Monday, November 28, 2016

Pat Rizzo Celebrates His 75th Birthday with his own Star on the "Palm Springs Walk Of Stars"



Pat "The Riz" Rizzo

November 30th is a very special date for Palm Springs Musician Pat Rizzo.  Known by all as "The Riz", Pat will be celebrating his 75th birthday and also will also be receiving his "Star" on "Palm Springs Walk of Stars".  Pat who is a living legion in Southern California has a long and celebrated career that started 63 years ago. I have attached below a wonderful and loving article written by Tommy Acosta, Nina Joy Rizzo and Dr. Rosemarie Rizzo-Tolk that touches many parts of Pat's life and career.


                       By Tommy Acosta, Nina Joy Rizzo & Dr. Rosemarie Rizzo – Tolk
There are musicians who see playing music as a mere pastime. For others, it is simply a passion, perhaps a fleeting one. Then, for a rare few, it is a life-long passion and deep dedication, laced together with a performance-driven imperative.
Such is the case for saxophonist and entertainer, Pat Rizzo. That’s why on November 30th, Pat, also known as “The Riz,” celebrates his 75th birthday, which also marks his 63rd year as a musician and performer.  Imminently, he will take his rightful place, along with countless other notables, receiving his very own star on the “Palm Springs Walk of Stars,” in southern California.
Pat’s “star” joins luminaries such as Gerald Ford, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Trini Lopez and Darci Daniels, whose names and legends have become household names around the world for almost a century. It is a rightful place for The Riz, the latest recipient.
You may already know, Pat has played with Frank Sinatra, Tito Puente, Sly & The Family Stone, Ry Cooder, War and many more including The Cuff Links, an iconic group Pat founded in the 1960’s. The Cuff Links had a number of songs that reached the Top 100’s on the Billboard Charts when he was just a youngster starting out in the business.
Today, at the 75th milestone, The Riz is still going strong, playing every Friday and Saturday night at Club 360 North, a popular jazz venue in the heart of Palm Spring.
When asked why he continues to perform in show business, he says he loves performing to an audience. He’s also made it clear he has NO intention of ever stopping.
“Why would I want to stop performing?” he said. “I’m still very much alive and it gives me great pleasure to play to a live audience.  I look forward to it every week.”
Pat Rizzo
Click Photo to Learn More
Pat became interested in playing the piano before the age of 12 after listening and watching his talented mother play.  Pat’s mother, Mary Rizzo, born Maria Grande in Gioia Del Colle, Italia, was a concert pianist before coming to the United States.
“I watched her as she played.  I was so fascinated by her that I began imitating her, playing the keys neither knowing notes nor how to read music,” he said.
“As I grew up, I learned to play the clarinet and sax—instruments my maternal uncles played,” he said. “In the end, I decided to concentrate on the saxophone because I fell in love with the sound. It was sound that flowed in my veins and pumped my heart. I fell and it was swell.”
Getting acquainted with the sound of the sax, he started his first band called, The Cavaliers, playing for dances at Junior High School 141 and Bryant High School in Queens. The band was really good, and even appeared on a TV show called The Herb Shelton Dance Studio. It aired prior to Dick Clark’s American Band Stand which became an American musical staple for teens after school.
Pat Rizzo belts it out
The Riz belts it out
In his twenties, he hooked up with Tito Puente who played in a few clubs in Queens, near where Pat lived. He played on and off with Tito for about ten years.  During that time Pat founded The Cuff Links offering a softer rock ‘n’ roll. But, his musical path took him in different venues.
He began to diversify and try different grooves. He found himself playing jazz at a nightclub called Jilly’s in New York. That’s where he met Jilly Rizzo, Sinatra’s right hand man, who informally adopted Pat as his own.
And his musical horizons just kept on expanding!
“A guy I went to high school with had been working with Sly &The Family Stone. He told me Sly was looking for a replacement saxophone player,” Riz recalled. “So a meeting was arranged.  It was a bit strange because when I met Sly, he auditioned me in a bathroom! I passed the test and was hired on the spot.”
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Sly with Pat and Peter Rizzo
It was a musical odyssey with Sly from then on, with The Riz playing on numerous hit records, including, If You Want Me to Stay.” Pat wrote Ha Ha Hee Hee, which appeared on the Back On the Right Track album, co-written with fellow band member, Jerri Martini.
“Every Sly & the Family Stone concert was so outrageous; almost stirring up a riot at each performance,” Riz said. “Especially when we missed a plane. Fans wouldn’t stop screaming until we arrived. We flew more than 50,000 miles a month, performing across the globe.  I don’t think I would ever be able to live through that again.”
After touring with Sly & The Family Stone, Pat joined War, another great band that recorded hits such as Cisco Kid, Low Rider and Summer.  He recorded numerous albums for other artists including The Temptations.
Frank Sinatra was a neighbor of his and Riz was the regular Maestro at almost all of Sinatra’s extravagant parties.  Pat rubbed elbows with the industry’s elite.  “It was a BLAST!” he remembers.
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Fronting the orchestra
“Sinatra lived around the corner from me, on the other side of the golf course.”  Riz said. “After hearing me play, Frank asked me to play for his house parties and to play with him in Las Vegas. At his parties, I met all kinds of musical stars and many famous Hollywood actors. I met Ava Gardner, Lucille Ball, Dean Martin, Johnny Carson, Morgana King, Spiro Agnew and his family. I even got to dance with Ginger Rogers!” Now THAT was a highlight in my life.”
Pat’s own star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars is a crowning achievement to his auspicious career.
STAR Recipients are reserved for Palm Springs residents who distinguished themselves for their special talents and for their unique contributions to the charm and world recognition of this generous, artful and elegant hamlet that has grown into the City of Palm Springs.
“Everybody knows Pat,” said Palm Springs Walk of Stars President, Robert Alexander. He recalls the years passed as he lists some of Pat’s contributions: “Pat has played with Frank Sinatra, dozens of other world-class acts and has performed for hundreds of charities benefiting the Greater Palm Springs area. He’s been a regular performer at the Idyllwild Jazz Festival benefiting The Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts (ISOMATA) School in the Mountains above Palm Springs.”
Pat said that the WALK OF STARS organization has been asking him for twenty-five years to accept his own star. A bit shy, it took years for him to agree. But finally, he did.
He added, “I now feel really good about it. The time is right,” he said. “I guess I needed to prepare myself to accept such a wonderful honor and tribute. The time and effort I spent organizing the music and musicians and leading and playing at so many charity events here in the desert adds up to a lifetime of good feelings that I will forever cherish.”
The Riz conducting!
The Riz commands the stage!
During his incredibly busy years of playing non-stop concerts, he found the time to raise a family: his two daughters: Nina, Lori and a son, Peter Joshua, a son he sired at the age of 50.
“My daughter Nina is an Osteopathic Manual Therapist helping many people and a wonderful visual artist, applying her art into interior designs and clothing construction. She lives in Sedona,” he said. “She has a great eye for color and patterns making her fractal art sing of their own volition. Nina has a beautiful and loving daughter named Samantha.
“My daughter, Lori is the kindest person I know. She practices and applies her religious beliefs to day-to-day situations, applying them without fail. A true beauty! She has a beautiful daughter named Michele.
“My son, Peter Joshua (PJ) is a young sound engineer who also plays, guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and works with musical recordings. He has his own recording and mixing studio called Riz Music in Las Vegas. Because he’s just opened his own studio, I want to wish him lots of good luck. He’s a “chip off the old block.
“In short, I’m proud of my children for their accomplishments, their resilience through crisis, their struggles through adolescences and for growing stronger every day as adults.”
For Nina, having a father who is a famous musician she’ll tell you “it was a blast being the daughter of a rock star!”
“I remember going to recording studios when I was really young. still living in New York,” she said. “I met Mama and Frank Sinatra for a Christmas party at the age of 10, in Palm Springs, California. Sly Stone loaned me an outrageous long leather beaded top for a Halloween costume when I was 11 and would play the piano and sing with me when he came over to the house. I hung out with my father’s musician friends over the years, especially in Hollywood. Lee Oskar was like a second dad to me back then. Lee and my dad are great friends to this day. Oh yeah, backstage passes to rock concerts, not a problem. I would do it again, just better this time!”
Pat Rizzo
Click photo to purchase/download album and listen to excerpts from the CD.
So, is The Riz slowing down after having lived three-quarters of a century, mostly playing music? The answer is, “Heck no!” The world awaits his soon-to-be released album on Hindsight Records entitled, The Tokyo Blues – Sharing The Love. 
“It’s a really good album,” said Hindsight Records President Tom Gramuglia. “He did a great job. It’s a mix of original tunes and standards like I Got You Under My Skin by Frank Sinatra, with some of the songs on the album written by Pat. He’s a great guy and great singer who has not gotten the recognition he deserves for his rich voice. He has had a relationship with our record company for many years and was great friends with one of our long-time employees with a long history in the field of jazz, Dom Mupo. The Tokyo Blues album Is currently available on I-Tunes and Amazon digital for downloading. The physical product is scheduled for later release.”
Pat Rizzo With Band
The Riz playing with the boys.
Make it a point when you’re in Palm Springs on the weekends to catch Pat Rizzo with his fellow musicians Kelly Smith and Dennis Michaels on Friday and Saturday nights from 7-10 PM at CLUB 360 North.” Pat not only plays but also sings. People say he sounds like Tony Bennett.
“I’ve been compared to Tony Bennett for years,” he said. “Maybe it’s because we lived on the same little street in Astoria. But then again, I believe everyone in my neighborhood sang like Tony Bennett!”
Well, SING ON, Pat Rizzo. Your many fans are waiting!

