Tuesday, January 21, 2020

CD Review: Roger Kellaway "The Many Open Minds of Roger Kellaway"


Composer Pianist Roger Kellaway is one of my favorite Jazz performers for multiple reasons.  He is a brilliant pianist who expresses his unique personality through his music.  Some of the adjectives I think describe this master musician would be witty, adventuresome, and an unpredictable spirit.  I have had the pleasure of hearing Roger in person several times over the last few years and every performance is different but spectacularly great.

"The Many Open Minds of Roger Kellaway" was recorded live at the world famous Jazz Bakery in Santa Monica, CA in August, 2010.  This recording is as fresh today as night it was cut!  Roger is joined on this CD by Bruce Forman on Guitar and Dan Lutz on Bass.  Together the trio revisits some of the most famous Jazz tunes ever written.  But in no way does this super talented trio just provide a cover for these famous tunes, they bring Roger's open and fresh musical mind to each one.  Roger has provided wonderful arrangements that keep the spirit of the melody in tack but takes each tune on an enjoyable and new path.  Starting with "Take Five' to "Night and Day" to "Caravan",  these tunes we all know well are re-imagined with creative Jazz spirit.

Roger Kellaway is a special Jazz giant who has covered a lot of Jazz ground during his 57 years of performing.  Roger is 80 years old this year but anyone listening to his CDs or seeing him perform in person will find his age hard to believe.  He is still playing at his prime losing none of his creativity, superb technical skills or enthusiasm.

Roger's lastest CD, "The Many Open Minds of Roger Kellaway" was released on November 1, 2019 by IPO Recordings, LLC.  This label has focused on releasing several recent CDs of Jazz giants like James Moody, Frank Wess, and Benny Golson just to name a few.  You should check out IPO's catalog that is filled with treasures from the Jazz masters.  They are keeping the best of our Jazz giants' music alive and should be supported by all Jazz fans.

Players:
Roger Kellaway-Piano
Bruce Forman-Guitar
Dan Lutz-Bass

Playlist:

I have attached two "YouTubes" for your enjoyment.  Picking just two was difficult because every song on this CD is great but I settled on the Paul Desmond classic "Take Five"  and Ellington's evergreen "Caravan".


Sunday, December 15, 2019

CD Review Review: Fleur Seule "Standards and Sweet Things"


The Fleur Seule Band, pronounced "Fleur" "Sull", has recently released their 5th studio album "Standards and Sweet Things" that captures the heart and soul of what this band is all about.  It turns out that this band is about fabulous songs played by musicians who appreciate and understand the great music played in America during the 1940's.  The heart of the band is represented by their beautiful and talented bandleader and vocalist, Allyson Briggs.   When I played the first song on this CD, "Taking A Chance On Love" I immediately liked Allyson Briggs' voice and phrasing along with the outstanding musicians that supported her perfectly.  By the time I had listened to all 16 classic songs on this CD, I was in love with Allyson's voice.  In this CD, the band takes us on a multilingual journey, from the Swing Era days of Old New York, to Paris during WWII, to the tropical sounds of Puerto Rico.   The talented bandleader and vocalist Allyson Briggs sings in 7 languages and speaks 4.  Her voice is dead-on perfect for the song gems that are included in the CD.  Listening to this CD is like listening to an old friend who is warm, friendly and comfortable!  

The Fleur Seule Band has been performing in New York for many years and I can't believe that this is my first experience with them.   The band has performed to sold out crowds at Dizzy's Club, Coca Cola, The Friar's Club, Birdland Jazz Club and a 5 year residency as the house band of Tavern on the Green.   This CD would be a fabulous Christmas present for any of your friends or family.  

The great Michael Feinstein had this to say about Allyson Briggs, "One of the most incredible talents out there today!".  I fully agree, Allyson Briggs singing is as near perfect as one can get.

Playlist:
1. "Taking a Chance on Love"
2. "Piel Canela"
3. "I Only Have Eyes For You"
4. "Zou Bisou Bisou"
5. "Sabor A Mi
6. "Them There Eyes"
7. "Tenderly"
8. "Manuelo"
9. "Misty"
10. "Shoo-Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy"
11. "Con Los Anos Que Me Quedan"
12. "Almost Like Being In Love"
13. " La Vie En Rose"
14. "Sweet Happy Life"
15. "Embraceable You"
16. "S Wonderful"

Players:
Allyson Briggs- Vocals, Bandleader, Producer
Andy Warren- Trumpet, Arranger, Musical Director
Jason Yeager- Piano
Michael O'Brien- Bass
Paul Francis- Drums
Richard Miller- Guitar
Ivan Llanes- Percussion
Martina DaSilva, Vanessa Perea, Marg Davis- Background Vocals
Music Mixed by John Kilgore

I have attached 3 "YouTubes" for your enjoyment that cover the wide range of talents of Allyson Briggs and the Fleur Seule Band.  Take particular note of Allyson's vocal timing singing  "Tenderly",  its as good as any vocalist can produce.  Take my strong recommendation and the next time you find yourself in New York City and Fleur Seule is performing, catch their act for a night of pure enjoyment of songs from the "Great American Songbook". 

