Tuesday, November 26, 2019

CD Review: Yoko Miwa Trio, "Keep Talkin"


Pianist, Composer, Arranger and Berklee College of Music Professor Yoko Miwa has just released her definitive Piano-Trio Album, "Keep Talkin" and it highlights her brilliant playing and composing.  Listening to Miwa and her talented trio is like getting an open invitation to join them in a master class in "The Jazz Piano Trio".  Her composing is wonderful and "JazzWeek" quoted "her music is bright and accessible".  I couldn't agree more with this statement.  Her understanding of melody and Jazz arranging is so comforting that I felt at easy the first time I played her songs on this CD.  When listening to Miwa, you can clearly hear the influence of Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, McCoy Tyner and Oscar Peterson.  Miwa listened to these Jazz giants and then continued to work to bring her own voice into their approach to creating great Piano Jazz Trio music.  Her composing and playing is so measured and yet free and fresh.  Miwa has learned well from her Piano heroes and has produced music that is warm, understandable and yet creatively fresh.  She has performed with the members of her trio for many years and it shows.  There are times when each member gets to show their technical chops and then the three seem to merger into one glorious sound.  This is one of the best Jazz Piano Trios I have heard, and I have heard many.  It's not only the brilliant playing, it's the composing and Arranging.  The combination makes this Trio a winner, just like this CD!

The Yoko Mira Trio still tours around the country, so don't miss a chance to see them in person.  They are worth any effort to hear them play.


Miwa's composing is so good that I was tempted to attach two of her original songs from her CD but changed my mind after I heard her version of "Golden Slumbers/You Never Give Me Your Money".  The first YouTube is the first cut in the CD, "Keep Talking"that Miwa composed. However, I could not resist attaching her version of the two songs from the Beatles' "Abby Road" CD, "Golden Slumbers/ "You Never Give Me Your Money".  This medley of these two underplayed Beatles songs are breathless beautiful.  They remind me of the brilliance of John and Paul and also the brilliance of the Yoko Miwa Trio.

 The first YouTube is the first cut in the CD, "Keep Talking".   The second YouTube is "Golden Slumbers, You Never Give Me Your Money."























"Keep Talking"

"Golden Slumbers/You Never Give Me Your Money"


Sunday, November 17, 2019

CD Review: David Finck, "BASSically JAZZ"



I know that a lot of followers of the "Musician Blog" are excellent, professional Bass players who probably know all about David Finck, but he was new to me.  I have to confess that the Bass is one of my favorite instruments.  Although the Bass is an integral part of the rhythm section, it can add much more than rhythm to music.  When in the hands of an expertly trained professional, it has its own unique voice.  I have observed while listening to hundreds of Bass players over the years that there is one characteristic that all great Bass players have that might surprise you. . . the passion for melody.  This passion includes an understanding and interpretation of the emotion of the melody. David Finck in his new CD, "BASSically JAZZ" gives us an opportunity to experience the unique voice a Bass which can produce sounds, textures and pictures it can paint without uttering one spoken word.   But most of all, David Finck shows his audience that he understands and loves great melodies.  "These days melody has become a rare commodity in popular music. I miss the richness of real songwriting" says David.  I could not agree with him more.  So much so, that when I listen and evaluate a new Bass player,  my first wish is for the player to perform a classic standard.

David Finck is one of the most versatile Bassists in or out of Jazz.  He has performed with major stars from all genres of music including Dizzy Gillespie, Andre Previn, Rosemary Clooney, George Michael, Phil Woods, Kenny Rankin, Hank Jones, Paquito D'Rivera just to name a few on his rich resume.  David can play all genres of music, he says, " at the end of the day, I still want to play melodically.  Like all my albums, this one is about music the way I want to hear it.  It's not all Jazz but it's basically a Jazz record.  That's why we call it BASSically JAZZ".