Monday, November 7, 2016

CD Review: Lou Caimano & Eric Olsen "Dyad Plays Jazz Arias"




I have always thought that all genres of music are interrelated which allow them to be different and yet linked together.  There have been many examples recorded by musicians that blend Classical into Jazz and now Lou Caimano and Eric Olsen have blended great Opera Arias into beautiful and refreshing new Jazz performances.  Alto Saxophonist Lou Caimano and Pianist Eric Olsen have used their remarkable improvisational skills to turn beautiful operatic melodies into wonderful Jazz performances.

This talented duo has been performing together for 16 years under the name of "Dyad" which is defined by Webster's as "two persons in a continuing relationship involving interaction".  There are five arias that were arranged by Olsen with Caimano sharing credit on two Arias including Delibes' "Flower Duet".  Joining Dyad on this CD are two additional musicians, Randy Brecker on Trumpet and Flugelhorn and Ted Nash on Tenor Saxophone.

Lou Caimano and Eric Olsen are world class musicians, arrangers and composers that are at the top of their game.  They make wonderful, intelligent music that can't be classified, it's just a treat for any listener!  This CD is available online at Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby and I highly recommend you order one.  It will provide magical music for your ears that will never get old.

                                                                   PLAYLIST

1. "Finch'han del vino"- (W.A. Mozart) Arr. Eric Olsen with Randy Brecker, Trumpet

2. "Habanera"- (Georges Bizet) Arr. Eric Olsen

3. "Meditation"- (Jules Massenet) Arr. Lou Caimano, Eric Olsen

4. "Seguidilla"- (Georges Bizet) Arr. Eric Olsen

5. "Do Not Enter A Word"- (Samuel Barber) Arr. Eric Olsen with Randy Brecker, Flugelhorn

6. "Flower Duet"- (Leo Delibes) Arr. Lou Caimano, Eric Olsen with Ted Nash, Tenor Saxphone

7. "Dio! mi potevi scagliar"- (Giuseppe Verdi) Arr. Eric Olsen with Ted Nash, Tenor Saxophone
    
I have attached "Youtube" highlight excerpts from their new CD "Dyad Plays Jazz Arias" that will showcase their creative talents and give you an idea of the beautiful music they have produced for their new CD.

