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"

Thursday, May 31, 2018

CD Review: Bianca Rossini, "Vento do Norte"




A couple of months ago, I received an email from Bianca Rossini informing me that she had just published a new CD.  She offered to send me copy of her CD with a request that if I liked it, would I do a review for my Music Man Blog.  After some research, I agreed to listen to the CD and do a review if I like it.

I received the CD several weeks ago, have been listening to it and it's terrific.  Bianca Rossini was born in Rio de Janeiro and sings with a very sensual style that fits beautifully with the traditional Bossa Nova style.  In addition,  Bianca is a skillful lyricist and composer.  On her latest CD, "Vento do Norte", Bianca wrote all the lyrics for the 10 songs on the CD and also co-wrote the music for 3 songs.  It's such a pleasure to hear new songs written in the timeless Bossa Nova tempo.  With respect to all the great Bossa Nova masters who have delighted us with their music in the past, Bianca brings something new and fresh to the Brazilian Bossa Nova.  She sings in Portuguese and the lyrics she has written are outstanding.

Bianca Rossini has an impressive resume including success in TV and Film.  She is a dancer and choreographer and the author of three books.  She co-produced and hosted a decade-;long weekly television talk show, "The Bianca Rossini Show".  "Vento do Norte" is Bianca's third CD and if you are a Bossa Nova fan, you will enjoy her new CD.

Playlist:
1. "Vento do Norte"
2. "Doce Amor"
3. "Ipanema Paraiso"
4. "Why I Smile"
5. "Que Cor"
6. "Tic Tac do Amor"
7. "Paris in Beverly Hills"
8. "Circular"
9. "Meu Sonho"
10. "Coracao de Ouro"

I found a "YouTube" of Bianca Rossini singing the last song in her CD, "Coracao de Ouro" and I know you will enjoy listening to it.

                                                                   Coracao de Ouro

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Rich Bono Excites the Audience At AJ's With His Impressive Jazz Piano Performance






Wednesday night at AJ's is usually covered by Doug MacDonald.  However Doug couldn't make the date, so he asked Piano marvel, Rich Bono to stand in for him.  Rich was joined by Bassist Larry Holloway and Drummer Tim Pleasant and these three master-class musicians put on one of the best musical shows of the season to the delight of the capacity audience at AJ's.  Rich wasted no time tonight launching this Piano Jazz Trio into 4 great up-tempo standards, one better than the next.  Rich was at the top of his musical game, as he usually is, and inspired and excited the audience. It appeared that Rich's outstanding Jazz Piano playing also inspired Larry and Tim, who not only performed well,  but looked like they were having lots of fun doing it.  Before long the room took on a party feel as the Trio had totally engaged the attention of the audience.  The first set flew by and when it was over, the audience was on their feet cheering.

During the second set, several talented vocalists who I am familiar with, sat in with the Trio .  They too were inspired by Rich and his Trio and responded with some of the best musical performances I have witnessed in the Valley.  It was a special night for all!

Rich Bono has a sterling musical resume including several tours with Frankie Lane and the Harry James Band.  He has performed in many of the finest casino Hotels in Las Vegas for over 30 years where he performed with some of the biggest stars in the country.  Sadly, we just don't get many chances to hear Rich play with a Jazz Trio.  When he does, he creates musical magic!

I was able to record a short video on my iPhone which I posted on "YouTube" that will give you a taste of what the music sounded like on this special night. 





Saturday, April 28, 2018

Entertainer, Vocalist, and Composer Johnny Meza Performs at Chef George Every Wednesday


Johnny Meza has been performing and exciting audiences in the Valley for many years.  I first discovered Johnny in the Desert Sage Restaurant in Old Town La Quinta around 10 years ago.   I loved the way he played Keyboard and sang but most of all I loved his stage presence and the way he connected with everyone in his audience.  Even though Johnny is a highly talented musician,  he never developed a performer's ego.  He is a truly kind and wonderful person who loves to perform for all audiences. He also has a great sense of humor.  So if you love the best of the Pop tunes from years gone by and love to laugh,  Chef George and Johnny Meza needs to be on your night out "To Do" List.

