Sunday, August 23, 2015

CD Review: "Janice Friedman Trio: Live At Kitano"

Pianist/Composer Janice Friedman has recently released her first live CD, "Janice Friedman Trio: Live At Kitano".  I first met Janice when I was doing a review of "Diva" Rose Kingsley's Cabaret debut at Cafe Noctambulo at Pangea in New York City a few months ago.  I was impressed by the way Janice played Piano in support of Rose's unique vocal approach to standards.  In talking with Janice after the show, she mentioned that she had just cut a CD, and I knew it would be something I would like.

I certainly was correct.  In fact, there was a bonus for me on her CD.  Janice does Vocals, Arranging and Composed four wonderful songs. What I like the most about Janice is her unique approach to music.  When she plays you can hear little parts of the best Jazz Pianists in history, and yet she has the ability to create music that is totally her own.  Her touch on the Plano is soft and thoughtful as are her vocals.  Her arranging skills are also remarkable.  The first cut on the CD is an original composition, "Get Set", and Janice constructed an Oscar Peterson-inspired arrangement that is terrific.  Janice also brilliantly co-wrote a Chopin Nocturne in a beautiful Jass style.  According to Janice "I took Chopin's beautiful nocturne, changed it into a Jazz waltz, straightened up the form to make it comfortable to improvise on, adjusted the rhythms and phrases to have them swing, used my own chords, put in an improvised recitative spot where Chopin had one written and voila!"

Supporting Janice on her live CD are: Victor Lewis on Drums and Ed Howard on Bass.  Both of these musicians are highly talented and clearly fit together with Janice's style perfectly.

I have attached a "YouTube" of Janice Friedman's sensitive and beautiful rendition of Bill Evan's "Turn Out The Stars" live at Kitano in NYC on March 18, 2015.  And after you listen to this performance, just think, she also does Vocals, Arranging and Composing!  Janice Friedman is a super-star musical talent!


Sunday, August 9, 2015

CD Review: "Muddy Waters, 100"

"Muddy Waters, 100" is a new tribute Album that was recorded in honor of Muddy Waters on the occasion of his 100th birthday.  Muddy Waters is to Blues what Elvis was to Rock & Roll!  Producer, Larry Skoller has gathered some of the best Blues musicians still performing today to record 15 classic Muddy Waters' songs. Because of the importance of this CD to the Blues world, I asked Blues "Aficionado" Tim Marchio to do a guest review of this wonderful CD.

                             "Muddy Waters 100"
                                                                              By Tim Marchio

When I first received this assignment, I was excited because Muddy Waters is one of the giants of the Blues genre and has influenced pretty much everyone in Blues and Rock.  As per the press materials accompanying the CD (which comes in a hard cover book-like case with exceptionally well done liner notes), “This officially authorized centennial tribute to Muddy Waters . . . .  celebrates, commemorates and contributes to the musical legacy of this American icon”.  This is not a typical “tribute” album.  Muddy Waters 100 contains 15 newly recorded tracks of his music featuring band alumni and several of today’s blues and roots artists, including Johnny Winter, Derek Trucks, James Cotton, Shemekia Copeland, Bob Margolin, Gary Clark, Jr., Keb Mo and John Primer who played with Muddy until his death in 1983. 

The Blues is a uniquely American musical genre that has its roots in the 1800s when African American slaves were singing work songs, spirituals and field hollers while working on plantations.  It is about hardships and is strongly personal.  The Blues is more about feel than about construct.  Muddy was born in 1915 (some say 1913) in Rolling Fork, Mississippi.  He worked in the cotton fields and started playing harmonica at age 7, then picked up the guitar at age 17.  In 1943, he moved to Chicago and changed the landscape of the Blues.  The full story is quite well documented in the essay included in the CD booklet, written by Robert Gordon, author of “The Life and Times of Muddy Waters”.     