Monday, October 24, 2016

CD Review: Carol Bach-Y-Rita, "Minha Casa"


Just finished listening to a new CD from Vocalist, Composer and Arranger Carol Bach-Y-Rita and wanted to share my experience with you.  Carol Bach-Y-Rita has put together a great blend of Brazilian, Bebop and Jazz on her new CD that is perfect for her singing personality.  Carol gives her listeners an immediate sense of movement that lifts and re-imagines standards, original songs and Brazilian rhythms that fill the CD.  Carol is a Jazz singer that is at home with swinging tunes or ballads.

Her unusual name is an interesting story.  Her father's family came from Catalonia where children are given two names, their father's patronymic and their mother's maiden name, (i.e. Bach and Rita.)  Carol is fluent in five languages, including English, Spanish, French, Italian and Brazilian Portuguese and uses her languages to project her varied singing skills.

The songs Carol selected for this CD are a wonderful mix of old and new that are given new rhythms that make them delightful.  This is a beautiful CD and Carol Bach-Y-Rita is a terrific Jazz singer who performs at the highest level with ease!

The musicians Carol asked to join her on this CD are each outstanding in their own right. The always great Larry Koonse on Guitar, Bill Cantos on Piano, John Leftwich on Bass, Mike Shapiro on Drums and Percussion and Dudu Fuentes on Percussion.

             Playlist:
1. "Morning Coffee"
2. "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To"
3. "A Night In Tunisia"
4. "T'iS Autumn"
6. "Nature Boy"
7. "Trust"
8. "Pra Quem Quiser Me Visitar"
9. "Gardening With No Pants"
10. "Love Look Away"
11. "While My Lady Sleeps"

I have selected two YouTube videos that I think highlight Carol's marvelous singing talents.  The first is a Bill Cantos composition, "Morning Coffee" that has great melody and lyrics.  The second is a ballad that I just loved, Carol singing a Larry Koonse arrangement of the standard "Tis Autumn".  This CD was published on September 23, 2016 and is available on Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby.  




Sunday, October 9, 2016

Trombonist Carl Fontana Plays "Emily"




I spend a lot of time listening to new musical talents and enjoy finding new players and sounds but on the other hand,  it is such a pleasure to take a break and look back at some of the spectacular musicians and their contributions to American Jazz book.  The first real band that I played in included a Trombone player and I was always fascinated this instrument but being young and inexperienced, I never thought that this instrument could do much when it comes to Jazz.  Fast forward to today and I now have lots of Jazz Trombone players I love.

A couple of weeks ago I was checking out some Jazz videos on "YouTube" and I noticed that someone had posted a video of Carl Fontana playing one of my all-time favorite evergreens, Emily".  I had no knowledge of who Carl Fontana was and never heard him play.  So I played the video and I was absolutely floored by the tone and dexterity of Fontana's playing.  In fact, I was listening to this track last week and had to check back to see the video again because I just could not believe how smooth and quick Fontana's execution of notes was and thought he might have been playing a Flugelhorn not a Slide Trombone.  I did a little research and found out that Fontana is famous for his "Double Tonguing" a technique he developed for playing super quick passages with perfect execution.

You will be knockout by Fontana's lush tones and his wonderful interpretation of the standard, "Emily".  Have you ever heard notes on a slide Trombone played so fast and so lush?  This video was recorded in 1971 at the Gibson Jazz Party at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, Co.  I believe Ross Tompkins in on Piano.


Monday, October 3, 2016

CD Review: Scott Reeves Jazz Orchestra, "Portraits and Places"



Scott Reeves is a Trombonist, Alto Flugelhornist, Composer and Educator. He has performed and recordered with some of the best Jazz Big Bands playing today like the Dave Liebman Big BandBill Mobley's Smoke Big Band, The Oliver Lake Big Band and the Chico O'Farrill Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra.  In addition to all his fine performing, Scott is Professor of Music and Director of Jazz Studies at the City College of New York.  He was also on the faculty of the Juilliard School.  His textbooks on Jazz improvisation, "Creative Jazz Improvisation" and "Creative Beginnings" are widely used in leading colleges' Jazz curriculum.  Scott put his own 16-piece Jazz orchestra together in 2008 and this CD, "Portraits and Places" is the band's 2016 debut CD.  The album features seven Reeves' original tunes plus some other terrific Scott Reeves' arrangements, including the one I have attached of Jobim's "Aguas De Marco", "Waters of March". 

The seven original songs Scott Reeves has composed are beautifully written and brilliantly arranged.  They are as close to perfect that any composer could produce. Arranging music for a big band is a feat that few musicians can ever master, but Scott's arrangements are complex but clean and flow with relaxed ease.  It's clear to me that Scott gets his composing inspiration from his massive musical experience and years of study of musical composition of both Jazz and Classical music. Many years of musical education is one aspect underlying his talent but taking ones musical knowledge and turning out beautiful, complex music and big band arrangement puts Scott in a class of his own.  I chose to attach Scott's arrangement of Jobim's "Aguas De Marco" to highlight his ability to take a known classic evergreen and give it a new appearance and feel.  The work and effort that was required to compose and arrange the 3 movements of "L & T Suite" had to be massive.  According to Scott, "Woven in the fabric of the composition are thematic quotes from Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Spring", Igor Stravinsky's "Petrushka", Leonard Bernstein's "Age of Anxiety", and Bela Bartok's "The Miraculous Mandarin". If Stan Kenton was still alive and still recording, he would surely want to use Scott Reeves' arrangements.  On the lighter side,  Scott's "The Soulful Mr Williams" is dedicated to the memory of the great pianist James Williams.  Beautifully written, this arrangement was originally done for the Bill Mobley Big Band during Scott's tenure at the New York City Jazz club, Smoke.         

