splendid performance with his agile use of brushes. Haviland's imaginative arrangement of Charlie Parker's "Visa," transforms the tune into a slower tango number, with Blake's off-kilter rhythms adding to the appealing, if quirky, flavor here.

The rest of this recording is of similar quality. "Something To Say" is an outstanding recording with first-rate material and excellent, imaginative, and inspired playing that showcases Matt Haviland's talents as a composer, player, and leader.

I received a download to review from a publicist. Here is Matt Haviland leading a group at Small's in NYC in 2018.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Fumi Tomita Featuring David Detweiler Celebrating Bird/ A Tribute To Charlie Parker

Fumi Tomita Featuring David Detweiler
Celebrating Bird/ A Tribute To Charlie Parker
Next Level Records

Bassist Fumi Tomita leads a quartet in an unusual celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Charlie Parker. With saxophonist David Detweiler, they have composed eight compositions that are contrafacts of Parker standards. Joining them are pianist Art Hirihara and drummer Jimmy McBride. Contrafacts are new melodies based on familiar chord changes. Some of Parker's most famous compositions are contracts such as "Koko" based on "Cherokee," "Ornithology" based on "How High the Moon," "Anthropology" and "Moose the Mooche" both based on "I Got Rhythm," and "Bird of Paradise," based on "All The Things You Are."

In the spirit of Parker's compositions, Tomita and Detweiler each have composed four tunes that are contrafacts of compositions of Parker or of tunes he was associated with. Things start with a neat original blues by Tomita, "Oceanology," which introduces us to this choice group. With Tomita's powerful bass lines and Detweiler's robust tenor sax, evocative of Dexter Gordon, this is a terrific small ensemble with Hirihara's fluid piano and McBride's crisp, nimble stick work. Detweiler's "Bird's Yard" is a brisk swinger derived from "Yardbird Suite." Detweiler superbly negotiates the changes displaying a robust tone followed by Hirihara's formidable bebop solo. Then there is a dynamic "Bird Dreams," based on the chord changes of "Cherokee," that was the basis of "Koko," which featured some of Parker's most staggering, virtuosic playing. Detweiler more than acquits himself with his fiery playing on this.

A couple of the tunes are Detweiler's contrafacts of Parker's recordings with strings. "Waltz of the Moon" is based on "East of the Sun (and West of the Moon)," while "Intersection" is derived from Neal Hefti's "Repetition." On "Waltz," Detweiler and Hirihara invest their solos with a genial swinging lyricism. Tomita's "Alice Changes" is a reworking on Parker's "Au Private" that begins with the leader's impressive soloing, followed by Detweiler's vigorous, fluid tenor sax, Hirihara's splendid piano and McBride's taut, focused solo. It is another excellent track on a consistently outstanding recording full of imagination and superb performances.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is "Oceanology" from this album.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Kenny Kotwitz & the LA Jazz Quintet When Lights Are Low

Kenny Kotwitz & the LA Jazz Quintet
When Lights Are Low
PM Records, LLC

In his liner notes to "When Lights Are Low," Scott Yanow writes that "It is a superior mood album, a revival of the classic sound of the Art Van Damme Quintet, an opportunity for one to hear five masterful musicians blending together, and a very good excuse to listen to some wonderful music." Art Van Damme was one of the few prominent jazz accordionists who was a member of a big band, on the staff of NBC performing on countless radio and television shows, as well as led a quintet of accordion, vibes guitar, bass, and drums. He made his first recordings as a leader in 1945 and led his quintet by 1947. He recorded at least 42 albums as a leader and 100 as a sideman. At different times, guitarists Johnny Smith and Joe Pass were in his quintet. Other recordings included Harry James and Jo Stafford.

Kenny Kotwitz is one of Van Damme's few students, and one of the few accordionists to record with Van Damme. He leads a quintet of guitarist John Chiodini, vibraphonist Nick Mancini, bassist Chuck Berghofer, and drummer Kendall Kay. It is quite a distinguished group, and the music here is more in the vein of elegant, sophisticated ensemble playing with short melodic solos. There are very attractive renditions of "Skylark," "Harlem Nocturne," "Mood Indigo," and "Polka Dots and Moonbeams." At the same time, it would be hard to call any of these performances, all well played, to be compelling. They are relaxing, tuneful, and soothing performances that are easy on the ears.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here they perform Jobim's "Estate."