Johnny performs every Tuesday night starting at 7:00 PM at Chef George's Picasso Room in Bermuda Dunes.  The room is perfect for Johnny's style of performing.  It's small enough so Johnny can reach out and touch everyone in the audience, and he does.  Johnny talks to his audience between each song,  about the songs and takes requests.  His sweet spot is Pop tunes from the 50's through current Pop hits.  He also included some of the best songs from the Great American Songbook.

Chef George is located at 40100 Washington Street, Bermuda Dunes, CA.  The food at Chef George is a mix of Hungarian and Italian.  It's terrific and the portions are large but the prices are very reasonable.  Call for reservations at 7670-200-1768.

I have attached a "YouTube" of Johnny Meza playing and singing the popular hit he composed, "Dirty Martini"  along with Will Donato on Sax.  Enjoy!



Sunday, April 22, 2018

New Arrivals To The Desert, Jasmine Tommaso and Lorenso Grasi Make Their Musical Debut At Backstreet Bistro


Bill Saitta, Lorenso Grasi and Jasmine Tommaso


Jay Lewis, Bill Saitta and Lorenso Grasi

Singer Jasmine Tommaso and Guitarist Lorenso Grasi have recently moved into the Valley from Italy.  They are two highly trained (Berkelee College of Music) musicians who want to start performing in our area.  Based on the audience response at Backstreet Bistro, finding venues to perform should not be a problem.  Vocalist Jasmine Tommaso has a wonderful, warm voice, sounding like a mixture of Lady Day and Nancy Wilson.   Her phrasing is very Jazz-like and pleasing,  especially when she sings great standards, like "You've Changed" and "All of Me".   Her stage presence is strong, and she knows how to lead her sidemen who quickly recognize they are dealing with a very experienced musician.  It didn't take long for the group, all new to playing with each other, to merge into one group voice.  Guitarist Lorenso Grasi who will be marrying Jasmine in a couple of months, worked perfectly with the rhythm section of Bassist Bill Siata and Drummer Jay Lewis.  Lorenso also provided some excellent solos in support of Jamine's vocals.  Another wonderful Tuesday night of Jazz at Backstreet Bistro.  Also, I have to mention the food at Backstreet Bistro continues to be excellent so you can come out on Tuesdays for great food and great Jazz.

You can get to see and hear Jasmine and the group as they performed at Backstreet Bistro on the "YouTube" attached below:



I am also attaching a "Youtube" I found with Jasmine Tommaso singing "Someone to watch Over Me".  Jasmine performs this musical gem perfectly at her father's 50th Jazz anniversary at the Auditorium Parco Della Musica in Rome Italy in 2014.  Jasmine's father is the internationally acclaimed Bassist, Giovanni Tommaso who makes some remarks in Italian about his daughter's singing.  Even if you don't understand Italian, you can feel his fatherly pride pouring out!


Players on the Video:
Giovanni Tommaso-Base
Jasmine Tommaso- Vocal
Anthony Pinciotti- Drums
Claudio Fillippini- Piano
Daniele Scannapieco- Sax


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

CD Review: Henry "The Skipper" Franklin Trio: "High Voltage, A Tribute to McCoy Tyner,"

This season in the California Desert, I was privileged to meet and get to know two fine "Gentlemen of Jazz", the talented Bassist and Composer,  Henry "The Skipper" Franklin and Jazz lover, Dan "The Jazzman" Sullivan.  I saw Bassist Henry "The Skipper" Franklin many times this season and each time I heard him I learned something new about his musical talents.  He gave me a new CD entitled, "High Voltage".  I shared this CD with a new Jazz friend, Dan Sullivan who was so excited about this CD that I offered him the chance to be a Guest Reviewer.  His thoughts are recorded below:

"My friend Bob Nicosia turned me on to this CD recently, and before I heard it, I had average expectations, but after hearing it, I was more than pleasantly surprised.  The CD has a very catchy groove with great support from Henry Franklin on Bass, Carl Burnett on Drums and a hidden Gem of a Piano player, Bill Heid.  Bill Heid is also a master-class composer and arranger as you will see listening to the 5 songs he has written and arranged for this CD.