The members in Reeves band are all outstanding, accomplished musicians.  Only a musical pro would be able to execute these precise and carefully written arrangements. So there you have it, great players, great songs, great arrangements, the perfect formula for a great big band CD.

        Musicians
Scott Reeves: Conductor, Composer, Arranger, Alto Flugelhorn
Seneca Black: Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Nathan Eklund: Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Bill Mobley: Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Andy Gravish: Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Steve Wilson: Alto, Soprano Sax, Flute
Rob Middleton: Tenor Sax, Clarinet
Tim Armacost: Tenor Sax, Clarinet
Jay Brandford: Baritone Sax, Bass Clarinet (1,4)
Terry Goss: Baritone Sax, Bass Clarinet (2,3,5-8)
Tim Sessions: Trombone
Matt McDonald: Trombone
Max Seigel: Bass Trombone
Jim Ridl: Piano
Todd Coolman: Bass
Andy Watson: Drums
Sara Serpa: Voice (3.4)
Emi Miyuajima Nobe, Yuzuki Nobe: Japanese dialogue (3)

Playlist:
1. "The Soulful Mr. Williams"
2. "3'n 2"
3. "Osaka June"
4. "Aguas de Marco"
5. "L & T"
       a. Movement 1: "Who Wants to Dance"
       b. Movement 2: "A Trombonist's Tale"
       c. Movement 3: "Hip Kitty"
8. "Last Call"

I have attached a beautiful cut from the CD that was posted on YouTube.  I know you will enjoy the Scott Reeves Jazz Orchestra playing Jobim's "Aquas De Marco".


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Reflecting Back On Some Cherished Musical Friends Who Are Gone But Will Remain With Us Forever!

Summer Tulips Inspired by Master Painter, Max Horbund

Now that summer is over my thoughts wander to some of the wonderful performers that have left us in body but will never leave us in spirit because of the wonderful music they have gifted to us forever.  The majority of the music I review and discuss on this blog is performed by current performers,  and I love giving these talented musicians the much deserved public notice they deserve.  However,  there are some old friends whose music has had a profound effect on us, and we should revisit them every chance we can.  I would like to share a few of the performers who have played a part in shaping my musical life.

I would like to start with one of the best horn players in Jazz history,  John Coltrane.  John recorded with the very best American musicians in the history of Jazz,  playing hard-driving straight ahead Jazz.  For me, it was the soft, sensitive side of Coltrane's playing that never left me.  John's tone and feel for melody puts him in a special class of performers.  I found a "Youtube" of John playing one of the tunes on my "Top 10 Best Songs of All Time" list.  No vocals here,  but John's Tenor voice gives life to the lyric of "What New".      


The next performer Eva Cassidy died in her late 20's before she ever got to record and publish a single song.  After her death, her family put out a CD of some of her recorded but unpublished songs.  The CD sold over 1,000,00 copies.  We lost a musically brilliant singer before any of us ever got to know her.  She also recorded a song that is on my "Top 20 Best Songs of All Time" list, "You've Changed".  This song has been recorded by many great singers but Eva Cassidy's version is just outstanding! 

                                       

The last performer is one of the best and most influential Alto Sax players in American Jazz, the great Cannonball Adderley.  Like Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley could play straight ahead Jazz with anyone but in 1955 he recorded a CD entitled "Cannonball Adderley and Strings" in which Cannonball addressed some great American ballads with Jazz style and class.  As a former Alto Sax player,  the Album had a very deep affect on me that remains to this day.

So there you have it,  two of the best instrumentalists that ever played Sax and a young but super-talented singer.  And what do they all have in common?  All three had the ability and talent to project the emotion and beauty of great American ballads which touch listeners in ways that are always remained. 

                                    

Thursday, September 15, 2016

CD Review: Jocelyn Michelle " Time To Play"


Now that Summer is over and we are entering the Fall season, I need to start catching up on some great,  new CD's that were released during the Summer that I never got to.  Jocelyn Michelle plays the Hammond B3 Organ as well as anyone I have previously heard,  and I am delighted that this review is my first Jazz Hammond B3 Organ Jazz trio CD.  In addition to the wonderful work she performs on the Hammond B3, Jocelyn also has included some great original compositions, including lyrics.  Multi-talented musician, Jocelyn Michelle also did all of the arrangements for her CD.

It's hard to pin down Jocelyn's style because she has been influenced by playing different styles for many years on the club circuit mostly in Florida,  Los Angeles and Hawaii.  On this CD, she explores a variety of musical styles including "Soul Jazz',  "The Bossa Beat", " A Funk Groove",  " A Latin Rock Thing" and a "Slow Gospel Mood".

Jocelyn has taken a great deal of care to select a group of some of the most talented Jazz musicians  on the scene today for each cut on this CD.  I have listed below each of the musicians and the songs they contributed to because they all are so outstanding,and I am sure you will want to know who they are.

PLAYERS:

Jocelyn Michelle: Organ, Piano, Guitar, Composer on cuts 1,2,4,5,10, Arranger
John Rack: Guitar 2,3,6,10
Bruce Forman: Guitar 1,4,5,7,8,9
Doug Webb: Tenor Sax 1,3,6,7,8
Steve Mann: Tenor Sax 2, Alto Sax 4, Soprano Sax 8
Stan Martin: Trumpet 1,3,6,7,8
Andrea Lindborg: Trumpet Intro 3
Sammy K: Drums, Percussion 2,10
Brad Dutz: Percussion 1,2,3
Gina Saputo: Vocals "On  No, I Could Be In Love"
Regina Leonard Smyth: Vocals "The Loss"

This CD was produced by Tony Monaco on "Chicken Coup Records" Label

PLAYLIST:

1. "Englewood Cliffs"                    2. "Sylvia's Song"
3. "Trouble Man"                           4. "A Sister's Love"
5. "Oh No, Could I Be In Love      6. "The Pink Panther"
7. " Last Tango In Paris"                8. "Sunnier Days"
9. "Never Let Me Go"                   10. "The Loss"             

I found a video of Jocelyn playing one of her compositions "Englewood Cliffs" on YouTube for your listening pleasure.  I also attached a second YouTube of Jocelyn playing her version of Gato Barbieri's classic tune "Last Tango" that you may also enjoy.





