Saturday, May 23, 2020

CD Review: Jenny Davis, "Rearranged"

Composer, Arranger, Bandleader and Jazz Vocalist, Jenny Davis has just released her 4th album as a leader.  This CD spotlights Jenny Davis' brilliant Composing talents along with her polished and sensitive vocal abilities.  Davis composed and arranged eight of the 11 tracks on this CD.  The music and lyrics on these wonderful Davis compostions are the result of over 20 years of study and performing that deeply reflect the experiences of her activist life.  The quality of her music stands on its own but the addition of her sensitive lyrics puts these songs in a special master-class level.  According to Davis, "Being a composer is about more than creating amazing music.  It's also an opportunity to reach the hears and minds through the metaphysical power of the music".  When you listen to the songs on this CD, I am sure you will agree that this mission was accomplished!

Davis has gathered an outstanding group of musicians to join her on this CD project.  Leading the way is three-time Grammy-nominated Brazilian Pianist, Composer and Arranger, Jovino Santos Neto.  He is a long-time Music Director of the Hermeto Pascoal Band and has also collaborated with symphonic orchestras in the US and Europe.  His piano performance is perfect for Davis' music and voice as you will hear on the attached cuts from the CD.   The work and planning that went into the creation of this CD was massive and has resulted in a beautiful musical event for anyone that listens to it.

1. "Accptar"
2. "And What IF I Don't"
3. "Come With Me"
4. "Rearranged"
5. "Yeoman Warders"
6. "Invitation"
7. "Saying Yes"
8. "Calling You"
9. "Answer The Call"
10. "Gemini Tango"
11. "Wise Up"
12. "Rearranged"  Live Performance by the Sirius String Quartet

1. Jenny Davis-Vocals/ Compositions  
2. Jovino Santos Neto-Piano
3. Chuck Deardorf-Bass
4. Jeff Busch- Drums
5. Kurt Festinger-Tenor Sax
6. Dimitri Matheny-Flugelhorn
7. Mark Taylor-Alto Sax
8. Heather Bentley-Viola/Violin 
9. David Lange-Accordian

The Yeoman Warders Sax Quar,tet:
1. Kate Olsen-Soprano
2. Mark Taylor-Alto
3. Cynthia Mullis-Tenor
4. Jim Dejoie-Baritone

Additional Vocals:
1. Lorrie Ruiz
2. Vanessa Littrell     

I had a really hard time deciding what songs from this CD to attach because the playlist is so outstanding.  I have selected two Jenny Davis originals for you to experience.  The first one is "Aceptar" that will let you experience the wonderful piano work from the Jovino Santos Neto Trio.  The second is the title track "Rearranged".  Both are great compositions and joyous music!  I also want to recommend that you buy this CD and listen to Davis' performance on the song "Invitation".  This song written by Bronislau Kaper has always been one of my favorite songs and Davis' arrangement is terrific.



Monday, May 4, 2020

The Five Most Heart-Felt American Ballads Named After A Women

                                                       "Tulips and Oranges"  2117
                                                Still Life Oil on Canvas- 16 X 20

While spending time in "Lockdown" for the last couple of weeks, I started to think about some of the great songs that have been written and named after women.  So I started to search out a list and I was surprised that I found a lot more candidates then I had imagined.  I wanted to select only five songs that I believe are the best examples performed in a Jazz-like format.   I think that the five songs below would find their way on anyone's list.  There are others that one may argue should be among the top five, and I have no argument with that thinking.  But these five songs are hard to ignore.  In order to add to your enjoyment, I have attached a vocal arrangement and an instrumental of each song.  The list of performers is sterling.  Some old, some young but all are best of class at what they do.

The first "YouTube"is for the classic song "Laura".   I have selected the instrumental version which includes a terrific Trombone solo performed by Bob McChesney with Pat Tuzzolino on Piano.  Pat also did the wonderful arrangement.  I felt that McChesney and Tuzzolino captured the emotion of the music and presented the story of Laura even without the lyrics.   The selection of the vocal version was difficult as many of our great vocalists have recorded this song.  I finally decided to go with The Four Freshman's recording.   The Music for "Laura" was composed for the 1944 movie of the same name by David Raksin  and the lyrics were written by Johnny Mercer.