Friday, October 16, 2020

JW-Jones Sonic Departures

Sonic Departures
Solid Blues Records

I have been a fan of JW Jones since his 2004 recording "My Kind of Evil." I have watched his career progress and enjoyed other recordings by him. He was honored as the Best Guitarist at the 2020 International Blues Challenge, where the trio he was part of, Horojo Trio, was the 1st Place Band. Unfortunately, he won this right before the Covid-19 pandemic prevented him from touring to develop his career further. "Sonic Departures" is his latest and is a strong enough recording to be of interest despite his inability, due to the pandemic, to perform and tour to promote it.

Playing on this recording is his touring band of Will Laurin (drums/vocals) and Jacob Clarke (bass/vocals), along with longtime band-mate Jesse Whiteley on keyboards and horn charts. Kaz Kazanoff also contributed a couple of big band arrangements for the 13 piece horn section on this recording. In part, the album gets its title from Jones's additional tracking of vocals, guitars, and studio effects. He contributed three originals and six covers.

Jones has a very appealing voice in a pop sort of manner. He sings with a straight, attractive, and melodic approach. If he had been performing some 60 years ago, he might have well been a teen star in the vein of Dion. I don't say this as criticism as his tuneful, on-pitch singing and delivery of his originals like the opening "Blue Jean Jacket" and "Ain't Going To Beg" are substantial efforts that have the bonus of his stunning guitar. His craftsmanship, skill, and imagination lead to some very solos that build with fiery intensity.

The covers here include a spirited rendition of a very funky take of a lesser know Albert King recording, "Drying on Dry Land," with the horns adding color to his impassioned vocal. There is wonderfully played cover of Guitar Slim's "Things I Used To Do," along with Clarence Carter's southern soul classic "Snatching' It Back" with some judicious use of studio effects. One standout track is a swinging big band reworking of the Everly Brothers' "Bye Bye Love" that suggests Jones could cut it as a crooner. Whitely has a choice chorus on the piano here. There also is a swinging rendition of Buddy Johnson's "It's Obdacious," with a booting tenor sax solo.

There might be some studio tricks that are departures from JW-Jones prior recordings, but there is no departure from the high level of Jones' music on this outstanding recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is a promo video for this recording.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Manuel Valera New Cuban Express Big Band José Martí en Nueva York

Manuel Valera  New Cuban Express Big Band
José Martí en Nueva York
Greenleaf Music

Cuban-born pianist Manuel Valera leads his New Cuban Express Big Band in a marvelous song cycle inspired by José Martí, the famed Cuban writer and independence hero. "José Martí en Nueva York" features Valera's original music based on nine poems from Martí's seminal 1891 collection, "Versos Sencillos." As Kabir Sehgal observes in his album notes, this book was one "Martí wrote during his fifteen year stay in New York as a journalist, as he helped to fund the ongoing struggle for independence in Cuba. The poems address a range of political and societal issues."

For this recording, the New Cuban Express Big Band consists of (VOICE): Camila Meza, Sofia Rei (TRUMPETS): John Walsh, Brian Pareschi, Michael Rodriguez, David Smith, Alex Norris (REEDS): Michael Thomas, Roman Filiu, Joel Frahm, Charles Pillow, Andrew Gutauskas (TROMBONES): Matt McDonald, John Yao, Andy Clausen, Jeff Nelson, and (RHYTHM SECTION): Manuel Valera, Alex Goodman, Ricky Rodriguez, Jimmy Macbride, Samuel Torres, Mauricio Herrera.

This album is a wonderfully orchestrated, sung, and played recording of these poems. While I am not fluent in Spanish, the vocals by both Camila Meza and Sofia Rei are captivating with the clarity and purity of their voices and immaculate phrasing set against the luxurious musical settings Valera provides. Furthermore, he develops each of the seven tracks with shifts in tempos and orchestral colors. The opening "Odio La Mascara Y El Vicio," begins as ballad spotlighting Mesa's vocal before transitioning into a more heated instrumental passage. The transitions in tempos and musical temperature are seamless. In addition to her ardent also, there is Andy Clausen's impressive, smoldering trombone solo.

Sofia Rei is as engaging a vocalist as shown on "Es Rubia, El Cabello Suelto," with the brass and reeds riffing against each other over a tropical rhythm. This recording is music for one's feet and one's head. One can easily imagine dancers filling a dance floor while Alex Norris' trumpet is spotlighted on a lyrical solo. Many of the members get to display their talents and be part of the marvelous ensemble playing. For "Por Sus Ojos Encendidos," the leader's piano is in the spotlight along with the trumpeter, Michael Rodriguez. Among other delights, Joel Frahm's husky tenor sax and David Smith's trumpet are featured on the spirited medley of "Yo Quiero Salir Del Mundo / Yo Pienso Cuando Me Alegro."