Tuesday, August 9, 2016

CD Review: Alison Lewis, "Seven"

Alison Lewis released her first solo CD, "Seven" on June 16, 2016.  In my role as a music reviewer, I usually receive about 25 to 30 new CDs each month.  Sometimes it is hard to get to each one, but I make the effort knowing that all these musicians have put their life and soul on the line composing and recording their songs.  The majority of these CDs are good, a few are excellent and every once in a while I find a gem that blows me away.  Alison Lewis' CD "Seven" is one of those gems, a new CD in a world of its own!

Alison Lewis is one of the best singers I have heard in quite a while.  Why you ask?  First, her voice is pure and strong, she has perfect pitch and a unique understanding of lyrics.  But what puts her over the top is her vocal and musical arrangements that are new, fresh and a treat for the ears!  Alison describes her arrangement method as a "re-imagining process" where she may alter a song's rhythm, melody and/or the underlying chords in order to uncover a new and deeper appreciation for its meaning.  She attributes the success of each composition to equal doses of intuition, thoughtful listening, and inspiration.  I could listen to Alison sing all day and so will you.  Get this CD; it's like listening to a master class in the art of vocal performance. There are 7 songs on the playlist, 5 great standards and 2 songs composed by Alison.

I had a difficult time picking just one cut from her CD for you to preview so I have attached two cuts.  First is a "YouTube" of Alison singing her fabulous take of "My Funny Valentine" and the second "YouTube" is Alison singing the Lennon and McCartney song "Blackbird".  Enjoy!

PLAYLIST:

1. Blackbird
2. Cheek to Cheek
3. Like a Rolling Stone
4. Mr Right for Right Now
5. Seesaw
6. Midnight Sun
7. My Funny Valentine

The Players:
Alison Lewis: Vocals and arrangements
Mitchel Forman: Piano (Tracks 1,2,7) Fender Rhodes (Track 3) Hammond B3 Organ (Track 4)
Kevin Axt: Bass (Tracks 1,3,4,6)
Ray Brinker: Drums (Tracks 1,3,4) and Hand Percussion (Track 3)
Andrew Synowiec: Lap Steel and Acoustic Guitars (Tracks 1,3,4)
Eddie Reyes: Cajon and Udu (Track 1)
Adam Shulman: Piano (Track 5)
Paul Eastburn: Bass (Track 5)
Ricky Carter: Drums (Track 5)
Jude Gold: Acoustic Guitar (Track 5)
Anne King: Muted Trumpet (Track 7)









  

Friday, July 29, 2016

CD Review: Socrates Garcia Latin Jazz Orchestra: "Back Home"


Hope everyone is having a good summer and surviving the heat!  Speaking of heat, this new CD from Socrates Garcia is really hot.  "Back Home" is a journey back to Socrates Garcia's roots in the Dominican Republic.   His compositions are strongly influenced by Bachata and Merengue, two styles that originated in the Dominican Republic. This project is a perfect blend of Caribbean flavors cooked just right.  Socrates Garcia is currently Director of Music Technology at the University of Northern Colorado.  He wrote and arranged the seven compositions on this CD and every one is a gem.

Socrates Garcia is a superbly talented Composer, Arranger, Producer, Recording Engineer, Guitarist, Keyboard player and Educator.  He just makes wonderful music!  This CD is an excellent example of what A Latin Jazz Orchestra is all about.  This CD was Composed, Arranged, Conducted and Produced by Socrates Garcia. The CD was released on Summit Records on March 4, 2016.

I have attached a "YouTube" cut from the CD, "Calle El Conde A Las 8:00"  The name of this tune comes from the name of a street that Garcia frequented as a youth,  The Street was a hub of artistic and commercial activity.  This was the place that Garcia entranced with Afro-Caribbean music that dominated the culture.  Enjoy!

Friday, July 1, 2016

CD Review: The Michael Blum Quartet, "Chasin' Oscar" a tribute to Oscar Peterson


Everyone that loves Jazz loves Oscar Peterson!  If not the best Jazz pianist of all times, he certainly would be listed as one of the top three greatest of all times.  I have always tried to expose young people to the Oscar Peterson's genius so they could experience the music and joy that older generations have enjoyed.  When I received Guitarist/Vocalist Michael Blum's tribute to Oscar Peterson I was very excited to hear what it was about.  Michael Blum is a young and very talented Guitarist/Vocalist who was inspired by the legendary Oscar Peterson.  According to Blum: " I wanted to learn to play guitar like Oscar Peterson played the piano".  "One of the things I really love about Oscar is his ability to do anything on his instrument. He could play fast or slow, hard or soft, pretty or nasty, bebop or blues.  I wanted to emulate his emotional range in my musical homage",

In my opinion, Michael Blum has achieved his goal and his new CD "Chasin Oscar" is wonderful.  Check it out for yourself.  I have attached two YouTubes, the first one is Michael playing  the Peterson original "Nightingale" and the second is " Tristeza" that features jaw-dropping, breakneck runs that highlight Blum's ability to keep pace with the famously fleet-fingered master.

Michael Blum's Trio consists of Michael Blum on Guitar, Jim Stinnett on Bass Brad Smith on Piano and Dom Moio on Drums.





Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Book Review: "Sinatra, The Chairman" by James Kaplan


Author, James Kaplan, has a new best seller out, "Sinatra, The Chairman" that covers Frank Sinatra's life from the early 1950's until his death in 1998.  I did a review of James Kaplan's first book on Sinatra, "Frank, The Voice", (that covered Frank's life from birth to the 1950's)  I posted January 17, 2011 that covered Frank's life from birth to the 1950's.