"The CD states it is a "Tribute To McCoy Tyner" which it is but face it, there is only one McCoy.  Nonetheless, McCoy's "The Gathering" is done impeccably with Guest Artist, Chuck Manning blowing some nice Tenor.  I've grown tired of Soprano Sax, but Chuck impressed with his deeper, richer, more intense sound on Henry's composition "Off The Wall".  I was not familiar with Chuck before this listen, but he is really impressive.  Of course, Henry Franklin is greatly respected in all Jazz circles.  Franklin to me is cut in the cloth of Ron Carter and Rufus Reid and he really pushed the group.  No question he was in control of the music contained in this CD.  Drummer Carl Burnett has credits pages long and his performance on this CD explains to all why; he is top-notch.  "High Voltage" is a fine new CD that every Jazz lover should listen to."

Tracks:
1. "Brother George"  Bill Heid
2. "Unit B"  Bill Heid
3. "The Greeting"  McCoy Tyner
4. "Under Tanzanian Skies"  Henry Franklin
5. "Off the Wall"  Bill Heid
6. "Mr Wu"  Bill Heid
7. "Mellow Minor"  McCoy Tyner
8. "Bu Yao"  Bill Heid

Thanks for the review Dan, and nicely done!  I could not agree with you more, this is a fine Jazz CD with superb players!

I was able to find a "YouTube" of the first track from this CD,  "Brother George" and I am sure you will love it.


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

CD Review: Drummer Dan Pugach's Nonet Releases "Plus One"








Seems to me that it is getting harder and harder to find any big bands recording any more.  It is understandable, of course, considering the costs to bring in a gang of talented musicians, not to mention the talent required to produce new compositions and arrangements.  But when you do find a new big band CD, it's usually a winner.  That's what I found with Dan Pugach's Nonet, and their new CD, "Plus One".  Dan Pugach is a native of Israel who came to the US in 2006 to study at Berklee College of Music and then earned his Master's at The City College of New York.  Dan is a wonderful Drummer and most music fans might be surprised at his composing and arranging skills.  His playing and his writing is what you might anticipate from a Drummer: its on point, concise and selfless.  The result is some great music not so much from individual players but from a big band with a singular voice!  According to Pugach, "I believe playing less is more until it comes to my solo-then I explode. And in my music, I don't want to hear overblown drumming."

Dan Pugach composted 6 out of the 9 tunes on this CD and did most of the arrangements for all nine. The supporting players are top-notch talented musicians that help transform Pugach's written composition to live pieces of musical art.

Playlist:
1. "Brooklyn Blues"
2. "Coming Here"
3. "Jolene"
4. "Zelda"
5. "Belo's Bellow"
6. "Crystal Silence"
7. "Love Dance"
8. "Our Blues"
9. "Discourse This"

Players:
Ingrid Jensen-Trumpet
David Smith-Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Mike Fahic-Trombone
Jen Tinkle-Bass Trombone
Andrew Gould-Alto Sax, Flute
Jeremy Powell-Tenor Sax, Clarinet
Andrew Gutauskas- Bari Sax, Bass Clarinet
Nicole Zuraitis-Voice
Carmen Staff-Piano
Jorn Swart-Piano
Tamir Shmerling-Bass
Bernardo Agular-Pandeiro
Dan Pugach-Drums, Compositions, Arrangements

For your listening pleasure, I have attached a "YouTube" of Nonet playing an original composition by Dan Pugach, "Brooklyn Blues".  It is wonderful big band music I know you will enjoy!

                                                                 Brooklyn Blues

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Kevin Tokarz Plays Wonderful Jazz Piano and Leads the Band at AJ's

Tim Pleasant, Larry Holloway and Kevin Tokarz

Doug  McDonald usually holds musical court at AJ's at the Date Palm Country Club in Cathedral City on Wednesdays but Doug had an out-of-town gig so he brought in Kevin Tokarz to replace him on Piano.  I had no experience with Kevin but it only took a few minutes of listening to him to realize he is a super-talented Jazz piano player.  Kevin spent many years playing Jazz in Chicago and Reno before moving to the Desert last year.  Tonight was a wonderful treat for anyone who loves music played by a Jazz trio.  For me, it's hard to top of the pleasure of listening to a Jazz Piano trio especially one playing great standards.  Tonight Kevin was joined by the great Bassist, Larry Holloway who never ceases to amaze me with his outstanding Bass playing.  I love the way Larry constructs his solos, not just combining a  long string of notes within the musical key but rather Larry improvises with thoughtful phrases and always ties in the basic melody of the tune.  Tim Pleasant was on Drums tonight and as usual provided stellar support for Kevin and Larry.