With all the superb singing and playing, Andrew Gutauskas's barreling baritone sax and Valera's piano solo on "Si Quiere Que De Este Mundo," are favorite moments on this outstanding recording. The performances are so genuine and naturally sung with the New Cuban Express Big Band's exquisite backing making for truly sublime listening.

I purchased this recording.  Here is a selection from the CD which is available from Greenleaf Music on bandcamp.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

The Radam Schwartz Organ Big Band Message From Groove and GW

The Radam Schwartz Organ Big Band
Message From Groove and GW
Arabesque Records

Jazz organists have not often recorded with a full Big Band. Jimmy Smith with Oliver Nelson, and Groove Holmes with Gerald Wilson, are among the few exceptions. Holmes even played the bass part on a couple of songs on his recording. Organist Radam Schwartz, joined by Abel Mireles' Jazz Exchange Orchestra, maybe the first organist to play all of the bass lines throughout an entire big band album. He named his new Arabesque release "Message From Groove And GW." after the Holmes/Wilson album. In addition to his organ playing, Schwartz contributed three originals and five of the ten arrangements to the project. He named the album "Message From Groove and GW" after the Holmes and Wilson album.

It should be noted that the album cover highlights the presence of David F. Gibson on drums. In addition to Schwartz and Gibson, the members of the Mireles' Jazz Exchange Orchestra are trumpets- Ted Chubb, Ben Hankle, James Cage, Lee Hogans; Saxophones- Anthony Ware, Danny Raycraft-alto sax, Abel Mireles, Gene Ghee-tenor sax, Ben Kovacs-baritone sax; and Trombone- Peter Lin, Andrae Murchison; Charlie Sigler on guitar. Schwartz solos throughout, while 12 of the 13 members take some robust solos on the ten tunes.

This album is full of hot swinging grooves, blues feel, and plenty of organ grease starting with Schwartz's "Trouble Don't Last," with some hot alto sax from Danny Raycraft. Riffing horns frame solos from Raycrat, Mireles, Sigler, and the leader of a fiery interpretation of John Coltrane's "Blues Minor." Aretha Franklin's hit "Any Day Now" becomes a solid swinger with brass fire from Ted Chubb as Schwartz adds orchestral cover on the B3 while the other horns riff. Schwartz's "Dig You Like Crazy" is bebop original taken at a lightning-quick tempo with blistering trumpet from Chubb and alto sax by Anthony Ware.

Other standout selections include a rendition of the Isley Brother's "Between the Sheets," which takes the musical temperature down a touch with some lovely soloing from guitarist Sigler and alto saxophonist Ware. The title track is a soulful, straight-ahead swinger built on a memorable riff with rousing solos from Ben Kovacs on baritone sax and Andrae Murchison on trombone. Also outstanding is the performance of Charles Mingus' "Work Song." Schwartz's arrangement and steamy organ add to the passionate down-in-the alley playing, including trumpeter Ben Hankle growling mute solo, Murchinson's tailgate trombone, and Anthony Ware's bluesy alto sax.

The album closes with Peter Lin's trombone, and drummer Gibson featured on a concise rendition of Bach's "Von Gott," interpreted as a ballad. It is a refreshing change of pace on an outstanding, superbly played and arranged release. If organ jazz is thought of as the equivalent of steak and potatoes, "Message From Groove and GW" is the musical equivalent of a perfectly cooked filet mignon.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is Radam Schwartz with a big band performing Charles' Mingus' "Work Song."

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Kim Wilson Take Me Back: The Bigtone Sessions

Kim Wilson
Take Me Back: The Bigtone Sessions
M.C. Records

"Take Me Back" is Kim Wilson's first new release in three years. The album presents mostly straight-ahead Chicago-styled blues that Wilson recorded at Big Jon Atkinson's Bigtone Studios at different times and locations. These tracks were recorded live without overdubs and in mono. There are a variety of musicians backing Kim's vocals and harmonica. Guitarists on this album include Jon Atkinson, Billy Flynn, Danny Michel, Kid Andersen, Robert Welsh, and Rusty Zinn. Robert Welsh and Barrelhouse Chuck are the pianists, while Kedar Roy, Greg Roberts, and Troy Sandow are on bass, and Johnny Viau adds horns. Drummers on these sessions include Marty Dodson, Ronnie Smith, June Core, Malachi Johnson, and Al West.