The material in both books has been meticulously researched by James Kaplan in order to give the readers the most accurate picture of one of the most written-about men in the history of entertainment.  The footnotes for this new book number 878 which gives you an idea of the care that was taken for accuracy with Sinatra's history.

There have been many books written about Frank Sinatra but "Sinatra, The Chairman" is,  in my opinion, the book to read on the subject.  Kaplan's first book was also terrific but it covered a period that only a few of my readers had lived through with him.  His new book, "Sinatra, The Chairman" contains wonderful stories about the Frank Sinatra we knew and all the stars we grew up with.  It allows the readers test our memories and belief circles against the real reality of what was actually happening behind the curtain.

This is a major book with over 887 pages of stories that will delight, upset and educate you on what was really going on in the entertainment world when we were growing up and watch behind the velvet ropes.  It never gets boring and most will have a hard time putting this book down.  Kaplan is very careful to let the reader know when he is guessing about what Sinatra is saying or feeling at times, but he is rigorous in comparing first person knowledge from multiple sources to test his opinions. The bonus in this book is all the information it gives the readers about other entertainment giants of the time that we followed and loved in addition to the Sinatra story.

If you grew up during the "Rat Pack" area and could only read one book on Sinatra and this period in entertainment history, this would be the book to read!

                                                                   BOOK REVIEW
                 The Music Man Awards This Book It's Highest Rating 
" 4 Quarter Notes" 

For anyone that might not remember why Frank Sinatra was such a great singer and perhaps the best  ever singer of songs from the "Great American Songbook" listen to Frank singing "Body and Soul".  

                                      " 4 Quarter Notes" 

Friday, May 13, 2016

CD Review: "It's All In The Game" from Composer and Arranger Doug Richards And "The Great American Music Ensemble"


This review is dedicated to all the "Big Band" fans who always have a difficult time finding new sounds they can dig!  Doug Richards is a great composer and arranger and on this blog I want to focus on his magnificent arranging skills.  As all great singers know, finding great arrangers is one of the toughest tasks they face, and yet, without a great arrangement, the material they sing can be very  ordinary.

Doug Richards is in a class with the greatest arrangers I know.  How did I come to this conclusion? Well, in listening to his new CD, "It's All In The Game" it becomes instantly clear that while the songs on this CD are old, familiar tunes, Doug's arrangements have turned them into something new and exciting.  

Richards actually recorded "It's All In The Game" in 2001 but with big bands out of style and the record industry in sad shape, he found it difficult to find a label to release the project.  Thankfully for all of us, Richards released the CD on March 4,2016.

The musicians that are members of the band, "The Great American Music Ensemble" are all "best in class" including the vocalist Rene Marie who fits into the big band sound perfectly. Listen to the "YouTube" videos attached, and you will be in for a rare musical treat!

                        PLAYLIST:
1. "In The Mood"
2. "Can't Help Lovin' That Man Of Mine"
3. "Clap Yo' Hands"
4. "Stardust"
5. "When It's Sleepy Time Down South"
6. "West End Blues"
7. "I've Got The World On a String"
8. "I Am Loved"
9. "September In The Rain"
10. "April In Paris"
11. "Cherokee"
12. "They All Laughed"
13. "Ain't Misbehavin"
14. "Embraceable You"
15. "Bird Blues"

                     Musicians:
Doug Richards-Director/Arranger                          Marty Nau-Lead Alto Sax/Bari Sax
Jim Nesbit-Alto/Soprano/Bari Sax,                         Skip Gailes-Tenor/Soprano/Alto Sax, Flute,
  Basset Horn,Bass Clarinet, Bassoon,                      Bass Clarinet
  Contra Bassoon                                                      John Wynn-Tenor/Soprano/Alto Sax, Clarinet
Rob Holmes-Bari/Alto Sax, Flute, Bass                      Bass Clarinet
  Clarinet                                                                   Roy Muth-Lead Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Bob Ransom-Trumpet, Flugelhorn                          John D'earth-Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Rob DeDominick-Trumpet, Flugelhorn                  Jim McFalls-Trombone, Eughonium
Dean Englert-Trombone, Euphonium                     Lee Gause-Bass Trombone
Weldon Hill-Piano, Electric Piano                          Victor Dvoskin-Bass
Howard Curtis-Drums, Percussion

Special Guests:
Rene Marie-Vocals
Jon Faddis-Trumpeter
Joe Kennedy Jr-Violin













Sunday, April 24, 2016

Steve Madaio Makes His First Appearance at Backstreet This Season


Jazz fans in the Valley were delighted that the brilliant Trumpet player Steve Madaio finally was able to perform again at Backstreet Bistro on Tuesday,  April 13.   Steve has had a rough winter, first recovering from a pretty serious illness and then losing his beloved father last week.  All his fans are so happy his health has returned to top-form and also want to wish Steve their condolences for the loss of his Dad.

Tonight Steve gathered two of the most important and professional players in the Desert, Pat Tuzzolino on Keyboard and Vocals and Jay Lewis on Drums.  Steve showed no sign that his recent health problems had any effect on his playing.  In fact,  his breath control and energy level were  higher than the last time I heard him play.  When it comes to music, Steve can do it all.  From tender ballads to straight-out Jazz, Steve makes the musical transitions effortless and is comfortable with both.  

Pat Tuzzolino has always been one of my favorite Jazz performers because he is so original in his approach to music.  Pat's approach to music has always been related to what he feels inside about a song and its lyrics.  His vocals are superb!  His phrasing and timing are a pleasure to listen to, because of his own interpretation of the composer's lyrical message.  I never miss a chance to hear him.

I have written about Jay Lewis many times in my blog and with good reason.  Jay is one of the best Drummers playing today.  He never overwhelms the members of the group, he never falters in putting down a solid Drum line and contributes wonderful Drum solos when called upon.

I have attached a "Youtube" of Steve, Pat and Jay playing the Jazz standard, "Killer Joe" and know you will enjoy it.  I also couldn't help attach a second "Youtube" of Steve playing "Europa", a song that has almost become his Musical trademark.