Kevin Tokarz does not have a regular gig in the Desert but he is frequently called upon to join various bands and anytime you get to hear him, don't miss it.  He is a remarkable Jazz pianist and also sings in a very enjoyable Jazz style.  I strongly recommend any band looking for a solid Jazz piano player to try to reach out for Kevin.  His contact info: Cell: 775-846-0187  Email: keveeno26@

I don't have any music from Kevin Tokarz at this point but since we are talking about terrific Jazz Piano Trios, I have attached a "YouTube" one of the best Jazz Piano Trios of all times, the great Oscar Peterson Trio playing "The Days of Wine and Roses" with Ray Brown on Bass and Ed Thigpen on drums.



Monday, March 26, 2018

Drummer Jay Lewis puts together a Great Jazz Trio with Bill Saitta and Micha Schellhaas


Tuesday is always Jazz night at Backstreet Bistro and there always seems to be musical surprises.  This season, talented and popular Drummer, Jay Lewis has been putting together different groups each week and it has been a highly successful Jazz season.  Tonight,  Jay introduced a young and talented Dutch Guitarist, Micha Schellhaas to the Desert Jazz scene.  With veteran musical support from Jay on Drums and Bill Saitta on Bass, they allowed Mischa to show his stuff.  It's so interesting to hear musicians from different countries play Jazz because there are always some different, interesting approaches to American classic tunes.  The group performed wonderfully including some super Blues singing from Bill!  The reception from the audience was excellent which is usually the case at Backstreet Bistro because this is where ardent Jazz fans hang out on Tuesdays.  And the food and service are also excellent.  Always call for a reservation because there are seldom any empty seats on Jazz Tuesdays.

I have heard from many followers of the Music Man Blog that they really enjoy having some live music to listen to at the end of each blog.  Since I don't have any recording from this particular group that features the talented Micha Schellhaas, I decided to attach a "YouTube" of one of the most admired Jazz Guitar players in American Jazz History.  Please enjoy, Joe Pass playing "All The Things You Are" with Stephen King on Bass.


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The 20 Greatest American Standards- 2018

Sonny Stitt
It's been 8 years since I published my "20 Greatest American Standards Ever Written" blog and its still one of my popular blogs for visitors.  We all have had life experiences over the past 8 years and I thought it would be fun to revisit the list and make some adjustments that might be appropriate at this time.  In order to qualify for the list, the song must be over 50 years old.  The list represents the very best songs from the "Great American Songbook".  In order to make the list they had to contain both the best music and lyrics.  The oldest song to make the list is the Gershwin tune, "Someone To Watch Over me".  Think about this.... this song was published 92 years ago and it's still being played today to the delight of all ages.  Now that is the sign of a super, great American standard!

Some other interesting observations about the list:

There is one pair of songwriters that has 3 songs on the list:
           Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart

Several other songwriters who have two songs on the list:

           Cole Porter
           Jimmy Van Heusen
           Johnny Mandel
           George and Ira Gershwin
           Hoagy Carmichael
           Johnny Mercer
           Johnny Burke

The Year 1939 was a terrific year for great songs:,

           4 songs written in 1939 made the list.

The six-year period from 1936 to 1941 was the golden area for great songs;  12 out of the 20 songs on the list were written during this period.