"Them There Eyes"



"Tenderly"



"La Vie En Rose"




Sunday, December 8, 2019

CD Review: The Flying Horse Big Band, "Good News!"


Recently I have discovered several new big band CDs that are outstanding.  It's always a pleasure to find new big band CDs because this type of CD is so expensive to record,  not to mention the difficulty of getting all the members of the band together in the same place at the same time.  But there is no stopping big bands and the musicians who love to play a part in producing wonderful music!  Today I have the pleasure of reviewing the "The Flying Horse Big Band" directed by Jeff Rupert.  This CD is a collaboration with the UCF Studio Orchestra made up students from
UCF'S Jazz Studies program.   These students are first-class musicians and playing together this band really cooks!

There is a beautiful version of John Lennon's "Imagine" by Jeff "T-Bone Gerard and a superb recording of "Round Midnight"tby the Jazz Professors who teach in the UCF Jazz Studies Program including the band director, Jeff Rupert producing lush and warm tones from Tenor Sax.  It's an outstanding recording!

The playlist chosen for this CD is from the A-list of Jazz composers: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Bob Mintzer.

Playlist:


Players:


I have attached two "YouTubes" that highlight how good this band and its talented musicians are.  The first one is the first cut on the CD "  a musical gem from Miles Davis, "The Serpent's Tooth".  The second is perhaps the most famous composition from Monk, "Round Midnight".  You must add this CD to your big band collection.
                                                                       "The Serpent's Tooth"


                       
                                                                 "Round Midnight"


Tuesday, November 26, 2019

CD Review: Yoko Miwa Trio, "Keep Talkin"


Pianist, Composer, Arranger and Berklee College of Music Professor Yoko Miwa has just released her definitive Piano-Trio Album, "Keep Talkin" and it highlights her brilliant playing and composing.  Listening to Miwa and her talented trio is like getting an open invitation to join them in a master class in "The Jazz Piano Trio".  Her composing is wonderful and "JazzWeek" quoted "her music is bright and accessible".  I couldn't agree more with this statement.  Her understanding of melody and Jazz arranging is so comforting that I felt at easy the first time I played her songs on this CD.  When listening to Miwa, you can clearly hear the influence of Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, McCoy Tyner and Oscar Peterson.  Miwa listened to these Jazz giants and then continued to work to bring her own voice into their approach to creating great Piano Jazz Trio music.  Her composing and playing is so measured and yet free and fresh.  Miwa has learned well from her Piano heroes and has produced music that is warm, understandable and yet creatively fresh.  She has performed with the members of her trio for many years and it shows.  There are times when each member gets to show their technical chops and then the three seem to merger into one glorious sound.  This is one of the best Jazz Piano Trios I have heard, and I have heard many.  It's not only the brilliant playing, it's the composing and Arranging.  The combination makes this Trio a winner, just like this CD!

The Yoko Mira Trio still tours around the country, so don't miss a chance to see them in person.  They are worth any effort to hear them play.


Miwa's composing is so good that I was tempted to attach two of her original songs from her CD but changed my mind after I heard her version of "Golden Slumbers/You Never Give Me Your Money".  The first YouTube is the first cut in the CD, "Keep Talking"that Miwa composed. However, I could not resist attaching her version of the two songs from the Beatles' "Abby Road" CD, "Golden Slumbers/ "You Never Give Me Your Money".  This medley of these two underplayed Beatles songs are breathless beautiful.  They remind me of the brilliance of John and Paul and also the brilliance of the Yoko Miwa Trio.

 The first YouTube is the first cut in the CD, "Keep Talking".   The second YouTube is "Golden Slumbers, You Never Give Me Your Money."























"Keep Talking"

"Golden Slumbers/You Never Give Me Your Money"


Sunday, November 17, 2019

CD Review: David Finck, "BASSically JAZZ"



I know that a lot of followers of the "Musician Blog" are excellent, professional Bass players who probably know all about David Finck, but he was new to me.  I have to confess that the Bass is one of my favorite instruments.  Although the Bass is an integral part of the rhythm section, it can add much more than rhythm to music.  When in the hands of an expertly trained professional, it has its own unique voice.  I have observed while listening to hundreds of Bass players over the years that there is one characteristic that all great Bass players have that might surprise you. . . the passion for melody.  This passion includes an understanding and interpretation of the emotion of the melody. David Finck in his new CD, "BASSically JAZZ" gives us an opportunity to experience the unique voice a Bass which can produce sounds, textures and pictures it can paint without uttering one spoken word.   But most of all, David Finck shows his audience that he understands and loves great melodies.  "These days melody has become a rare commodity in popular music. I miss the richness of real songwriting" says David.  I could not agree with him more.  So much so, that when I listen and evaluate a new Bass player,  my first wish is for the player to perform a classic standard.