The second "YouTube" is "Emily" with music by the great Johnny Mandel and Lyrics by the incomparable Johnny Mercer.  The song was composed for the 1964 film "The Americanization of Emily" but strangely it was not sung in the movie, so it couldn't be nominated for an Academy Award.  The award for best song in 1964 was "Chim Chim" from Mary Poppins.  If the Directors of "The Americanization of Emily" had any musical brains, they would have taken home an Academy Award for this Mandel and Mercer gem.  But who knew!  I selected the Tony Bennett recording of "Emily" because Tony's approach to the lyric just brings it alive with emotion.  The fact that the pianist accompanied him was Bill Evans makes this recording as good as you can get.   For the instrumental version, I wanted to use Fred Hersch's solo piano recording but I could not find it posted on "YouTube".  I did find a recording with The Bill Evans Trio that I also love.  Bill is joined by Eddie Gomez on Bass and Marty Monell on Drums.


The third selection is the song "Mona Lisa" , music and lyric by Ray Evans and Jay Livingston.The song was written for the 1950 film "Captain Carey" and won an Academy Award for best picture.  The title and lyrics refer to the Leonardo da Vinci painting "Mona Lisa" .  I'm sure it is no surprise that the vocal I choose was Nat King Cole's recording.  This recording was made 70 years ago and it still sounds like it could have been recorded yesterday.   I chose a recently released instrumental version performed by Pianist Larry Fuller.  It's on Larry's new CD, "Overjoyed" and it's a great piece of music!

                                          " Mona Lisa"

The fourth selection is the song "I Loves You Porgy" written by George and Ira Gershwin with lyric help from DuBose Heyward.  This song was published in 1935 for the Opera, "Porgy and Bess" and is still being performed all over the world.  A great piece of music with a lyric that brings the emotion of the story to life .   I picked the Billie Holiday vocal because it still speaks to me.   The instrumental is a haunting recording by Trumpet superstar Arturo Sandoval.
                                    "I Loves You Porgy"

Our last selection is the song "Nancy With the Laughing Face" written by Jimmy Van Heusen and yes, comedian Phil Silvers.  This song written for Sinatra's daughter has been covered by tons of Jazz greats.  It just has a nice feel to it and having the Sinatra history attached  certainly helps its longevity.  The instrumental version I selected is from my life-long favorite Alto Sax player, Cannonball Adderley who is joined on Piano by Bill Evans.  The vocal version I picked is from the fabulous Jazz Vocalist, Kurt Ellin.

Well, there you have it!  Some of the finest Ballads composing and singing the American Jazz world has ever produced.  Hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed creating it.

                                                                                   " Nancy With the Smiling Face"

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

CD Review: Delfeayo Marsalis & The Uptown Jazz Orchestra, "Jazz Party"

Acclaimed Trombonist, Composer, Producer and Band Leader, Delfeayo Marsalis has released his seventh CD entitled "Jazz Party".  If you love the New Orleans music vibe, this is a CD you will want to add to your music collection.  The goal of this CD was to capture the exuberant energy of the Wednesday night shows he does with the Uptown Jazz Orchestra at Snug Harbor in New Orleans.  I am sure that you will agree after hearing the two cuts attached below that he has accomplished his goal!  Marsalis states "Jazz, the indigenous American music, is a music of celebration and optimism.  The Uptown Jazz Orchestra is such a fun band that I wanted to capture its uniqueness.  The idea was to keep the wide variety of styles that we play but to really capture the joy that is a central trademark of the band".
Delfeayo Marsalis is recognized as one of the best Jazz Trombonists performing today and he also has composed over 100 songs that help introduce kids to Jazz through musical theatre.  He has musically touched over 5,000 students nationally with his "Swinging with the Cool School" soft introduction to Jazz workshops.  Marsalis is a graduate of Berklee College of Music, holds a master's degree in Jazz performance from the University of Louisville and was conferred a doctorate by New England College.  Delfeayo Marsalis is a major Jazz star that never lost site of who he is and where he came from.  Even though Delfeayo has become a major Jazz performer and composer he contributes much time and effort to keep Jazz alive by exposing Jazz to young people. 

If you like the feel of New Orleans and its Jazz scene, no doubt you will love this CD.


I have attached two "YouTube" videos that will give you a good taste of the Uptown Jazz Orchestra.  The first one is the title track, "Jazz party" composed by Delfeayo that features vocalist Tonya Boyd-Cannon.  The second one highlights the energy of the Orchestra, "Raid on the Mingus House Party".   

"Jazz Party"

"Raid on the Mingus House Party"

Thursday, April 23, 2020

CD Review: Anthony Jefferson, "All I Am"

I am excited to share a new CD "All I Am" just released by Anthony Jefferson.  I received the review copy of this CD a while ago and only had time to preview a few of the songs.  I thought Jefferson's singing and the playlist were excellent but never got a chance to get back to it until I found myself thinking about the few songs I had heard only once so I decided to play the complete CD.  This time I fell in love with Anthony Jefferson's voice and vocialist skills.  Jefferson has a silky smooth Baritone voice and his phrasing is surpurb.  His vocal range spans several octaves from beautiful deep tones to crystal clear upper tones.   Noteworthy is his effort to sing the lyrics not only with emotion and understanding but with clarity, always making sure to never cut off the end of any words.  Anthony Jefferson is truly an example of a professional Vocalist who has studied hard to learn his trade and now is singing at the highest professional level.  At times his voice and phrasing reminds me of Nat King Cole and certainly adds to the enjoyment of his singing.