"Someone To Watch Over Me"                    George Gershwin & Ira Gershwin                   1926

"Night and Day"                                            Cole Porter                                                          1932            

"The Very Thought of You"                           Ray Noble                                                           1934

"The Way You Look Tonight"                       Dorothy Fields & Jerome Kern                        1936

" I Got You Under My Skin"                         Cole Porter                                                          1936

 "Where Or When"                                        Richard Rogers & Lorenz Hart                         1937

" They Can't Take That Away From Me"   George and Ira Gershwin                                   1937      

"The Nearness of You"                                   Hoagy Carmichael & Ned Washington            1937

"My Funny Valentine"                                    Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart                     1939

"What's New"                                                 Bob Haggart & Johnny Burke                          1939

"Over The Rainbow"                                      Harold Arlen & Yip Harburg                          1939

"These Foolish Things"                                   Eric Maschwitz & Jack Strachey                     1939

"Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered"         Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart                    1940

"You've Changed"                                           Bill Carey & Carl Fischer                                 1941

"Skylark"                                                         Johnny Mercer & Hoagy Carmichael              1941

 "My One and Only Love"                               Guy Wood & Robert Mellin                             1952

"Here's That Rainy Day"                                 Jimmy Van Heusen & Johnny Burke              1953

"All My Tomorrows"                                       Jimmy Van Heusen & Sammy Cahn                1959

"Emily"                                                            Johnny Mandel & Johnny Mercer                     1964

"The Shadow of Your Smile"                          Johnny Mandel & Paul Webster                       1965 


Friday, March 9, 2018

CD Review: The Jeff Hamilton Trio, "Live From San Pedro"




As Drummer, Arranger and Leader of the Jeff Hamilton Band, Jeff Hamilton has just released a new CD with his amazing trio, "Live From San Pedro".  To say this is a great Jazz album would be an understatement because everything I have ever heard from Jeff Hamilton is great.  The Jeff Hamilton Trio consists of Tamir Hendelman on Piano and Christoph Luty on Bass.  These  gentlemen are among the best Jazz musicians performing today. Putting them all together with Jeff Hamilton's leadership is nothing short of spectacular! Tamir Hendelman is without question one of the greatest Jazz pianists performing today, and I search out anything new he does.  Christoph Luty is one of only a handful of Bassists who can meet Jeff Hamilton's driving, extraordinary rhythmic control and  stop-on-a dime arrangements.  He makes it look easy.  This trio is a swing machine and even with Jeff Hamilton's tight control over detail,  the Trio always sounds free and creatively inspired.  Perfectly framed improvisations never seem restrictive for this trio.  This is exactly what every Jazz Trio should reach for.

This Cd will no doubt be one of the best Jazz releases this year.   The Cd is being released on February 16 and it's not to be missed.  Thank you Jeff for continuing to release only the highest quality Jazz of recordings.   I have to also mention that Jeff continues to support a lot of creative releases with young up-and-coming artists. Here is a Jazz artist that never forgets to give back to the next generations of Jazz performers!

I found a "YouTube" of one of the tracks on the CD, "Sybille's Day".  It swings from beginning to end.

Playlist:
1. "Sybille's Day"
2. "Poinciana"
3. "Hammer's Tones"
4. "I Have Dreamed"
5. "In Walked Bud"
6. "Gina's Groove"
7. "Brush This"
8. " Bennissimo"
9. "Gary Indiana"
10. "Hoosier Friend"



Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Eric Reed Plays Hot and Cool Jazz at Peter Carlson's "Jazz For Jazz Lovers" Series




Pianist, Producer and Educator, Eric Reed brought his Quartet to Pete Carlson's Golf & Tennis Shop on Saturday, February 24 and impressed the Jazz-loving audience with his ability to play serious up-tempo Jazz tunes while at the same time show his skill at playing sensitive ballads.  The Quartet   started with a couple of up-tempo tunes and then Eric performed a piano solo of the Michel Legrand gem "Spring Can Really Hang You Up".  Eric clearly demonstrated his ability to handle a sensitive, soft ballad along with straight-ahead tunes.

 I arrived early and observed Eric and his talented Quartet do their sound check and set up.  Watching them check the proper sound levels and even the best position of the players spoke to their high professional standards.  The Eric Reed Quartet included Saxophonist Ralph Moore whose style and tone brought back memories of John Coltrane.  Mike Gurrola was on Bass and it was satisfying to see a young Bassist who performs with strength and a warm traditional Jazz style.  Drummer Kevin Kanner is also young but brought the crowd to life with some of his remarkable solos.  It was clear to anyone in the audience that these four Jazz professionals play at the highest level and also love what they are doing.

