Tuesday, October 16, 2018

CD Review: Stephane Spira :New Playground"

Stephane Spira


Saxophonist and Composer Stephane Spira's success has not come easily or quickly.  Stephane is self-taught while also pursuing an engineering degree.  He worked as an engineer in Saudi Arabia and then in the 1990s he headed back to his hometown of Paris to pursue music full time.  After 15 years of playing in Paris clubs and recording two albums,  Spira decided to make a major life change by moving to New York City and start over.  Rather than finding rejection in the sometime cold "Big Apple", he found inspiration and a Jazz career playing with a core group of tremendous musicians.  He also fell in love with an equally creative women who became mother of his son.  Spira wrote 7 of the 8 songs included in "New Playground" to celebrate the creative and personal happiness he discovered since making the change in his life.  You may find it interesting as I did that Spira got his first Saxophone at the age of 22.  Late for most Jazz musicians but not for those whose inspiration and creativity must be freed.

Stephane Spira plays Soprano Saxophone, an instrument that is not exactly a staple in American Jazz, however, his tone and skill will impress even the toughest critic!  His composing, phrasing and tones are infectious and totally uplifting for the listener.

The supporting cast on this CD is also outstanding!  The four remarkable players fit perfectly together, as if they are one.  Featured are Steve Wood on Bass, Joshua Richman on Piano and Keyboard and Jimmy Macbride on Drums.

Players:
Stephane Spira: Soprano Saxophone
Joshua Richman: Piano and Keys
Steve Wood: Bass
Jimmy Macbride: Drums

Playlist:
1. "Peter's Run"
2. "Gold Ring Variations"
3. "New York Windows"
4,  "Underground Ritual"
5. "Nocturne (Song For My Son)"
6. "New Playground"
7. "Kaleidoscope"
8. "Solid Wood" 

I have attached a "YouTube" of the first cut from "New Playground".  It's one of 7 wonderful songs written by Stephane Spira.  I think you will love the sound and the feel of the song after just 4 measures!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

CD Review: Joyann Parker, "Hard To Love"





It's been a while since I reviewed a new Blues CD because I had not hear anything exceptional.  My wait ended when I listened to Joyann Parker's "Hard To Love". Classically trained pianist, Joyann Parker has been singing and writing music for several years, but surprisingly she is relatively new to the Blues.  About 4 years ago, Joyann discovered the Blues.  "It just clicked" she said, "This is what I am supposed to do."

For Joyann the door to Blues and Soul music opened almost accidentally.  After singing Aretha Franklin's soul classic, "Chain of Fools," at a contest, Parker received an invitation to join a Blues band.  The following year, the band "Joyann Parker & Sweet Tea" won the Minnesota Blues Society's band competition and in 2015 went to Memphis to represent the Blues Society and compete in the International Blues Challenge.  According to Joyann, "After I went to the Stax Museum in Memphis, it was like somebody lit a fire under me.  I thought, I love this music. I want to write it so I went home and wrote the songs."

Joyann has a strong, beautiful and sensual voice with amazing range that fits the Blues perfectly.  Her songs are wonderful, fresh and all tell believable stories about love and life.  They are several levels above most new Blues songs you might hear today and they tell stories that hit home with her audiences.  She mentions something very interesting about the Blues.  "I have been performing for some younger crowds and they say "I don't like the Blues".  But after I perform one of my songs, they often say "I love that song".  I tell them "That's the Blues",   I have had the same experience going to a Blues concert with someone who tells me they don't really care for the Blues.  They usually leave the concert in love with the Blues.

Blues Singer/composer/Pianist Joyann Parker also co-produced this CD with the talented Guitar player Mark Lamoine who also contributed back-up Vocals.  Simply put "Hard to Love" is a classic Blues CD spotlighting a soon to be classic Blues Vocalist!
Players:
Joyann Parker-Vocal, Guitar, Piano, Trumpet, Composer, Arranger, Co-Producer
Mark Lamoine- Guitar, Background Vocals, Co-Producer
Tim Wick-Piano, Organ
Michael Carvale-Bass
Alec Tackmann-Drums, Percussion
Gunhild Carling-Horns on "Who What When Where Why"

Playlist:
1. "Memphis"
2. "Envy"
3. "Home"
4. "Dizzy"
5. "Jigsaw Heart" 
6.  "Who What When Where Why"
7. "Bluer Than You"
8. "Ray"
9.  "Evil Heart"
10. Take Your Heart and Run"
11. "Your Mama"
12. "What Happened to Me"
13. "Hard To Love"

I have attached a "YouTube" of Joyann Parker singing her original composition "Memphis" from her new CD, "Hard To Love".