Jefferson's life experiences have left a strong mark on his singing personality.  Born and raised in New Orleans, he was singing as soon as he could talk.  He studied piano from the age of five to thirteen and attended a high school that had the best band in New Orleans.  After graduation from high school, Jefferson headed to Los Angeles to find his place in the entertainment business.  He enrolled in Los Angeles City College where he took classes in musical theater as well as the standard academic coursework.  He supported himself by working for UPS when not in classes.

Next stop was to audition for the internationally renowned California Institute of the Arts.  He was awarded a full scholarship.  He began his studies in the Classical music department and then transferred to the Jazz department where he excelled.  After two years at (CalArts) a dean suggested that the next step for Jefferson's growth should be the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

After completing two years at Berklee College of Music,  Jefferson moved back to New Orleans and opened a highly successful restaurant that hosted Jazz jams.  During the next several years while operating his restaurant, he continued performing and studying to improve his singing skills.  After several years of hard work, Jefferson decided that it was time to leave the restaurant business and take a well-earned vacation.  He loved sailing and one of the places he sailed to was the Dominican Republic where he fell in love with the lifestyle and culture.  It was during his 10-year stay in the Dominican Republic that Jefferson met multi-instrumentalist Corey Allen.  This friendship resulted in the creation of the "All I Am" CD.  Corey Allen put together spectacular String and Horn arrangements that amplify Jefferson's innate warmth and soulfulness.

Anthony Jefferson has been a major star in the Dominican Republic and now with the release of "All I am" he deserves to become a recognized star throughout the US.

1. "All I Am"
2. " Marnie"
3. "Besame Mucho"
4. "Night And Day"
5. "Willow Weep For Me"
6. "Summertime"
7. "Impossible"
8. "Rainy Night In Georgia"
9. "Me and Mrs Jones"
10. "In the Presence of"
11. "You've Got A Friend"

Anthony Jefferson- Vocals, Producer
Corey Allen- Piano, Keys, Arrangements
Federico Mendez- Guitar
Pengbian Sang- Bass
Esar Simo- Bass
Guy Frometa- Drums
Sly De Moya- Drums, Percussion
Tom McCauley- Guitar, Percussion

Special Guests:
Mark Rapp- Trumpet
Patricia Pereyra- Vocals
Gustavo A. Hostos- Vocals
The Corey Allen Strings:
Milena Zivkovic, Igor Vasiljevic, Zvezdana Radojkovic
The Corey Allen Horns:
Ernesto Nunez, Pedro Liberato-Trumpet
Sandy Gabriel- Alto Sax
Jesus Abru- Tenor Sax
Gabriel Parra- Baritone Sax
Carlos Torres- Trombone

Background Vocals:
Sabrina Estepan, Benny Hiraldo, Emmanuel Pena, Fende Sincere

This CD includes an eclectic list of songs from the Great American Songbook, pop music, R & B and the movies and picking just two cuts from this CD was difficult.   I settled on two "YouTubes" for you to listen to. The first is "Willow Weep For Me" and the second is "Besame Mucho" where Anthony is joined by the wonderful vocalist, Patricia Pereyra.


Wednesday, April 15, 2020

CD Review: Keith Oxman and Houston Person Release "Two Cigarettes in the Dark"

Saxophonist, Composer and Educator Keith Oxman has produced some great Jazz CDs over the years by collaborating with some of the greatest Jazz players including Tenor Saxophonist Dave Liebman, Trombonist Curtis Fuller and Alto Saxophonist Charles McPherson.  On his newest CD release, "Two Cigarettes in the Dark", Oxman has brought in the esteemed Tenor Sax player, Houston Person to join him.  Jazz giant Charles McPherson wrote the liner notes for "Two Cigarettes in the Dark" pointing out the stylistic contrast between the sounds of the two Tenors, comparing "Keith's long, flowing lines" to "Houton's warm, rich tone".   This CD has a warm and relaxed vibe and these two superb Tenor players melded perfectly together in every cut on the album.  No competition here, just mutual respect for each other's musical skills.