David Finck is one of the most versatile Bassists in or out of Jazz.  He has performed with major stars from all genres of music including Dizzy Gillespie, Andre Previn, Rosemary Clooney, George Michael, Phil Woods, Kenny Rankin, Hank Jones, Paquito D'Rivera just to name a few on his rich resume.  David can play all genres of music, he says, " at the end of the day, I still want to play melodically.  Like all my albums, this one is about music the way I want to hear it.  It's not all Jazz but it's basically a Jazz record.  That's why we call it BASSically JAZZ".

Playlist:

Players:
David Finck- Bass
Joe Locke- Vibes
Jim Rudl- Piano
Cliff Almond- Drums
Ali Ryerson- Flute
Bob Mann- Guitar
Kevin Windard- Percussion
Mike Davis- Trombone

It was very hard to pick just two songs to attach to this blog because all 12 cuts on this wonderful CD are so musically pleasing so I picked 3 great standards.  The first YouTube features the entire group with David Finck providing a beautiful, exciting and creative solo on the popular Jazz standard "Old Devil Moon" written by E.Y. "Yip" Harburg and Burton Lane .   It features Joe Locke playing Vibes that bring to mind the George Shearing Quintet. The Second YouTube presents the band playing "Alfie" which David says "is one of the most unusual pop songs of all time-very beautiful and melodic and complicated" as are most of the beautiful songs composed by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.  The last song "The Summer Knows" written by Michel Legrand and Alan and Marilyn Bergman features the beautiful strong and crystal-clear voice of Linda Eder plus outstanding bow work from David Finck.

                                                                 "Old Devil Moon"

                                                                          "Alfie"
 "The Summer Knows"

Friday, November 8, 2019

CD Review: Mark Winkler: "I'm With You"


Singer, Songwriter and Arranger Mark Winkler has recently released a terrific new CD, "I'm With You".  The CD is a tribute to "Mr. Hip" Bobby Troup.  For those of you that don't know much about Bobby Troop, you are in for a treat!  I have no doubt that the term "West Coast Cool" was coined with him in mind. Bobby Troup is best known for his great standard, "Route 66" that is still recorded and performed today as much as when it was first written.  It is a classic song both in Music and Lyric that is still a favorite of Jazz players.  Bobby Troup had a lot more to contribute to contemporary Music than just "Route 66".  Mark Winkler has developed an enduring affinity with Bobby Troup and counts him as one of his Musical heros.  Mark says, "It's easy as pie for me to sing Bobby Troup songs.  Once I choose the tunes I want to create new arrangements for, I approach the songs very easily.  I feel like I understand him.  We've got things in common.  He swings and I love to swing.  He's funny, clever and whimsical,  yet could also write and sing the Blues.  As a songwriter, I am always aspiring to achieve that same range of emotions."  Once you hear the wonderful collection of songs in "I'm With You" I am sure you will fully agree with Mark's comments.

Mark Winkler is a mega-talented Musician who never stops learning from other mega-talented Musicians both young and old.  It feels like I see his musical fingerprints on at least one new CD that I receive every month.  He must never sleep because his musical contributions are non-stop and always at the highest professional level.  His musical tastes in what he decided to do is always guided by the highest Musical standards.  I also know that Mark loves to give back to his industry by helping young talented Musicians break through by sharing his ability as a Producer and Arranger and Teacher.  I applaud Mark for his efforts to help up-and-coming young Musicians.

It is an honor to do a review of a Composer/Lyricist who has had over 250 of his songs recorded    and/or sung by Dianne Reeves, Liza Minnelli, Steve Tyrell, Jane Monheit, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Lea DeLaria, Kenny Rankin and Sara Gazarek.  Mark was included in the 2018 "Rising Star Male Jazz Vocalist list in "Downbeat Magazine".   Mark's work as a Lyricist has resulted in six musicals that are playing around the country, including "Naked Boys Singing" which is, at 19 years, the second longest running show in Off Broadway history.  Mark has taught a Lyric writing course, "Crafting Great Lyrics: A Songwriters Workshop" at  "UCLA Extension" for 13 years and at the Los Angeles School of Songwriting.