Sunday, September 16, 2018

CD Review: The Ernie Krivda Swing City Septet, "A Bright and Shining Moment"


Cleveland may be famous for the "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame" but it's also famous as the home of the great Tenor Sax player Ernie Krivda.  Cleveland's beloved Tenor Sax Player, Ernie Krivda has produced a new Swing CD with his Septet titled, "A Bright and Shining Moment".  This album is loaded with 11 great Jazz gems and 7 original compositions by Krivda.  According to Krivda, "The Septet's mission was to reflect a broad swath of Jazz styles, touching on milestone eras of the music". Swing City's reason for being was to produce driving, lusty and accessible Jazz and they have clearly accomplished their goal! The Album contains many Jazz gems from the past including Ellington's "Caravan"  and "The Mooche".  There are two Gershwin tunes, "Summer Time" and "The Man I Love" and 4 songs from Carmichael, "Two Sleepy People", "The Nearness of You", "Little Old Lady" and "In the Cool Cool Cool Of the Evening".  

In 2009, Ernie Krivda was the recipient of the Cleveland Arts Prize for lifetime achievement in music.   Saxophone Bandleader, Educator, Producer. Arranger and Composer Ernie Krivda has been a driving force in Jazz music since the 1960's.  He has performed with many Jazz giants including Ella Fitzgerald, Buddy DeFranco, and David Sanborn.

This is a great CD in the traditional Jazz school of music and will be enjoyed by Jazz lovers of all ages!

Players:
Ernie Krivda-Tenor Sax
Steve Enos-Trumpet
Chris Anderson-Trombone
Joe Hunter-Piano
Marion Hayden-Bass
Lee Bush-Guitar
John Bacon-Drums
Rick Porrello-Drums
Brian Thomas-Bass

Playlist:
1. "Lime House Blues"
2. "Roses"
3. "Summer Time"
4. "On The Road"
5. "A Bright and Shining Moment"
6. "The Man I Love"
7. "In The Cool Cool Cool of the Evening"
8. "Easter Blue"
9. "Caravan"
10. "Little Old Lady"
11. "Dream of Life"
12. "Hangin' With The Hoosiers"
13. "The Mooch"
14. "The Nearness of You"
15. "The Good Lady"16. "Two Sleepy People"

I have attached a YouTube of Ernie Krivda and the Swing City Septet playing Ellington's "Caravan" that I think you will enjoy!


Tuesday, August 28, 2018

CD Review: Erin McDougald's "Outside the Soiree"


Superb Jazz Vocalist, Erin McDougal released her fourth studio recording, "Outside the Soiree" on March 16, 2018.  The information that was sent to me along with the CD stated "Erin McDougald's latest album exemplifies the concept of thinking - and singing - outside the box".  I couldn't agree more with  this statement!  Erin had her hand in most everything connected with this CD.  She contributed to all of the arrangements, except for #3 and #12,  selected a marvelous and, yet, an unusual group of songs for her playlist and picked a stellar band.  I am sure you will recognize most of the songs in her playlist but the essence of this CD is the fresh, new approach to each one that Erin has chosen.  It seems to me that Erin brings some of the vocal history of each song to the forefront and mixed it with great arrangements and impeccable Jazz singing that makes this CD super good listening.  I don't want to make light of the brilliance of taking an old song, keeping the original emotion of the original singers and then applying your own personal vocalized interpretations.  Few Jazz singers ever master this talent but there is no doubt that Erin has accomplish this feat!  Even though Erin's Vocals are new and fresh, every note and phrase she sings seem comfortable to the listener.  Her voice is pure and strong and she can go where few singers can travel with ease.