The playlist is interesting in that it featuring Originals, Standards and Vintage Tunes.  Keith brought along veteran Vocalist Annette Murrell to sing two of the Standards, "Everything Happens to Me" and "Crazy He Calls Me".   She sings these ballads like she has lived them.  Her rich, deep voice is filled with life experience and, she fits perfectly between these two Tenor greats! 

Keith Oxman- Tenor Sax
Houston Person- Tenor Sax
Annette Murrell- Vocals
Jeff Jenkins- Piano
Ken Walker- Bass
Paul Romaine- Drums

 1. "I've Never Been In Love Before"
2.  "Voss Is Bass"
3. "Everything Happens To Me"
4. "Two Cigarettes In The Dark"
5. "Bossa For Baby"
6. "Murphy's Law Impacts L.E.A.P."
7. "Crazy He Calls Me"
8. "Wind Chill"
9.  "Sweet Sucker"
10. "Murrellancholy" 

  "I've Never Been In Love Before"

                                                       "Everything Happens to Me"

Thursday, April 2, 2020

CD Review: Clairdee Releases Her Forth CD, "A Love Letter to Lina"

San Francisco based Vocalist Clairdee has admired and been a fan of Lena Horne since she was four years old.  Clairdee was not just in love with Lena Horne's beautiful voice but also with Lena's intelligence, dignity, talent and willingness to fight for what's right.  In Clairdee's new CD, "A Love letter to Lena" she pays her respect to her idol with inventive arrangements of songs by Billy Strayhorn and contemporary composers with Clairdee's compelling storytelling.

According to Clairdee,  "I didn't want (this CD) to be merely a tribute album of Lena's greatest hits.   My mother passed in 2007, and I wanted the CD to reflect my parents' hopes for their children through the lens of Lena's efforts for civil rights and equality.  I also want to include a few songs that people may not be so familar with".

When you listen to the complete playlist on this CD, you will quickly realize that Clairdee has accomplished her goal.  Some of the songs on the playlist were not familiar to me but when you listen to the lyric combined with Clairdee's (Spoken Interlude) on several of the songs,  the message she wanted to send is clearly heard.

Clairdee is an accomplished, master Jazz singer with a warm, deep silky voice.  Lena Horne was one of the giants of Jazz from the time she started singing but she was so much more;  she did fight for equality throughout her life.  Clairdee has done us all a service reminding us of Lena Horne's greatness as a Vocalist and a person.  For millions of Americans, she did make a difference.

                                      The Band

 I have attached two "YouTubes" from "A Love Letter To Lena".  The first is the classic "Old Devil Moon" recorded in a Latin groove and the second is an up-tempo version of "Lady be Good".

                                                                    "Old Devil Moon"

"I want to be happy"

Friday, March 27, 2020

CD Review: John Vanore, "Primary Colors"

Trumpeter, Composer, Producer, Educator and Bandleader John Vanore has just released a long-forgotten studio recording of a duet he recorded in the mid-80s with his friend and frequent playing partner, Pianist, Composer and Educator Ron Thomas.  Both players have had stellar musical careers and their new CD, "Primary Colors" was produced from studio recording tapes recorded during 1984 and 1985.  Both Vanore and Thomas have covered a lot of musical ground since 1985.  It is interesting to listen to the cuts on this CD and discover that both these master musicians were brilliant musicians even 35 year ago.  John Vanore's tone and phrasing on the 7 songs on this CD are sparking good!  Ron Thomas' mastery of the (at the time) cutting-edge Yamaha DX-7 is very interesting.  In 1985 most musicians were just starting to experiment with the DX-7 but clearly Ron Thomas was leading the charge.

According to Vanore "The sessions' only protocol was a willingness to experiment in the way of sound, song form and more. We weren't approaching this stuff like head/solos/head.  Our approach was more compositional and spontaneity was also paramount, and while there may be overdubbed layers at various points, a single-take ethic was honored throughout the informal sessions."

Even though the music on this CD was recorded years ago, it still sounds fresh and new which is a testament to the high quality of these two talented musicians.

John Vanore: Trumpet & Flugelhorn and Producer
Ron Thomas: Piano, Fender Rhodes, Yamaha DX-7

1. "Final Dawn"
2. "Lady"
3. "Yesterdays"
4. "A Time For Love"
5. "Origins of Rude"
6. "Return"
7. "Secret Love" 

I have attached two "YouTube" videos for your listening pleasure.  The first is the beautiful classic written by Johnny Mandel, "A Time For Love".   The second is the Jerome Kern gem, "Yesterdays"  I know you will enjoy both.

                                                                    "A Time For Love"


CD Review: Jenny Davis, "Rearranged"

Composer, Arranger, Bandleader and Jazz Vocalist, Jenny Davis has just released her 4th album as a leader.  This CD spotlights Jenn...