There are nine reworkings of tunes from Jimmy Nolen, Howlin' Wolf, Larry Williams, Little Walter, and Jimmy Rogers, along with seven Wilson originals. After a crisp take on Nolen's "You've Been Goofin'," we are treated to one of several Little Walter flavored instrumentals, the rollicking "Wingin' It." Wilson's "Fine Little Woman" sounds like a cover of a lesser-known Little Walter recording with Billy Flynn channeling Robert Lockwood Jr. Wilson remains an unforced singer who is equally authoritative handling Howlin' Wolf's "No Place To Go," Percy Mayfield's "Strange Things Happenin'," and Jimmy Rogers' "Money, Marbles & Chalk." Then there is Wilson's Louisiana swamp-blues "Play Me" and the relaxed late-night harmonica instrumental "Strollin'."

Closing with another marvelous Little Walter styled instrumental "Out of the Frying' Pan," "Take Me Back," is another consistently well-performed Kim Wilson recording that will please many.

I received my review copy from MC Records. Here is Kim Wilson from a 2019 performance.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Kenny Washington What's The Hurry

Kenny Washington
What's The Hurry
Lower 9th Records

Vocalist Kenny Washington (not to be confused with the well-known drummer of the same name) is a New Orleans native who relocated to the San Francisco Bay area after discharge from the Navy. He performed in an Off-Broadway jazz production that also took him to Europe. After returning to San Francisco, he was brought back to New York with vibraphonist Joe Locke for a performance at Dizzy's Club at Jazz at Lincoln Center. He has appeared on several recordings from saxophonist Michael O'Neill and has two live recordings under his name. He has many fans, including vocalist Karrin Allysin, and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis.

On this CD, Washington is accompanied by a core group of pianist Josh Nelson, Gary Brown on acoustic bass, and Lorca Hart on drums. Others on this recording include saxophonist Victor Goines, guitarist Jeff Massanari, trumpeter Mike Olmos, percussionist Peter Michael Escovedo, bassist Dan Feizli, trombonist Jeff Cressman, and percussionist Ami Molinelli-Hart.

This is a well-programmed album, with Washington singing in a variety of settings ranging from piano trio backing, guitar or bass backing, and small combo with horns. Washington is a singer with a considerable vocal range and a slight vibrato. He stands out with his phrasing, the clarity of his delivery of the lyrics and his horn-like scatting and whistling. The backing is immaculate, starting with the piano trio on "The Best Is Yet to Come." Massanari provides a supple guitar backing for delightful renditions of "S'Wonderful" and "I Got the World on a String." Goines adds his fruity tenor sax to Brown's bass intro on an exquisite "Stars Fell on Alabama," with Nelson and Hart adding their understated backing midway, with Brown soloing. Nelson's elegant, skilled piano and Olmos' soft growling trumpet are part of the backing for Washington's melancholic interpretation of Duke Ellington's "I Ain't Got Nothin' But the Blues."

Washington's performance of "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" is a duet with pianist Nelson whose restrained backing adds to the intimacy of the performance. Escovedo's bongos kick off a Latin-feel to washington's reading of the jazz classic, "Invitation," with Nelson taking a stunning piano solo. Washington's hauntingly beautiful rendition of "Here's To Life" is perhaps the album's high point, which is high praise for an excellent recording. Bassist Dan Feizli accompanies Washington on a buoyant "Sweet Georgia Brown," where Washington displays his abilities scatting. A full band with Goines on clarinet, Cressman on trombone, and Molinelli-Hart on percussion provide an effervescent Brazilian groove for Washington as he sings the Jobim-de Moraes Bossa classic "No More Blues (Chega de Saudade)." Goines' blues-inflected clarinet is showcased along with Washington's vocal and scatting.

Guitarist Massanari returns to back Washington on Charlie Chaplin's "Smile." It closes a wonderfully produced and recorded CD that displays Washington's superlative jazz vocals.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is a recent performance of Kenny Washington singing "Cry Me a River."

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Take 5 - Happy Birthday Thelonious Monk

Today we celebrate the 103rd Anniversary of the birth of Thelonious Monk. This Take 5 of course represents only a small sampling of Monk's music. First up is "Ruby My Dear," with John Coltrane on tenor sax.

Next is a live performance of "Evidence."

Let us savor "Rhythm-a-ning" from "Live at the 5 Spot" with Johnny Griffin on tenor sax.

We follow that up with a solo performance of another gorgeous Monk ballad, "Reflections."

We close with another Monk solo performance. This time it is a live performance of Duke Ellington's "Solitude.

For more Monk, WKCR in New York City ( is playing Monk's music all day today October 10, 2020 until midnight EDT.