Playlist:

Players:
David Finck- Bass
Joe Locke- Vibes
Jim Rudl- Piano
Cliff Almond- Drums
Ali Ryerson- Flute
Bob Mann- Guitar
Kevin Windard- Percussion
Mike Davis- Trombone

It was very hard to pick just two songs to attach to this blog because all 12 cuts on this wonderful CD are so musically pleasing so I picked 3 great standards.  The first YouTube features the entire group with David Finck providing a beautiful, exciting and creative solo on the popular Jazz standard "Old Devil Moon" written by E.Y. "Yip" Harburg and Burton Lane .   It features Joe Locke playing Vibes that bring to mind the George Shearing Quintet. The Second YouTube presents the band playing "Alfie" which David says "is one of the most unusual pop songs of all time-very beautiful and melodic and complicated" as are most of the beautiful songs composed by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.  The last song "The Summer Knows" written by Michel Legrand and Alan and Marilyn Bergman features the beautiful strong and crystal-clear voice of Linda Eder plus outstanding bow work from David Finck.

                                                                 "Old Devil Moon"

                                                                          "Alfie"
 "The Summer Knows"

Friday, November 8, 2019

CD Review: Mark Winkler: "I'm With You"


Singer, Songwriter and Arranger Mark Winkler has recently released a terrific new CD, "I'm With You".  The CD is a tribute to "Mr. Hip" Bobby Troup.  For those of you that don't know much about Bobby Troop, you are in for a treat!  I have no doubt that the term "West Coast Cool" was coined with him in mind. Bobby Troup is best known for his great standard, "Route 66" that is still recorded and performed today as much as when it was first written.  It is a classic song both in Music and Lyric that is still a favorite of Jazz players.  Bobby Troup had a lot more to contribute to contemporary Music than just "Route 66".  Mark Winkler has developed an enduring affinity with Bobby Troup and counts him as one of his Musical heros.  Mark says, "It's easy as pie for me to sing Bobby Troup songs.  Once I choose the tunes I want to create new arrangements for, I approach the songs very easily.  I feel like I understand him.  We've got things in common.  He swings and I love to swing.  He's funny, clever and whimsical,  yet could also write and sing the Blues.  As a songwriter, I am always aspiring to achieve that same range of emotions."  Once you hear the wonderful collection of songs in "I'm With You" I am sure you will fully agree with Mark's comments.

Mark Winkler is a mega-talented Musician who never stops learning from other mega-talented Musicians both young and old.  It feels like I see his musical fingerprints on at least one new CD that I receive every month.  He must never sleep because his musical contributions are non-stop and always at the highest professional level.  His musical tastes in what he decided to do is always guided by the highest Musical standards.  I also know that Mark loves to give back to his industry by helping young talented Musicians break through by sharing his ability as a Producer and Arranger and Teacher.  I applaud Mark for his efforts to help up-and-coming young Musicians.

It is an honor to do a review of a Composer/Lyricist who has had over 250 of his songs recorded    and/or sung by Dianne Reeves, Liza Minnelli, Steve Tyrell, Jane Monheit, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Lea DeLaria, Kenny Rankin and Sara Gazarek.  Mark was included in the 2018 "Rising Star Male Jazz Vocalist list in "Downbeat Magazine".   Mark's work as a Lyricist has resulted in six musicals that are playing around the country, including "Naked Boys Singing" which is, at 19 years, the second longest running show in Off Broadway history.  Mark has taught a Lyric writing course, "Crafting Great Lyrics: A Songwriters Workshop" at  "UCLA Extension" for 13 years and at the Los Angeles School of Songwriting.

However,  in Mark's latest CD it is singing skills that come front and center.  Mark has a beautiful silky smooth voice and Sinatra-like phrasing that makes him such an impressive vocalist.  The songs he has chosen are not easy for any singer to perform but Mark makes singing these special songs look easy.  I have attached two Bobby Troup songs from Mark's CD that I think you will enjoy.  My guess is that both of these songs will be new to you.  The first tune is "Please Belong To Me" that was arranged by one of my personal favorite Jazz Piano players, Tamir Hendelman.  The Musicians joining Mark on this track are:

Rich Eames- Piano
Gabe Davis- Bass
Dave Tull- Drums
Grant Geissman- Guitar
Ricky Woodard- Sax

The second tune "It Happened Once Before" is a Vocal-Piano duet with another of my absolute favorite Jazz pianists, Jon Mayer.  Mark's Vocal is dreamy and no one knows how to play a standard better than Jon Mayer!

Playlist:





CD Review: Clairdee Releases Her Forth CD, "A Love Letter to Lina"

San Francisco based Vocalist Clairdee has admired and been a fan of Lena Horne since she was four years old.  Clairdee was not just in...