The band on this CD is as good as it ever gets for Vocalists.  They are all seasoned pros, and they all give Erin the space she needs while filling the supporting background perfectly.  The band features Guitarist and Pianist Rob Block, Bassist Cliff Schmitt, Drummer Rodney Green, Percussionists Mark Sherman and Chembo Corniel and Saxophonist Dan Block.  In addition, Erin brought in two old friends, Saxophonist David Liebman and Trumpeter Tom Harrell.  This is as good a group of Musicians that you will ever find!

Playlist:
1.   "Don't Be On The Outside"
2.   "Begin the Beguine"
3.   "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime"
4.   "Man With The Horn"
5.   "Midnight Sun"
6.   "Outside the Soiree"
7.   "Don't Wait For Me"
8.   "The Masquerade Is Over"
9.   "Spring Can Really Hang You Up"
10. "When the World Was Young"
11. "Linger A While / Avalon"
12. "Unusual Way"
13. "The Parting Glass"

I wanted to attach a "YouTube" of Erin singing one of the great songs from her album and it was a really tough job picking just one.  I settled on one of my classic favorites,  "Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most".  Erin sings this ballet in an up-tempo fashion that works great!  Whether you are a professional Jazz singer or just a Jazz fan, Erin and her latest CD need to be on your "must-have" music list.


Tuesday, August 14, 2018

CD Review: Scott Reeves Jazz Orchestra, "Without A Trace"


OK big band fans, I know I have featured a lot of Vocalists lately, so I have a present for you.    Composer, Trombonist, Arranger, Author and College Jazz Educator, Scott Reeves recently published his new CD, "Without a Trace".  The 17-piece Scott Reeves Jazz Orchestra performs both outstanding originals and re-imagined Jazz Classics in world-class form.  This CD which was released on March 16, 2018, "draws influences of the great Big Bands/ Composers andArrangers from Ellington and Gil Evans to Thad Jones, Bob Brookmeyer and Jim McNeely.  Nice company to be associated with!

This CD is so good, you will fall in love with it after just hearing it once.  The arrangements played by their 17-piece Orchestra are fresh and bright and the music flows effortless!

Scott Reeves is a musical giant in every aspect of modern-day music.  The fact that he was able to produce this CD alone was a major accomplishment in itself.  The costs of producing a big band CD is hard enough but getting 17 world-class musicians into the studio at the same time to record this CD is probably just as hard.  He deserves our support and thanks for keeping the big band sound alive and well for past and future generations.  Please help Scott by buying this wonderful CD.

Players:
Scott Reeves: Conductor, Trombone, Alto Flugehorn
Saxophones: 
   Steve Wilson: Soprano, Alto, Flute
   Vito Chiavuzzo: Alto, Flute
   Rob Middleton: Tenor, Clarinet
   Tim Armacost: Tenor
   Terry Goss: Baritone,
   Jay Bradford: Baritone
Trumpets:
   Seneca Black (Lead)
   Nathan Eklund
   Chris Rogers
   Bill Mobley
   Andy Gravish
Trombones:
   Tim Sessions (Lead)
   Matt McDonald
   Matt Haviland
   Max Siegel (Bass)
Rhythm:
   Piano: Jim Ride
   Vibes: Dave Ellson
   Bass: Todd Coolman
   Drums: Andy Watson
Vocals: 
   Carolyn Leonhart

Playlist:
1."Speak Low"
2. "Without A Trace"
3. "All or Nothing at All"
4, "Incandescence"
5. "Jiju"
6. "Shapeshifter"
7. "Something for Thad"

I have attached a couple of "YouTubes" of "The Scott Reeves Jazz Orchestra" for your listening enjoyment.  The first one is the old Jazz chestnut "Speak Low" which is also the opening cut from the CD.  The second one features the lovely and talented Vocalist Carolyn Leonhart singing the original Scott Reeves composition and title tune "Without a Trace".











Saturday, August 4, 2018

CD Review: Joanne Tatham "The Rings of Saturn"



Vocalist Joanne Tatham has released her 4th CD, "The Rings of Saturn" on March 30, 2018 and it's a beautiful musical journey to some great old and new songs combined with some fresh arrangements.  Tatham successfully follows the proven traditions of the great vocalists of past generations: pick only first-class material, write fresh, hip arrangements and ask only the best musicians to join you.  The collection of songs in this CD are so different with unusual arrangements that singing the full playlist could be used as a master class for any Jazz vocalist!  Clearly Joanne Tatham is not afraid to take risks and the result is a beautiful eclectic CD that will please even the toughest Jazz listener.