                                 





Thursday, April 14, 2016

CD Review: "Sarah King and The Smoke Rings"



The "Smoke Rings" are a relatively new Jazz group that revives the elegance and charm of the Swing Era.  This group features the unique singing of Sarah King and covers songs from the heart of the "Great American Songbook".  For the past several years, the group has been performing weekly in "The Boom Boom Room" on the top floor of New York's Standard Hotel to rave reviews.  This group is nothing like your standard Jazz group.  They specialize in bringing back the delicious and magical sounds of old recordings of great standards.  If you are under 50 years of age, this CD may be a new interest for you.  But for those of us who grew up listening to the great sounds and songs of the 30's and 40's, I think this CD will quickly become on of your favorites.

The members of this group, Sarah King on Vocals and Ukulele, Alex Levin on Piano, Scott Ritchie on Bass and Ben Cliness on Drums are all relatively young and they sound wonderful together, far beyond their ages.

Sarah King has a wonderful voice and she handles lyrics as perfectly as any seasoned singer with sensitivity and understanding of these great standards.  Along with her three talented sidemen, they produce a wonderful rebirth to these song gems of yesterday and makes them fresh and new again.

            PLAYLIST:
1. "It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing:
2. "Tea For Two"
3. "Jersey Bounce"
4. "I Won't Dance"
5. "Smoke Rings"
6. "Caravan"
7. "Some Other Spring"
8. "Love Is Here To Stay"
9. "I Don't Know Why (I Just Do)"
10."Up The Lazy River"

For your listening pleasure, I have attached a "YouTube" video of Sarah King and The Smoke Rings singing "It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing" composed by Duke Ellington and Irving Mills.  I bet it brings a simile to your face!




Sunday, April 10, 2016

Trish Hatley & Barney McClure Making Great Music on Mondays at Woody's in Palm Springs, CA



Trish Hatley and Barney McClure have been holding down the Monday spot at Woody's Beer and Berger in Palm Springs, CA for a long time.  Once you hear the musical magic they create every Monday it is easy to understand why they remain so popular.  Even in April when a lot of visitors leave the desert, there are few, if any,  open seats for their show. 

Ever since I first saw them perform at Woody's,  I have been a fan.  Seeing them again on April 4th,  I was again impressed with the way they have musically grown together.  Knowing both of these musicians might lead you to believe that they wouldn't musically fit.....not true.  

Trish Hatley has a strong, beautiful voice and an original style that allows her to present lyrics that immediately impact the listener.  She has the ability to sing beautiful ballads and, yet,  can swing with the best of singers on the scene today.  Her phrasing is always perfect,  and it is her own and that's what makes her special.  Together with being a vocal perfectionist Trish also adds some comedy into her performance.  The interaction between her and Barney is very good and very entertaining.  These two handle the back and forth like the experienced pros they are.

Barney McClure arrived on the Desert music scene several years ago and he has quickly become a favorite performer.  Barney's approach to Jazz piano is terrific but unusual.  Barney is self- taught for the most part, and, therefore, he plays with more freedom to experiment that most other Jazz pianists.  Because Trish is such a seasoned vocalist, she has the ability to blend into Barney's unpredictable directions, and this results in marvelous music.

If you have not had the pleasure of hearing Trish and Barney, I have attached two "YouTubes" so you can experience their performance.  Trish Hatley and Barney McClure will continue to appear at Woody's until the end of June.   





Friday, April 8, 2016

Tenor Sax Great, Don Menza Helps Close a Highly Successful Jazz Concert Series at Pete Carlson's Golf & Tennis Shop


Don Menza, Chris Connor & Dick Weller

Friday night, April 1, the great Tenor Sax player, Don Menza performed to the delight of a capacity crowd at Pete Carlson's Golf and Tennis store in Palm Desert, CA.  Menza's performance marked the last weekend of wonderful Jazz that was part of the Jazz Lovers Series.  Under the guidance and financial support of Pete Carlson, over 40 different Musician groups have performed live Jazz concerts in his store.

Don Menza is a living Tenor legend having played with many of the great Jazz stars over the past 40 years including many years with the Buddy Rich Band.  His reputation brought out many of the current top performing musicians to Pete Carlson's tonight to hear him. I wish some of the younger Tenor Jazz players could have been here tonight to hear how a great Jazz Tenor plays and sounds.  It turns out that Don's favorite Tenor player growing up was the great Stan Getz and tonight's program consisted of a tribute to the music of Stan Getz.  In addition to some outstanding playing, Don entertained the audience with many personal stories about Getz.  Many in the audience knew Don and their response to his solos proved that he is still very much loved by his fans.

Don brought together some talented musicians tonight including his long-time trumpter and playing partner, Don Rader.  Crowd favorite, Chris Conner was on Bass, Dick Weller on Drums, and an outstanding piano player named Theo Saunders.  Together, this group created magic tonight!

I was able to take a video of one of the band's numbers that I think you will enjoy!  If you didn't catch any of the Jazz at Pete Carlson, you missed a lot of close-up great music, all at a minimal cost.  I will try to notify everyone as soon as I get a copy of next season's Jazz performances. 



Monday, April 4, 2016

Yve Evans Makes a Spectacular Return to Backstreet Bistro




Yve Evans gave her first Backstreet Bistro performance of the winter season to the delight of her fans and friends who packed into Backstreet's outside patio Tuesday night.  Yve recently had a medical procedure that delayed her performance schedule but you would never know it when you listened to her play and sing.  I have written about Yve many times on this blog and honestly it's difficult to come up with words that describe what a brilliant, talented and unique musician she is.  I will just say that Yve is special, very special.

Yve has a  pure, strong voice that can be as sweet as silky honey,  and, yet, she can sing the Blues as good as anyone.  Her phrasing is dead-on perfect, absolutely as good as Sinatra, Ella and Sarah but she copies no one.  Yve has a beautiful, unique singing style that is all her own and that's what makes Yve so loved by her legions of fans.