Friday, October 09, 2020

JD Taylor The Coldwater Sessions

JD Taylor
The Coldwater Sessions

JD Taylor is a triple threat as a singer, harmonica player, and songwriter. Formerly a member (for 25 years) of the band Little Boys Blue, "The Coldwater Sessions" is his first solo album. He brings a bunch of influences from Jimmy Reed, Junior wells to Memphis soul. Among the musicians backing him are guitarists John Hay and Landon Stone, bass guitarist Matthew Wilson, drummer Danny Banks, keyboardist Rev. Charles Hodges, brass player Mark Franklin, and saxophonist Art Edmaiston. Kevin Houston, who recorded this and co-produced it added percussion, Joe Restivo and Zack Lees each guest on guitar on a track, Mikey Junior plays harmonica on one song, and members of Southern Avenue add backing vocals.

Taylor establishes himself as a singer of nuance and passion quickly on the Jimmy Reed-styled lazy shuffle "Get Me Where You Want Me," and the funky "Ooh Wee." The latter number is built around the guitar riff of Junior Wells "Messing With the Kid," and there is a nod to Wells in Taylor's singing here. His harmonica skills are evident on both these tracks, whether the full-bodied amplified harmonica on "Get Me Where," and the warbling playing on the latter number, which also sports two crisp guitar solos with strong horn riffing in the background. Then Taylor follows up with the Memphis styled soul of "Nothing Left to Stay," sung with warmth and heartfelt emotion. Another convincing slice of deep soul is "At First Glance."

There is also a funky Chicago-styled blues, the easy rocking shuffle, "By All Means" which features Joe Restivo's solid, straight-forward guitar. Landon Stone sparkles on guitar on both the funky, "It Ain't Real Deal," and the quick-paced shuffle "Hanging On." There is another lazy Jimmy Reed styled shuffle, "Honey Honey Baby," where Taylor channels Reed as a singer and harmonica player. Mikey Junior wrote, added harmonica, and shared the vocal on the blues he penned, "Anastasia," an atmospheric performance.

Closing this release is "The Coldwater Swing" is a high stepping instrumental that may evoke the theme from The American Bandstand TV show. It features superb guitar from Zach Lees and Jon Hay and sterling harmonica. It is a splendid finale to a superlative album of first-rate blues and soul music.

I received my review copy from VizzTone. Here is a video of a 2019 performance involving JD Taylor.

Thursday, October 08, 2020

Antonio Adolfo BruMa (mist) Celebrating Milton Nascimento

Antonio Adolfo
BruMa (mist) Celebrating Milton Nascimento
AAM Music

In his newest recording, Brazilian pianist, composer, and arranger, Antonio Adolfo salutes the singer-songwriter Milton Nascimento, who perhaps is Brazil's greatest living composer of popular music. Many jazz and pop luminaries, including Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Sarah Vaughan, Tony Bennett, Stan Getz, Bjork, and Esperanza Spalding, have recorded Nascimento's songs. Antonio's appreciation of Nascimento goes back to the beginning of the latter's career. They initially met just before a major musical event in Brazil in 1967 at which Nascimento was a great sensation.

Chris McGowan's liner notes quote Adolfo, "For this album, I immersed myself in the music of Milton and his partners. I have been working on this project for six months, panning its rich repertoire and adding my Brazilian jazz vocabulary. After working with more than thirty songs to choose nine, I once again concluded that Milton Nascimento is the most modern and profound composer in Brazil. His compositions broke traditional harmonic and rhythmic patterns, with his modalism and natural rhythmic meters, all in a spontaneous, intuitive and natural way."

McGowan observes, "The album title BruMa, which means 'mist' in Portuguese, is also intended to bring to mind two environmental disasters that struck Minas Gerais [Nascimento's home state] in the last decade. BruMa is comprised of the initial syllables of two cities (Brumadinho and Mariana) that suffered similar tragedies. In 2015 and 2019, earthen dams collapsed and let forth floods of muddy waste materials that devastated the towns, killed hundreds of people and rendered the rivers downstream toxic and lifeless for years to come."

Joining Adolfo on this CD are Jess Sadoc on trumpet and flugelhorn; Marcelo Martins on alto flute, tenor sax; Danilo Sinna on alto sax; Rafael Rocha on trombone; Claudio Spiewak on guitar; Jorge Helder on double bass; and Rafael Barata on drums and percussion. Luis Galvao replaces Spiewak on guitar on two selections, Leo Amuedo adds guitar to one track, and Dada Costa plays percussion on five of the nine songs.