It was difficult to pick one song from this CD for you to listen to because I liked so many of them, and they are so different.  "Catch Me If You Can" composed by Eli Brueggemann with Lyrics by Mark Winkler is catchy and clever.  Who wouldn't love a Lyric by Mark Winker?  "Jazz 'n Samba" by Antonio Jobim and arranged by Guitarist Marcel Camargo and Tatham is wonderful.  But in the end, I had to give in to my love of standards and I attached a "YouTube"  of Joanne Tatham singing the old chestnut "Love Me Or LeaveMe" as good as you will ever hear this song sung.

Playlist:
1. "Love Me Or Leave Me"
2. "Summer In New York"
3. "Catch Me If You Can"
4. "Poetry Man"
5. The Rings of Saturn"
6. "Can We Still Be Friends?"
7. "If You Never Come To Me"
8. "Anyone Can Whistle"
9. "Nice To Be Around"
10. "Jazz 'n Samba"
11. "It Could Happen to You"

Players:
Joanne Tatham-Vocals
Max Haymer-Piano
Lyman Medeiros-Base
Dan Schnelle-Drums
Marcel Camargo-Guitar
Larry Koonse-Guitar
Kevin Winard-Percussion
Brian Swartz-Trumpet
Bob Sheppard-Sax

Produced by Mark Winkler





Monday, July 16, 2018

CD Review: "Say It" from John Proulx


John Proulx's new CD "Say It" is the first album that he has produced independently and it's terrific!  Pianist, Vocalist, Composer and Producer John Proulx is one of the brightest new stars on today's Jazz scene.  He is a welcome addition to the Jazz world, not only because of his composing, singing and Piano playing but because John has a fine appreciation of the Jazz greats of the past and the wonderful music they introduced to the world.  His musical efforts continue to produce outstanding new music while at the same time, John still addresses some of the great songs of the "Great American Songbook".  On this CD, John has recorded some new songs in addition to recording some gems from the past like "The Summer Knows", Mose Allison's sardonic "I Don't Worry About a Thing" and Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now". 

In addition to John's talents, he is a Jazz star that still is always willing to help other new and lesser-known Jazz players with Piano support, arranging, producing and caring supportive direction.  He is a major Jazz star with no overriding ego!

John asked his old friend and outstanding vocalist, Judy Wexler to help him produce this album along with two other friends that are legendary Jazz musicians, Bassist Chuck Berghofer and the great Joe LaBarbera on Drums.  According to John, "Chuck and Joe have been my musical bedrock. I love the way they inspire me to play and sing."  Also joining John on this CD are two more Jazz giants, Guitarist Larry Koonse and Saxophonist Bob Sheppard.   And the topper to this group is Melissa Manchester who recorded the duet "Stained Glass", a tune that they co-wrote. 

I first met John at one of Pete Carlson's Jazz Concerts in Palm Desert, and I have been a fan ever since.

Playlist:
1. "Gentle Rain:
2. "Scatsville"
3. "The Summer Knows"
4. "Watch What Happens"
5. "Say It"
6. "I Don't Worry About A Thing"
7. "The Last Goodbye"
8. "Stained Glass"
9. "Something To Live For"
10. "Both Sides Now"

Performers:
John  Proulx-Piano/Vocals/Arrangements
Chuck Berghofer-Bass
Joe LaBarbera-Drums
Larry Koonse-Guitar
Bob Sheppard-Tenor Sax/Soprano Sax
Billy Hulting-Auxiliary Percession
Melissa Manchester-Guest Vocals
Alan  Broadbent-String Quartet Arrangements

The Gina Kronstadt Strings
   Gina Kronstadt-1st Violin, leader
   Susan Chatman-2nd Violin
   Rodney Wurtz- Viola
   Stefanie Fife-Cello

Produced by Judy Wexler

I found and attached a "Youtube" of John singing "I've Never Been In Love Before" that from John's album "Moon and Sand" for your listening pleasure.







                                                    "I've Never Been In Love Before"

CD Review: Stephane Spira :New Playground"

Stephane Spira Saxophonist and Composer Stephane Spira's success has not come easily or quickly.  Stephane is self-taught while...