Another all-around great Jazz night at Pete's.  In case you have not been over to Pete Carlson's Golf and Tennis Shop for their "Jazz for Jazz Lovers" music series you are missing some of the best Jazz in the Valley!  I also want to let everyone know that Pete Carlson's is the very best place in the Valley to hear live Jazz.  The audience is quiet and appreciative of great players.  The audience's focus is 100% on the music and the players!

Upcoming Concerts At Pete's:

March 3, 2018    Ernie Watts Quartet

March 7, 2018    Tom Ranier Quartet

March 10, 2018  Joe LaBarbera Quintet

I could not find a "Youtube" of this particular Eric Reed Quartet playing but I did find a "YouTube" of Eric playing a NYC medley of "Autumn in New York, Skating in Central Park/ Central Park West" that is delightful music and showcases Eric's Piano talents.




Thursday, February 22, 2018

CD Review: Andrew Distel, "It Only Takes Time"




There does seem to be something of a tradition of trumpet players who are also singers.  Now we can add Andrew Distel to this impressive list.  In Distel's CD, "It Only Takes Time" he sings 11 beautiful songs including two that he composed, "Wait for Me" and "Your Last Song".  Andrew Distel has a wonderful, smooth delivery and a rich, pure voice that reminds me of one of my favorite singers, Kenny Rankin.  His voice and delivery also remind me of Chet Baker.  Now if you are a young Jazz vocalist having these two Jazz Vocalists as heroes is perfect!  Trumpet player, Composer and Arranger Andrew Distel is already a major part of the Chicago Jazz scene and as soon as you listen to the two "YouTube" cuts below you won't have to ask why.  The first one is "Alfie" and the second one is a tune Andrew wrote "Your Last Song".

True to the tradition of all Jazz Pros, Andrew has enlisted some outstanding musicians to join him on this CD.  The impressive list includes Peter Martin who performed on and arranged Diane Reeve's Grammy winning CD, "Good Night and Good Luck"  Carlos Enriquez is a regular in the Wynton Marsalis Septet and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.  

"It Only Takes Time" is a winner CD that introduces Andrew Distel as Vocalist and Trumpet player who is surely headed for greatness. 

PLAYLIST:
1. "Speak Low"
2. "Alfie"
3. "One Morningstar Away"
4. "Amor"
5. "Wait For Me"
6. "Who Cares"
7. "Too Soon To Tell"
8. "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes"
9. "Your Last Song"
10. "Into Each Life"
11 "You Are There"

Musicians:
Andrew Distel- Vocals, Trumpet
Peter Martin- Piano
Carlos Enriquez- Bass
George Fludas- Drums
Geraldo De Oliveira- Percussionist
Raphael Crawford- Trombone
Dave Onderdonk- Guitar
Jim Gailloretto- Woodwinds
Howard Levy- Harmonica
Brian Schwab- Trumpet












Friday, February 16, 2018

KAJI 95.3FM and General Manager, Alan P. Schultz Put the Spotlight on Local Musicians


Local musicians in the Valley are finally receiving some well-deserved attention.  The new, local 24 hour Jazz station in Palm Desert, KAJI 95.3FM and its General Manager Alan  P. Schultz have decided to start playing music created by local musicians.  Alan and I discussed the possibility of putting together a program on his station where local musicians would have their music played.  The first of these special programs kicked off last Saturday.   The first program was warmly received by musicians and Jazz lovers here in the Coachella Valley and as a result, Alan who also operates as the station's program director has decided to do another program this Saturday, February 17 at 10:00 AM PST.   The best way to hear KAJI 95.3FM is to stream it on your computer.  I have attached a link below that will take you to a site where you can turn the radio on.  It would be great if you would mark your calendar to join the broadcast this Saturday.  The music will be great, and you will be supporting all the musicians performing in our area.

http://mixlr.com/kajiradio/

Listed below are some talented musicians we were able to play on last week's show:

Michael Dees- "What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life"
Trish Hatley- "Shiny Stockings"
Rich Bono- "Here's That Rainy Day/My One and Only Love"
Yve Evans- "Just Friends/Guess Who I Saw Today"
Linda Peterson- "My Foolish Heart"
Mike Costley- "I Am A Singer"
Jack Jones- "Skylark"
Beverly Jensen- "Spring Can Really Hang You Up"
Pat Rizzo- "All the Way/Come Rain or Come Shine"
Patrick Tuzzolino- "Don't Be That Way"
Steve Madaio- "What's New"
Rose Mallett- "It's Impossible"
Ron Kalina- "The Nearness of You"
Lee Hartley- "Sister Sadie"
Doug MacDonald-

February 17,  Saturday morning, I am planning to play another group of outstanding musicians so please see if you can join us.