As much as I enjoy Yve's singing, I also believe that she is one of the best keyboard players today, playing great standards and Blues from the "Great American Songbook".  And if singing and playing brilliantly is not enough to convince you of her world-class musical talents, Yve also sprinkles some of the funniest comedy around her lyrics and music!

Yve has been performing in the Desert for over 20 years, and she truly is a musical gift to any music lover.  It's so great to have Yve back performing again, and we all wish her a lifetime of good health.

I am very excited to attach two "YouTube" videos I was able to capture at Tuesday night's performance for you to hear and see Yve's wonderful singing and playing at a live performance.  The first one is a remarkable performance of "With These Hands" that I think is stunningly good.  The second is a performance of the Blues evergreen "Stormy Monday" that Yve captures and makes it her own.

Tonight Yve was supported beautifully by two of the best and most popular musicians in the Southern California area;  Bill Saitta on Bass and Jay Lewis on Drums.




                                                                             

Friday, April 1, 2016

CD Review: Hillary Kole, "The Judy Garland Project"


Hillary Kole had an interruption of her recording career for a few years but is now recording and  singing better than ever.  As a vocalist,  she has a strong, clear sensitive voice and when combined with her astute understanding of lyrics puts her in the top class of female vocalists performing today.  The songs Hillary recorded in this new CD are classic Judy Garland signature songs that we all will remember.  However, as is true for most of the treasured songs out of the "Great American Songs Book",  Hillary has managed to breath new life into each of the 15 tracks on this CD, and has made these songs new again.

This CD was produced by Richard Barone, engineered by Lou Holtzman and Mastered by Roger Lian Mastering.  I am mentioning this group along with Hillary Kole because together they did a perfectly magnificent job producing this CD.  These guys are good!

The supporting cast of musicians on this CD are also as good as it gets!  Pianist John Martino, Bassist Paul Gill, and Drummer Aaron Kimmel, Sax Joel Frahm.  The Strings are beautiful and if Sinatra was still around, he would be chasing them to record with him.  Violinists, Christiana Liberis and Juliette Jones; Viola, Stephanie Matthews and Cello, Reenat Pinchas.

The music world is now a better place with Hillary Kole recording again!  Take a look at these wonderful songs she has recorded!

Hillary headlines at the Iridium Club in NYC on April 26 which would be a great show to attend if you are in the area.

               Playlist:
1. "Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart"
2. "The Boy Next Door"
3. "Just In Time"
4. "You Made Me Love You"
5. "Stomping' at the Savoy"
6. "The Man That Got Away"
7. "A Cottage For Sale"
8. "I Wish I Were In Love Again"
9. "Look For The Silver Lining"
10. "The Trolley Song"
11. "Get Happy"
12. "Embraceable You"
13. "As Long As He Needs Me"
14. "It Never Was You"
15. "Over The Rainbow"     

I have attached two "YouTube" videos for you to watch, and I know you will be blown away by both.  The first one is Hillary Kole singing "The Trolley Song" and the second one is the Arlen and Harburg gem "Over the Rainbow" written for the film "The Wizard of Oz".  I know we have all heard vocalists singing "Over The Rainbow" but for me, Hillary's performance of this song is so outstanding that I just had to share it with you.



Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Laurie Morvan Band Plays "Rockin" Blues at Woody's in Palm Springs, CA







Today's guest Reviewer is "The Blues King", Tim Marchio.   This is Tim's second guest review for the Music Man Blog,  and I am sure you will enjoy it as much as his first.  Tim is a long-time Blues fan, and he also plays Blues on his Guitar.

The Laurie Morvan Band, a five piece ensemble plays the Blues at Woody's in Palm Springs most Thursdays nights.  I mean, really plays the Blues.  I expected a good time as I truly enjoy the Blues, especially live.  However, I was not prepared for what I heard.  The band consists of Keyboardist Tom Salyers, Bassist Pat Morvan, Drummer Lonnie Jones and backup Vocals by Lisa Morvan

Laurie in particular, was great.  Not good, but great.  They started with a classic B. B. King tune, “The Thrill is Gone”.  The guitar was tight and the band nailed it.  I must admit, it was a bit out of the ordinary to hear a woman sing such a well-known B. B. song.  But she did a good job, making you feel it.  Then the night took off from there.  Laurie is an outstanding guitarist.  In an intimate club like Woody’s, she easily connected with the crowd.  The band played original tunes mixed with classics from Albert King, Luther Allison and Stevie Ray Vaughan.  Laurie was masterful, her singing got stronger throughout the night and her renditions worked marvelously. 

The band has accumulated several awards from the International Blues Challenge including, Best Self-Produced CD (2010) and top10 finalist in the Live Band Competition (2008).  Other accolades include twice being named the House of Blues Radio Hour “Blues Breaker” artist of the week, a B.B. King’s Bluesville “Picks to Click”, and winning the Blues Festival Guides’ 2008 Blues Artist on the Rise Award.

Now, about her guitar playing; in her opening song, she sounded like early Clapton channeling BB King.  For the rest of the night, she jumped, jived, played fast and slow.  She played most songs had more than one solo and it worked every time.  I was amazed at her technical skills, but the Blues is all about the feel, the visceral effect  of the playing is what will move the listener.  In that, she sold it.  She lives the Blues, and her dedication was obvious.  I saw Joe Bonamassa last summer in a small arena and I enjoyed Laurie's show much more.  Laurie can play fast, real fast, but fast doesn’t necessarily always mean “good”.  She is both.  If I could play guitar like that for one night with that band, I would not stop until dawn. 

The Laurie Morvan Band sells CDs on their website (www.LaurieMorvan.com).  You should visit her site and purchase at least one.  I know I will.  There is a live "YouTube" of tonight's performance for your listening and viewing enjoyment.


     











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, Aut...