Adolfo's latest project continues with a tropical feel, fluid, and elegant piano, handsome arrangements, and stirring soloists. Marcelo Martins takes flight playing some vigorous tenor on the opening "Fé Cega Faca Amolada," which translates as "Blind Faith, Sharp Knight," Claudio Spiewak adds punchy guitar on this song as well. It is typical of the music here with the lively rhythms, strong ensemble playing, and atmospheric horns. Adolfo's deliberate, graceful piano is heard on "Nada Será Como Antes (Nothing Be As It Was)," along with Rocha's crusty trombone. Another standout song is an exuberant rendition of "Cançāo Do Sal (Salt Song)" with exhilarating rhythms that propel Rocha's graveling trombone and Sinna's fervent alto sax. Then there is a memorable performance of "Encontros E Despedidas (Encounters and Farewells)" that Nascimento first recorded with Hubert Laws. In addition to Adolfo's marvelous piano solo, Martins' plays exquisite alto flute. "Tres Pontas" refers to the city where Nascimento was raised, and again is a showcase for the leader's graceful, lyrical piano along with Sadoc's resonant trumpet. The sublime rendition of "Cais (Harbor)" places the spotlight on Sadoc's lovely muted trumpet. At the same time, "Caxangá" displays the skill with which Adolfo can layer the various instruments in the performance as they riff behind Sinna's alto sax solo and Lula Galvao's stinging electric guitar.

Antonio Adolfo's salute to the legacy of Milton Nascimento does justice to Nascimento's imposing body of music. "Bruma" is an exceptional, marvelously performed recording that will touch listeners' heads and hearts.

I received a review copy from a publicist. Here is "Outubro (October)" from the album.

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

Sonny Green Found! One Soul Singer

Sonny Green
Found! One Soul Singer
Little Village Foundation

"Found! One Soul Singer" is the latest release from the Little Village Foundation. The album is the first full album by Robert 'Sonny' Green, a Louisiana native who relocated to Los Angeles. Green was named Sonny by Big Jay McNeely to make folks think he was Little Sonny Warner, the vocalist on "There Is Something On Your Mind." Growing up, he was a classmate of Mighty Sam McClain. He did record some highly prized 45s.

This recording was done at Kid Andersen's Greaseland Studio, and Andersen plays guitar. Others on the session include Jim Pugh on Hammond B3, Chris Burns on clavinet and piano, Endre Tarczy on bass, and Ronnie Smith on drums. Others on the session include Mariachi Mestizo on violins, Jeff Lewis on trumpet, Mike Rinta on trombone, and Aaron Lington on tenor and baritone saxophone. D'mar plays drums on one track while Terry Hanck and Gordon Beadle are heard soloing on one track each.

Musically, this is a very appealing album of modern urban blues and soul-blues in the vein of Bobby Bland, Little Milton, Syl Johnson, Little Johnny Taylor, and others. He has the gospel-rooted screams and chocked cries down and puts everything into the performances here that are ably backed. There are times when his diction is a bit slurred, as on the cover of Bobby Bland's "I'm So Tired" and Little Milton's "If Walls Could Talk." His rendition of "Blind Man" owes a bit to Little Milton. It is a fine performance, as is Green's channeling of Syl Johnson on the churning groove of "Back For a Taste of Your Love." Trumpeter Lewis stands out with his brief horn blasts here.

Rick Estrin's "I Beg Your Pardon" is a superb slow blues with a vocal that would do Little Johnny Taylor proud. Pugh plays a greasy organ solo. There is a deep soul rendition of an early Willie Nelson song, "Are You Sure." Alabama Mike joins on an original, "Trouble." It is a first-rate duet in the style of the Jewel recordings by Ted Taylor and Little Johnny Taylor. Incidentally, the CD cover lists it as the ninth track. It is the eighth track, and "If You Want Me To Keep Loving You," another strong performance in the Little Johnny Taylor mode, is the ninth track.

This album closes with a well-sung cover of Ted Taylor's "Be Ever Wonderful." There is plenty to enjoy about this recording. Sonny Green ably evokes so many greats as he recreates their songs. He certainly displays his considerable vocal chops, and Kid Andersen and the backing musicians provide top-flight backing. For fans of soul-blues and deep soul, Little Village Foundation has indeed found a most soulful singer.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is Sonny Green performing recently.


Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Roosevelt Sykes, Smokey Wilson, Big Joe Turner

Here are some miscellaneous reviews from the June 1978 Buffalo Jazz Report (Issue 52).