Now to the music, the songs range in years from 1941 to 1978.  As is typical with most Blues classics, many of these songs have been covered numerous times by many artists in many genres (e.g., "Mannish Boy" has been covered by virtually every major Blues artist and the likes of Hank Williams, Wolfmother, Erykah Badu).  Having already named that song, "Mannish Boy" is the most visceral song on the album.  The first time I played it, I was taken aback.  It sounded old and new at the same time (one quick note, the recording itself is done masterfully with excellent mixing and engineering.  It sounds fantastic).  As stated above, some of these songs have new arrangements and this one just nailed it.  I keep playing it as loud as possible in my car.  This arrangement and performance allows me to feel the song, not just hear it.  And this is indicative of the whole CD. 
When I hear “tribute album” with “special guests”, I think - oh no, here we go again.  In many cases, the guests try to show off or take over a song.  Not so here, each artist plays within the framework of the song.  In I’m Ready", Johnny Winter plays along with the song; he doesn’t overplay.  The other guitarists here do the same.   Derek Trucks, Gary Clark, Jr, Keb Mo, and Bob Margolin are great guitarists and could easily play to impress.  It is similarly the case with James Cotton, Billy Branch and Matthew Skoller on Harmonica.  In each song, the band and guest play to respect the man and the song.  They are there to support, not to shine on their own. 
This is a lovingly put together tribute to an American icon whose songs have already stood the test of time and will continue to do so as new artists take over and continue what Muddy and others like him started.  Get this CD, you will not regret it, even if you only have a passing interest in the Blues. 

1. "Got My Mojo Working"                                               2. "Still A Fool"
3. "I Be's Troubled"                                                            4. "I'm Ready"
5. "Mannish Boy"                                                                6. "Rosalie"
7. "Why Don't You Live So God Can Use You"                8. "Good News"
9. "Trouble No More"                                                        10. "She Moves Me"
11. "Can't Get No Grindin"                                               12. "40 Days and 40 Nights"
13. "Last Time I Fool Around With You"                        14. "I Feel So Good"
15. "Feel Like Going Home"

I have attached a "YouTube" of the first cut in this CD, "Got My Mojo Working", enjoy!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

John Korba Is Very Impressive at Shanghai Jazz In Madison, NJ

Shanghai Jazz has been one of the foremost Jazz clubs in the country.  The Jazz setting at Shanghai Jazz is perfect, large enough to seat 100 or more Jazz fans, and, yet, small enough to allow everyone in the audience to get up close to the performers.  Also, as I have mentioned in the past, the excellent food and above average service from the waitstaff would make this restaurant popular even without some of the best live Jazz sounds in the East.

Tuesday, July 21, the Jazz star was John Korba on Piano and Vocals accompanied by Julliard-trained Bassist, Hal Slapin.  I hadn't heard John play and sing in person before but he was strongly recommended to me by more than a few well-respected musicians.  John Korba is a multi-talented Pianist, Vocalist, Composer and Producer.  I was aware that Korba had performed with Daryl Hall & John Oates and had recorded with a Blues band called "Hudson River Rats", but I was surprised and very happy when John played and sang several classic songs out of the "Great American Songbook".  He has a wonderful voice and a style that is all his.  His playlist tonight consisted of songs from Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and Nat King Cole.  I loved his vocals however it was his thoughtful and intelligent Jazz Piano solos that represent his greatest talent.  John has a gentle touch that he applies to his piano that puts him in a class above most other performers.  John just doesn't just go through the normal motions when he plays, he brings his own musical ideas that seem to just spring out of songs that have been around for years.  John Korba can superbly play and sing every musical genre at a high level and keeps the total interest of his audience.

John Korba performs at Shanghai Jazz quite frequently and I highly recommend that you try to get over there to hear him.  Shanghai Jazz is located at 24 Main Street, Madison, NJ and you can call for reservations at 973-822-2899.  You can also check future performers at Shanghai Jazz on their site:

I found a "Youtube" live performance of John Korba playing and singing the Hall and Oates classic, "Sara Smile" at Shanghai Jazz.     I hope John will think about cutting a CD of standards in the near future.


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...