Sunday, July 26, 2015

CD Review: "Ron Aprea Plays Tribute to John Lennon and the Beatles"

 Ron Aprea, the world-class Sax player, Arranger and Producer has just released a terrific CD cover of some of the best songs written by John Lennon and the Beatles.  The inspiration for this CD was born as a result of the musical experience Ron had when he recorded with John Lennon in 1974 on Lennon's award-winning Album, "Walls and Bridges".  This CD also celebrates the reunion for Ron with Trumpeter and my long-time friend, Steve Madaio.  Turns out that Steve was also on the recording session for "Walls and Bridges".  

Part of the musical joy of this new CD from Ron Aprea is the wonderful arrangements he has penned for this Album.  Ron's playing ability is well known throughout the music world, but I have always believed that his arranging skills put him up with the top arrangers writing today.  When you listen to Beatle songs that you have probably heard hundreds of times and hear some of the new and imaginative arrangements from Ron, the songs take on a new, wonderful feel.

Ron Aprea can and has played everything from BeBop to Ballads but when you add his arranging talent to the mix, he truly stands out as one of the most talented musicians performing today.

The CD starts with an unusual arrangement of "Let It Be" that Ron opens with a soulful playing of the melody and then moves into an upbeat full band treatment of the rest of the melody.  Next up is "Imagine" with Steve Madaio sharing the lead with Ron.  I have been privileged to hear Steve play this classic many times in person but adding Ron's mellow Sax work with Steve's lush Trumpet sounds, produces a brilliant result.

I enjoyed every cut of this Album but would like to spotlight a few of my favorites in addition to "Imagine".  Ron has written a wonderful arrangement for "Can't Buy Me Love" that is not high on my list of Favorite Beatles songs but Ron's arrangement of this song is marvelous.  The swinging arrangement calls out  "Count Basie" and any Basie fan would love it.  Ron's technical and sweet-sounding performance on "Yesterday" just knocked me out.  It reminded me of one of my favorite Albums recorded over 50 years ago, "Cannonball Adderley and Strings".

Ron has gathered a wonderful group of musicians together for this session including special performances by Brian Lynch- Trumpet , Matt Aprea-Violin and Viola,  Steve Madaio-Trumpet, Dom Minasi-Guitar and singer Angela DeNiro.

1. "Let It Be"                                                2. "Imagine"
3. "Norwegian Wood"                                  4. "Yesterday"
5. "Happy Xmas"                                         6. "Can't Buy Me Love"
7. "Here There And Everywhere                 8. "Blackbird"
9. "Something"                                            10. "Fool On The Hill"
11. "Whatever Gets You Thru The Night"  12. "Goodnight"

I have attached some clips from the CD listed on Ron's site for your enjoyment.


Saturday, July 18, 2015

CD Review: George Gee Swing Orchestra, "Swing Makes You Happy"

Ok lovers of the "Big Band" sound, here is a new CD that will be guaranteed to make you feel good! Bandleader George Gee and the talented Musical Director, Composer, Arranger and Trombonist, David Gibson have recorded an excellent group of 19 swing songs that while staying true to the foundations of the swing tradition, sound fresh and new.  The Gibson arrangements are terrific as are the five originals he wrote, and he also produced three excellent transcriptions from the Chick Webb repertoire.  This band really cooks with these arrangements and produces a much larger sound than one would expect from a 9-piece orchestra.  And in the tradition of great swing bands of the past, Gee has brought along two wonderfully-talented singers, Hilary Gardner and John Dokes.  They are both great big band singers and seal the total package for this swing orchestra.

The members of this orchestra are all high-end professional players and should receive much credit for producing a CD of such high quality as "Swing Makes You Happy".

George Gee: Bandleader
David Gibson: Musical Director & Trombone
Hillary Gardner: Vocals
John Dokes: Vocals
Ed Pazant: Alto Sax
Michael Hashim: Tenor Sax
Anthony Lustig: Baritone Sax
Andy Gravish: Trumpet
Freddie Hendrix: Trumpet
Steve Einerson" Piano
Marcus McLaurine: Upright Bass
Wilard Dyson" Drums

If you ever find yourself in the NYC area, The George Gee Swing Orchestra has been performing at the Swing46  Jazz and Supper Club in NYC's Times Square for almost 18 years.  You can catch their act every Tuesday at 8:30pm to 11:30pm and on selected Fridays from 9:30pm to 1:00am.  You can call for reservations at 212-262-9554.

I was able to find a "YouTube" of the George Gee Swing Orchestra performing the first cut from their new CD, "Comin' Home".

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

CD Review: The Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra, "The Thompson Fields"

Composer, arranger and bandleader Maria Schneider has just released her new CD, "The Thompson Fields" recorded with her highly recognized Jazz orchestra.  I never heard any of Maria's compositions before nor have I ever heard her Jazz Orchestra.  After listening to the first cut on the CD, "Walking by Flashlight" it became clear that Maria Schneider is a brilliant composer and arranger.  While Maria has written 8 new Jazz compositions for her CD, the construction of the songs is much more than Jazz.  I would say it's a fusion of Jazz and Classical with Jazz in the leadership position.  Maria's public recognition has been on a hot roll after she released her last CD, "Winter Morning Walks" that won three Grammys in the classical category of the 2014 Grammy Awards, making her one of the rare musicians to win Grammys in both the Jazz and Classical categories.

Maria is known for her autobiographical music and in the songs she has written for "Thompson Fields" she shares her relationship to southwest Minnesota, where she spent her childhood years.  Her music reflects the calming effects of her love of landscape, birds, and prairie.

Maria has been a leader over the last decade in successfully demonstrating how music could be funded and released using "ArtistShare".  Maria's first "ArtistShare" album, "Concert In the Garden", not only won the first Grammy with Internet-only sales but opened the crowd-funded era.  Over the past thirteen years, Maria has developed a growing concern for intellectual property rights,  engaging with lawmakers, the Library of Congress and others to protect the rights of music creators.

"Thompson Fields" was supported by "ArtistShare" and is available exclusively at

The Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra:

Maria Schneider-Conductor
Steve Wilson-Alto, Soprano,Clarinet, Flute, Alto Flute
Dave Pietro-Alto,Soprano,Clarinet, Flute, Alto Flute, Bass Flute, Piccolo
Rich Perry-Tenor
Donny McCaslin-Tenor,Clarinet, Flute
Scott Robinson-Baritone, Bass Clarinet, Alto Clarinet, Clarinet
Tony Kadleck-Trumpet, Fluegelhorn
Greg Gisbert-Trumpet, Fluegelhorn
Auge Haas-Trumpet, Fluegelhorn
Mike Rodriguez-Trumpet, Fluegelhorn
Keith O'Quinn-Trombone
Ryan Keberle-Trombone
Marshall Gilkes-Trombone
George Flynn-Bass Trombone
Gary Versace-Accordion
Luge Lund-Guitar
Frank Kimbrough-Piano
Jay Anderson-Bass
Clarence Penn-Drums
Rogerio Boccato-Percussion on "Lembranca"

I have attached a "YouTube" of Maria reviewing the birth of "The Thompson Fields" her new CD.

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 reco...