Music is My Business is the latest set by Roosevelt Sykes (Blue Labor BL 111) and is a welcome new release featuring him and his piano in mostly a solo mode. Louisiana Red, Johnny Shines, and Sugar Blue also join in on some tracks and even throw in a vocal or two. Tunes range from the reflective title track to the stomping "New York Boogie". This is a damn nice piano blues record by one of the masters.

Smokey Wilson is an impressive Mississippi born blues singer and guitarist who has become a central figure in the blues scene of LA. His album (his second I believe) Sings the Blues (Big Town BT-1006) shows him to be a cross between the late Howlin' Wolf and B.B. King singing with a considerable ferocity and playing nice guitar. The album is basically retitled remakes of classic blues credited to him featuring a style that is how the Wolf would have sounded if he phrased his singing and played like B.B. Nice record.

Bummer of the month is Big Joe Turner-Really the Blues (BT -1007) which has Joe redo versions of songs he has recorded numerous times before. Joe is all right but the acid- rock band is terrible . Much nicer is the Spivey Joe Turner album "I'm Gonna Sit Write Down and Write Myself a Letter". With sterling Lloyd Glenn piano, nice band work by Bill Dicey on harp, Robert Ross on guitar and a rhythm section including a drummer and Washboard Doc, the music is enjoyable, and gets into a nice groove even if at times the drummer and Washboard Doc move with a relentless drive suggestive of Sherman's march . Only down here is the presence of Brenda Bell whose hysterics on two numbers are jarring. Otherwise Big Joe repeats verses, sings with apparent enthusiasm and the band gets a nice groove going.

I may have received some review copies from a record distributor and I may have purchased one or more. I am not sure of the availability of any of the music on these recordings. One might try used. Here is a vintage clip of Smokey Wilson in performance with William Clarke and Hollywood Fats.

Monday, October 05, 2020

Dan Penn Living in Mercy

Dan Penn
Living in Mercy
Last Music Co.

Dan Penn has not recorded often in recent years, but the legendary songwriter has a new album, the first since 1994's "Do Right Man." He has written (or co-written) so many classic songs, including "The Dark End of the Street," "You Left the Water Running," and "I'm Your Puppet." As this latest recording displays that as he approaches 80, he still has a gift in spinning memorable melodies and lyrics.

For this recording, Penn wrote songs with some of his closest collaborators, including Wayne Carson, Spooner Oldham, Gary Nicholson, Carson Whitsett, Will McFarlane, Bucky Lindsey, Buzz Cason, and the Cate Brothers. Recorded in Muscle Shoals and Nashville, the musicians included Milton Sledge (drums), Michael Rhodes (bass), Will McFarlane (guitar), and Clayton Ivey (keyboards), along with a full horn section. They provide lithe backing that supports, and not overwhelm, Penn's performances.

Dan Penn may not have been James Carr or Otis Redding, but his grainy, world-weary singing has a strong appeal, particularly in his reflections on love and relationships. It is evident as he expresses the lyrics of surviving despite things going wrong as he is living in mercy as his woman's love is killing him. On "Clean Slate," Penn is asking his lady to give him one more chance to make it right for the mistakes Penn has made. Then he considers "What It Takes To Be True," and it doesn't take quitting or playing the field. Then there is the gentle rocking groove of "I Didn't Hear it Coming," where he sings about her telling him she loved him, while he was too shy even to ask her to dance. Then there is a song about being lost. friendless, and trying to make it in Nashville on "Down in Music Row." There is a driving groove to Penn's pleading to his baby on "Edge of Love." A similar feel is heard on the upbeat "Soul Connection," with its celebration of his relationship.

The closing track "One of These Days" is a gospel original with a lyric that hints at the Book of Revelations as he sings time running out of we don't change our ways, and the lord will draw the line if we don't change our ways. It is a heartfelt vocal and well played. One might imagine that the songs here may well provide other artists with choice material to produce their interpretations, like so many of his songs, have over the years. Dan Penn has not recorded that often over these years, so we should appreciate this soulful, new recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is Dan Penn performing "Living in Mercy" from the album.

Saturday, October 03, 2020

Take 5 WIth Shemekia Copeland

 Shemekia Copeland has a new album, "Uncivil Wars," coming out soon. She has been performing for over two decades, at first with her father, the Late Johnny Copeland. After his passing, she has become perhaps the most prominent woman blues singer. For this Take 5, I have selected some videos of her performing live.

We start with her singing "Turn the Heat Up," which I believe was on her first album. Her band included Barry Harrison (who was drummer in her father's band) on drums, pianist Doña Oxford on piano, Eric King on bass and Arthur Neilson on guitar.