However,  in Mark's latest CD it is singing skills that come front and center.  Mark has a beautiful silky smooth voice and Sinatra-like phrasing that makes him such an impressive vocalist.  The songs he has chosen are not easy for any singer to perform but Mark makes singing these special songs look easy.  I have attached two Bobby Troup songs from Mark's CD that I think you will enjoy.  My guess is that both of these songs will be new to you.  The first tune is "Please Belong To Me" that was arranged by one of my personal favorite Jazz Piano players, Tamir Hendelman.  The Musicians joining Mark on this track are:

Rich Eames- Piano
Gabe Davis- Bass
Dave Tull- Drums
Grant Geissman- Guitar
Ricky Woodard- Sax

The second tune "It Happened Once Before" is a Vocal-Piano duet with another of my absolute favorite Jazz pianists, Jon Mayer.  Mark's Vocal is dreamy and no one knows how to play a standard better than Jon Mayer!

Playlist:





Saturday, October 26, 2019

CD Review: Patrick Barnitt, "Sway"


Vocalist, Composer and Actor, Patrick Barnitt has just released his second CD with the terrific 17- piece Paul McDonald Big Band.  Patrick is a regular performer around the Los Angeles area but grew up in my home state of New Jersey.  When I first received this CD, I looked at the Playlist and was not too optimistic about what I would find on this CD.  After all, what male singer would want to take on Sinatra classics like "I've Got You Under My Skin" or "One For My Baby".  However, as I looked further, I saw that the list contained an interesting, wide-ranging group of songs like "The Truth" written by the great Les McCann, Chicago's "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is"  and the old chestnut, "Won't You Come Home Bill Bailey".

Patrick Barnitt has a classic tenor voice that is perfectly blended into the exciting sounds and arrangements of the Paul McDonald Big Band.  Singing and swinging with a big band is an opportunity that every singer longs for, but in order for it to work, the singer and the band have to merge and become one, support each other and also give each other space to excel.   This CD accomplished all of these requirements.  Patrick gets a lot of work as an Actor but he deserves more public notice for his vocal accomplishments.  He has a great voice and style which at times brings one back to the 1950 crooning era but he also does some wonderful things with more current music.  I think it would really be good for Patrick to put together a collection of songs from some of the more recent composers on his next CD.

I really liked "Sway" for a lot of reasons.  I loved Patrick's voice and phrasing, the collection of songs he chose and the great sounds and arrangements from the Paul McDonald Big Band.  I would also like to mention the big band arrangements from Paul McDonald that would please any big band music fan!

Playlist:
1. "The More I See You"
2. "Please Be Kind"
3. "Sway"
4. "I've Got You Under My Skin"
5. "ACL Blues"
6. "Cascade"
7. "The Truth"
8. "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is"
9. "Touch Me"
10. "Quando Quando Quando"
11. "Won't You Come Home Bill Bailey"
12. "Just In Time"
13. "One For My Baby"

Players:
Vocals-Patrick Barnitt, Laura Pursell
Alto Sax- Rusty Higgins, Mike Nelson
Tenor Sax- Eric Morones, Brian Clancey
Bari Sax- Ken Fisher
Trumpet- Bijon Watson, Walter Simonsen, Jeff Jarvis, Barbara Lorongo
Trombone- Paul Young, Duane Benjamin, Nick DePinna, Rich Bullock
Piano & Arrangements- Paul McDonald
Back-up Singers- Meloney Collins, Kenna Ramsey, Laura Dickinson
Guitar- Ricky Z
Bass- Cooper Appelt
Drums- Jake Reed

There also were some terrific musicians who made outstanding guest contributions to this fine CD:
Stephan Oberhoff: Piano, Hammond B3, Keyboards, Guitar, Percussion, strings               (1,3,4,5,7,9,10,13)
Rusty Higgins: Alto Sax (13)
Kendall Kay: Drums (13)
Celso Alberti: Percussion/Drums (10)
Robert Kyle: Flute/Tenor (1)
Everette Harp: Sax (10)
Meloney Collins, Kenna Ramsey, Laura Dickson: Background Vocals (6)

I had a tough time picking a few songs from the CD for you to review but finally settled on these three because I think it gives the listener the broadest picture of Patrick Barnitt's talents.   The first one is the "The Truth" written by Les McCann and features Vocalist Laura Pursell.  The second YouTube is "Please Be Kind" written by Sammy Cohn and Saul Chaplin and I had to attach the third YouTube one of my favorites from "Chicago", "Does Anyone Really Know What Time It Is".



                                                       









CD Review: Roger Kellaway "The Many Open Minds of Roger Kellaway"

Composer Pianist Roger Kellaway is one of my favorite Jazz performers for multiple reasons.  He is a brilliant pianist who expresses hi...