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".



                                                       









Sunday, October 20, 2019

CD Review: Rich Willey's Boptism Big Band, "Down & Dirty"


I have a treat for all my Big Band fans.  I have just listened to Rich Willey's "Boptism Big Band's" new release "Down & Dirty" and it's fabulous!  Trumpeter, Bass Trumpeter, Bandleader and Composer Rich Willey has a remarkable resume consisting of performing with many great musicians including Maynard Ferguson, Lionel Hampton, Buddy Morrow and vocalists Mel Torme, Jack Jones, and Shirley Jones.  The 11 tunes written by Rich Willey are as good as band music gets and will surely be played by lots of other bands in the future who are looking for fresh, new and inspiring music.  Rich Willey's composing is clear, versatile and understandable.  In addition, the talented musicians in this band are all world class and make for a listening feast.  And lastly, the arrangements are sparkling good.  These three elements make "Down & Dirty" one of the best big-band CDs released this year in my opinion.

Rich's tunes are perfectly written and arranged for the 18-piece band that Producer Dan Fornero assembled to record this CD.  An impressive group of Arrangers were brought in by Rich to create arrangements to bring Willey's compositions to life.  The group included Michael Abene, Gordon Goodwin, Wally Minko and Chris Walden and they truly are magnificent arrangements.   Award-winning engineer Tommy Vicari did the remarkable recording of this 18-piece band to complete this great CD.

This CD contains 77-minutes of musical delights including Jazz, Funk, Latin, Baroque, Reggae and Rock.  I highly recommend it to anyone who loves exciting new Big Band sounds!

Playlist:
1. "Boogie Beast"
2. "Down & Dirty"
3. "Walter The Ferret"
4. "Eyes All For You"
5. "Dancing Hippo"
6. "Ed Zachary Meets Gregory Peccary"
7. "How Bout That?"
8. "Old Folks"
9. "Little Treasures"
10. "Not So Fast"
11. " Funk Heap"
12. "But For The Grace Of God"

Players:
Rich Willey-Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Bass Trumpet, Composer, Band Leader
Saxophones- Dan Higgins, Brian Scanlon, Bob Sheppard, Jeff Driskill, Sal Lozano, Jay Mason
Trumpets- Wayne Bergeron, Dan Fornero, Rob Schaer, Mike Rocha, Tony Bonsera
Rhythm Section- Wally Minko-Keyboard, Andrew Synowiec -Guitars, Edwin Livingston-Bass
Peter Erskine-Drums, Joey De Leon-Percussion
Special Guest Thomas Hooten-Piccolo Trumpet (Down & Dirty)

I can't wait for you to hear the two YouTubes I have attached.  The first is "Boogie Beast" and the second is "Walter The Ferret" both written by Rich Willey.






Friday, October 4, 2019

CD Review: Lisa Rich, "Highwire"


Lisa Rich has an interesting story to tell.  In the 1980's she was one of the most promising Jazz singers in the US.  She and her lush voice performed in some of the most prestigious Jazz settings in the US including a series of concerts in China and India. It was not only her voice that brought her into a national focus, her ability to handle sensitive lyrics and melodies were near perfect.  She recorded two CD's before recording "Highwire" in 1987 but never released.  Lisa Rich experienced serious health issues that caused her to stop performing and pause her career.  She then opened up a music studio and worked as a Vocal teacher and gave private lessons and conducted workshops.  It was not until 2018 that Lisa returned to the music she had begun so long ago and remixed the "Highwire" CD and released it in August of 2019.

"Highwire" is really a tribute to the writing genius of Chick Corea.  A chance encounter with Chick Corea moved him to present Lisa with several of his songs.  Lisa interprets five of Corea's songs on this CD and also two songs by Ralph Towner, one by Duke Ellington, Ornette Coleman and Loonis McGlohon and the standard, "We'll Be Together Again" by Carl Fischer and Frankie Laine.

The supporting musical cast on "Highwire" is terrific starting with outstanding Piano work from Marc Copland, Bassist Drew Gress and Drummer Michael Smith.  David Kane also provides great piano support on tracks 3 and 6.

This CD remix was recorded 32 years ago but proves again that good music is timeless.  Lisa Rich has a natural ease and smoky lush voice that reminds us what Jazz Vocals are all about.  All the songs included in this CD are difficult but sensitive and Lisa sings everyone flawlessly.

Playlist:
1. "High Wire The Aerialist"
2. "Contessa" 
3. "Celeste/Prelude To A Kiss"
4. "Bud Powell"
5. "Stardancer"
6. "Lonely Woman"
7. "Songbird"
8. "The Jinn"
9. "We'll Be Together Again"
10. "The Silence Of A Candle"

Players:
Lisa Rich-Vocals
Marc Copland-Piano
Drew Gress-Acoustic Bass
Michael Smith-Drums
David Kane-Piano (Track 3 & 6) 




I have selected two YouTubes for you to review that showcase Lisa Rich's wonderful Vocal talents. The first one is "High Wire The Aerialist", music by Chick Corea, Lyric by Tony Cohan.  The second is a terrific version of the standard, "We'll Be Together Again", Music by Carl T Fischer, Lyric by Frankie Laine.


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 th...