Next up is another tune from her first album, "Married With the Blues" from a 2017 performance in Poland a few years ago.

Here is a duet with Robert Cray singing the Bobby Bland classic "I Pity the Fool."

During her live perfomances and recordings she usually includes one of her father's songs. Here she performs, "It's My Own Tears."

Another of her father's songs she usually sings is "Ghetto Child." We close out this Take 5 with this powerful performance.

Friday, October 02, 2020

Susan Tobocman Touch & Go

Susan Tobocman
Touch & Go

Born in Detroit, Susan Tobocman has had a circuitous route to her present career as a jazz vocalist. It was not until she was nearly 30 that she gave singing a chance. She spent a year playing keyboards with the new wave band, Tom Tom Club. She discovered a love for jazz and fell under the spell of singers like Shirley Horn and Andy Bey, who seemed to embody the lyrics and tell stories. She has recorded four previous albums dating back to 1998 while becoming established in the New York Scene playing such clubs as Birdland, Small's and the Zincs Bar.

She has become a songwriter of note and a superb interpreter of standards and contemporary pop gems. For this recording, she has assembled a fine group of musicians, including Joel Frahm (saxophone); Dave Eggar (cello); Pete McCann (guitar and co-producer), Henry Hey (piano & Fender Rhodes); Matt Pavolka (bass); and Michael Sarin (drums). In his liner notes, Mark Stryker writes, "'Touch & Go' isn't just a collection of tunes played by quality musicians. It's a unified statement from beginning to end in which Tobocman's vision and personality help shape and color the music even when she's not singing."

Susan Tobocman certainly impresses singing Irving Berlin's classic "What I'll Do." The rhythm sets up an infectious samba groove, and one becomes struck by the beauty of her voice, the clarity of her delivery of the lyrics, her timing, and vocal dynamics. The backing is exquisite. McCann's acoustic guitar solo adds to the charm followed by Hey's choice Fender Rhodes solo. From a superb straight jazz vocal, Tobocman is heard on a folk-jazz rendition of "Wichita Lineman" with Eggar's cello adding to the flavor of her mellifluous vocal. Her interpretative skills are displayed on a brisk interpretation of Gershwin's "The Man I Love," with a spirited Frahm tenor sax solo. Sarin's use of brushes on this lively performance and Hey's fluidity on his piano solo also merit praise.

As a composer, Tobocman contributes songs that one could easily mistake as a lost classic from the American songbook. One standout song is "Make Believe" with her lyric, "When the world is asleep/ And the stars have gone dim/ That's when I make believe/ Beneath the sky there's only him." In addition to her sweet singing, Frahm and McCann solo. Frahm is fabulous on another excellent original, "I Could Get Used To This," as well as on a cover of a James Bond movie theme, "You Only Live Twice." On the latter number Frahm's sonorous, twisting soprano sax is heard

There are two renditions of the Beatles' classic "Help," with Eggar's cello adding to the mood from her arrangement and her soft yearning vocal. She also composed two instrumentals. "Leaves of Absence" has Frahm's serpentine soprano sax set against a Brazilian groove. The spirited title song evokes "Love For Sale" and showcases Frahm and McCann's fleet, single note electronic guitar.

Listening to "Touch & Go," this listener was enchanted by Tobocman's voice but equally delighted by the first-rate musicians on a first-rate selection of songs. It is an excellent recording from a superlative singer.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here Susan sings "The Man I Love."

Thursday, October 01, 2020



This album is from the tape collection of Bob Andrews who was to West Coast jazz of the fifties what Jerry Newman was for the jam sessions at Minton's. Wardell Gray was in his brief life a master of the tenor who was on Charlie Parker's "Relaxin' at Camarillo" date for Dial, and was in bands with Benny Goodman, Count Basie and Billie Eckstine. Let's not forget the various dueling tenor sax albums with Dexter. Precious few recordings were made under his name and this 1952 location re- cording is a most worthy addition to the Gray and bop discography.

Gray was joined on this date by Art Farmer playing some hot trumpet, Hampton Hawes playing with a judicious use of space and angularity which is sort of a more fluid Monk. Joe Mondragon and Shelly Manne complete this group which includes a hot version of Dameron's "The Squirrel", which is classic bebop. Dig the interchange between Gray and Farmer at the tune's close with Manne kicking things along and Hampton laying down a solid groove. The whole album is like that and there is over fifty minutes of music here.

Highly recommended.

I likely received a review copy from the Buffalo Jazz Report where this review ran in June 1978 (Issue 52). Here is one of Wardell Gray's most famous compositions, "Twisted."