All the cuts I have played and will be playing are from my personal library; all of which I have collected over the past 7 years ever since I started doing live reviews in the Valley.

To all my musician friends:  I don't have CDs and/or individual tracks for many of you and I would like to spotlight your work if we do future programs.  If you can send me your CD or email a link to any individual tracks you may have, I would do my best to get it on the air.  My mailing address here in the Desert is:

57228 Medinah, La Quinta, CA 92253  and my email address is:  Robertnicosia@icloud.com.  If you want to call:  201-320-9060

Real Jazz Is Alive In The Desert AT KAJI 95.3FM!





Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Doug MacDonald and Friends Bring Out the Musicians at AJ's on the Green


My first visit to AJ's this year was great fun.  Doug MacDonald led a super Jazz Trio consisting of Doug on Guitar, Larry Holloway on Bass and Tim Pleasant on Drums.  Doug plays with lot of groups but this is the first time I saw him in action as the leader of the group.  Turns out he is a natural, controlling all aspects of the performance while still allowing his supporting players to shine also!

Doug started at 7:00 PM and the first hour was just straight-ahead Jazz and it was great!  During the second hour or more, Doug called up any musicians in the audience who wanted to sit in for a couple of tunes.  There must have been over 15 musicians in the audience who came up to play or sing and it was great fun.  Classically trained pianist, Rich Bono was first to come up and play piano for some terrific vocalists.  Rich is without a doubt the most sought-after pianist in the Desert by Vocalists.  He knows how to provide just the right support for all types of music and voices and singers never miss a chance to sing with him.  The parade of musicians continued well into the evening and Doug refused to stop until every musician who wanted to perform; had a chance.  If you want to hear some of the best vocalists in the Valley, AJ's is the place to be on Wednesday evenings.  AJ's has been totally renovated and the food continues to be excellent.

My thanks to Doug MacDonald, Larry Holloway and Tim Pleasant for some of the best Jazz sounds I have heard.  I also want to thank all the performers for providing a great night of music.

I could not find a video of Doug's Group on "YouTube" but I did find a video of Doug playing "Picnic" with a trio consisting of Doug on Guitar,  Yoshi Waki on Bass and Pete Zimmer on Drums.  Doug is one of the finest Guitar players performing today!




Monday, February 12, 2018

Pat Tuzzolino Is a Musical Treasure at Castelli's in Palm Desert, CA



Pat Tuzzolino has been performing in LA and the Valley for many years.  If you have not heard Pat  sing and play Piano, Keyboard and Guitar, you are missing the chance to hear one of the most talented musicians performing today.  What makes Pat so special is his rich, powerful voice combined with his unusual and fresh arranging approach to Jazz standards that you will seldom hear today.  His timing and phrasing on both Piano and Keyboard are spectacular.  Don't expect an off-the-shelf tempo from Pat. No recorded tracks for Pat either, when you hear Pat perform he provides all the music necessary!   When we go to hear Pat; we like to sit in the bar area where Pat hangs out behind the Piano.  I have seen and heard hundreds of great musicians perform over the years, but Pat Tuzzolino is always new and refreshing every time I hear him and stands apart from the crowd!

The good news is that Pat is playing 7 nights a week at Castelli's so you have plenty of opportunity to  hear him.  Castelli's has been a special place in the Desert for over 30 years and continues to provide the best in Italian food along with some of the best sounds in music from Pat Tuzzolino.  The service at Castelli's is also top draw.  Our waiters, Katie and Pablo were terrific!

I have found two "YouTube" videos for your enjoyment.  The first one is a classic example of Pat's
original arranging touch, "It's Girl Talk" like you never heard it sung or played before.  It features Pat  on Vocals and Keyboard, Sam Most on Flute and Gerruyck King on Drums. The Second "YouTube" cut is  "Please Be Kind".  It features Pat on Vocals and Keyboard, Carl Saunders on Trumpet, Bob McChesney on Trombone, Pat Zicari on Sax and Billy Paul on Drums.






Thursday, February 8, 2018

Yve Evans Is Welcomed Back to Backstreet Bistro By Her Loving Fans

Jay Lewis, Henry Franklin and Doug McDonald

Henry Franklin, Doug McDonald and Yve Evans

Backstreet Bistro in Palm Desert, CA has great Jazz performers every Tuesday evening but no one draws a bigger crowd
of Jazz lovers than Yve Evans!  The reasons why Yve has tons of fans in the Coachella Valley is first and foremost, she is:"The Jazz singer who sets the standard for all other Jazz singers".  Yve has a beautiful, pure voice that puts her in the same company as Ella and Sarah and her phrasing and sense of timing are second to none.   Second, Yve can do it all: Blues, Pop, R & B and Latin without hesitation.  She has the respect of every musician she plays with not only because of her platinum reputation, but because they all know that when Yve's driving the Band,  she can and will make changes at a moments notice so they are always challenged to be ready and they love it!  Third, Yve has an amazing sense of humor and works it into her performances seamlessly. And lastly,  Yve has a loving, caring personality that she projects to everyone who meets her.    Once you meet Yve, you will become a fan forever!

Yve, as you would image, is a highly sought after musician and she plays at many venues in and out of California.  As busy as she is, she never forgets her fans at Backstreet Bistro and tries to appear there at least one Tuesday every month.  She also performs regularly at Woody's Palm House in Palm Springs, usually on Tuesdays.  No trip to the Valley would be complete without seeing Yve perform at least once.

Tonight's program was put together by another Valley favorite, Drummer Jay Lewis,  and he was joined by two of the best Musicians in the West, Guitar player Doug McDonald and Bass player, Henry "Skipper" Franklin.

I found a "Youtube" of Yve playing and singing at the 2017 Monterey Jazz Bash by the Sea that will give you a good example of how good a performer she is.  I know you will enjoy it!


  

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Greta Mattassa Puts On A Master Class In Jazz Vocals at Pete Carlson's

Pre-Show Preparations At Pete Carlson's
Greta Mattassa, Andy Fraga Jr.,  Larry Holloway and Doug McDonald


 

If you are a fan of Jazz vocals and were not at Pete Carlson's Jazz For Jazz Lovers Series last Friday January 26, you missed a spectacular performance by Jazz Vocalist, Greta Matassa.  Greta has been voted best Jazz Vocalist in the Pacific North West four times and has recorded 10 highly successful CDs.  Greta's influences include the best American vocalists, including Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra, and Anita O'Day.  You can also hear the influences of Sarah Vaughn, Nancy Wilson, June Christy and Diane Schuur.  It's one thing to have all these vocal giants as your musical heroes but then to perform using everything you have learned from these heroes is a talent that only a few musicians can accomplish.  It is clear to everyone in the standing- room-audience tonight that Greta Matassa has more than proved she can join this illustrious group of vocalists.   Greta's voice can move from sad to joyous, from delicate to strong and her phrasing is fresh and powerful!

Greta also teaches in Jazz camps, festivals, master classes and give clinics and workshops for aspiring singers.  Tonight's performance was a clinic for the audience of what Jazz Vocals are all about.

Supporting Greta tonight was a group of three of the top musicians from the Coachella Valley area.   Larry Holloway on Bass, Andy Fraga Jr on Drums and Doug McDonald on Guitar.  Doug was called in at the last minute because the Guitar player that was scheduled, Bruce Forman came down with the flu.  Doug's performance was outstanding especially considering he never performed with Greta before and he never had time to even review her charts.  Doug is such a Pro, no one could even detect that Doug was not Greta's regular Guitar player! 

I found a "YouTube" of Greta Matassa singing "The Song Is You" that will give you a good sample of Greta's vocal skills.  She is joined by musicians Darin Clendenin on Piano, Clipper Anderson on Bass and Steve Dornes on Drums.





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...