Thursday, April 2, 2020

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 love with Lena Horne's beautiful voice but also with Lena's intelligence, dignity, talent and willingness to fight for what's right.  In Clairdee's new CD, "A Love letter to Lena" she pays her respect to her idol with inventive arrangements of songs by Billy Strayhorn and contemporary composers with Clairdee's compelling storytelling.

According to Clairdee,  "I didn't want (this CD) to be merely a tribute album of Lena's greatest hits.   My mother passed in 2007, and I wanted the CD to reflect my parents' hopes for their children through the lens of Lena's efforts for civil rights and equality.  I also want to include a few songs that people may not be so familar with".

When you listen to the complete playlist on this CD, you will quickly realize that Clairdee has accomplished her goal.  Some of the songs on the playlist were not familiar to me but when you listen to the lyric combined with Clairdee's (Spoken Interlude) on several of the songs,  the message she wanted to send is clearly heard.

Clairdee is an accomplished, master Jazz singer with a warm, deep silky voice.  Lena Horne was one of the giants of Jazz from the time she started singing but she was so much more;  she did fight for equality throughout her life.  Clairdee has done us all a service reminding us of Lena Horne's greatness as a Vocalist and a person.  For millions of Americans, she did make a difference.

                                      The Band

 I have attached two "YouTubes" from "A Love Letter To Lena".  The first is the classic "Old Devil Moon" recorded in a Latin groove and the second is an up-tempo version of "Lady be Good".

                                                                    "Old Devil Moon"

"I want to be happy"

Friday, March 27, 2020

CD Review: John Vanore, "Primary Colors"

Trumpeter, Composer, Producer, Educator and Bandleader John Vanore has just released a long-forgotten studio recording of a duet he recorded in the mid-80s with his friend and frequent playing partner, Pianist, Composer and Educator Ron Thomas.  Both players have had stellar musical careers and their new CD, "Primary Colors" was produced from studio recording tapes recorded during 1984 and 1985.  Both Vanore and Thomas have covered a lot of musical ground since 1985.  It is interesting to listen to the cuts on this CD and discover that both these master musicians were brilliant musicians even 35 year ago.  John Vanore's tone and phrasing on the 7 songs on this CD are sparking good!  Ron Thomas' mastery of the (at the time) cutting-edge Yamaha DX-7 is very interesting.  In 1985 most musicians were just starting to experiment with the DX-7 but clearly Ron Thomas was leading the charge.

According to Vanore "The sessions' only protocol was a willingness to experiment in the way of sound, song form and more. We weren't approaching this stuff like head/solos/head.  Our approach was more compositional and spontaneity was also paramount, and while there may be overdubbed layers at various points, a single-take ethic was honored throughout the informal sessions."

Even though the music on this CD was recorded years ago, it still sounds fresh and new which is a testament to the high quality of these two talented musicians.

John Vanore: Trumpet & Flugelhorn and Producer
Ron Thomas: Piano, Fender Rhodes, Yamaha DX-7

1. "Final Dawn"
2. "Lady"
3. "Yesterdays"
4. "A Time For Love"
5. "Origins of Rude"
6. "Return"
7. "Secret Love" 

I have attached two "YouTube" videos for your listening pleasure.  The first is the beautiful classic written by Johnny Mandel, "A Time For Love".   The second is the Jerome Kern gem, "Yesterdays"  I know you will enjoy both.

                                                                    "A Time For Love"


Friday, March 20, 2020

CD Review: Henry Franklin and Robert Turner and "3 More Sounds" Release "Ghetto Princes" A tribute to Gene Harris

Henry "The Skipper" Franklin and Robert Turner and their group " 3 More Sounds" have produced and recorded a terrific new CD that is a tribute to Gene Harris.  The idea for the CD was born when Robert's and Henry's paths crossed in 2014 in Hangzhou, China.  Henry was just finishing  a tour gig in this Chinese city and  Robert was just coming in to replace Henry Franklin's Band.   Henry Franklin had worked with Gene Harris on numerous occasions and Robert Turner always treasured Gene Harris as one of his playing heros.  As soon as Robert found out that Henry had a long playing history with Gene Harris, he couldn't ask questions about Gene quick enough. After many hours of discussion,  these two major players decided that they would someday cut a CD as a tribute to Gene Harris and "Ghetto Princes" is the result.  As you listen to the cuts on this new CD,  you will hear Robert at times playing very much in the Gene Harris fashion.

Robert Turner is one of the brightest musical stars playing today and his ability to arrange and swing music is recognized throughout the Jazz world.  He is not just a casual player, Robert is a fine technician and has a clear understanding of music composition and how it develops.  I have heard him playing live with several artists and he can handle any kind of music for vocalists or instrumentalist with easy, style, and creativity.

Henry "The Skipper" Franklin is a living legion and continues to impress Jazz lovers wherever he performs.  I have heard him with small trios and also with big Jazz groups and he can do it all.  His high level of Bass playing is internationally known and sought out.  He has a long list of Jazz giants that he has worked with like Roy Ayers, Gene Harris, Freddie Hubbard and Joe Williams just to name a few.

Joining these two remarkable Jazz performers is Khoran Harrison on Drums.  Khoran and Robert have been playing friends since they were teenagers and know each others' playing style inside out.  Veteran Drummer Carl Burnett was added as a special guest and he plays Drums on Cuts 2, 4 and 9.

"Ghetto Princes" is an easy listening Jazz recording because it's simply great Jazz music and arrangements.  No gimmicks or tricks here,  just great American Jazz!

1. "Ghetto Princes"
2. "Besame Mucho"
3. "Willow Weep For Me"
4. "Uptown Sop"
5. "I Thought About You"
6. "Love For Sale"
7. "You Don't Know Me"
8. "Battle Hymm of the Republic"/  "John Brown's Body"
9. "Things Ain't What They Used To Be"

Robert Turner- Piano
Henry "The Skipper" Franklin- Bass
Khoran Harrison- Drums
Carl Burnett- Drums  Cuts 2, 4, and 9

I have attached two "YouTube" videos for your listening pleasure.  The song is Cole Porter's "Love For Sale" that features a terrific Bass solo from Henry Franklin.  The second song is an up-tempo version of "Besame Mucho" composed by Consuelo Velazquez.

Monday, March 9, 2020

CD Review: The Coachella Valley Trio, "Mid Century Modern"

Guitarist Doug MacDonald has just released a new CD, "Mid Century Modern" with his trio, "The Coachella Valley Trio""Mid Century Modern" is a phrase visitors to the Palm Springs California area frequently hear.  It brings to mind American Modernism and its distinctive architecture that had its roots in not only Palm Springs but in the entire Coachella Valley area.   The life style in this area of California has its own vibe and it's cool and chilled.  Live Jazz music is alive and well in the Coachella Valley and Guitarist, Composer and Arranger, Doug MacDonald is in the forefront of the musical action.  Doug is one of the finest guitar technicians performing today and is highly sought out by Jazz venues from coast to coast.  When Doug is not traveling for out of state gigs, he is performing at many different Jazz sites including AJ's on the Green in Cathedral City every Wednesday.  In addition, Doug hosts a local Jazz radio show on a small but excellent non-profit 24-hour Jazz station in Palm Desert, CA,  KAJI Radio.   Doug's Trio, "The Coachella Valley Trio"  has been performing in the Coachella Valley Jazz clubs for several years and has developed a large following of fans.  The trio consists of Doug MacDonald on Guitar, Larry Holloway on Bass and Tim Pleasant on Drums.  Doug invited special guest, Big Black who plays the Djembe to join the group on several cuts.

Larry Holloway is one of the most respected Bass players in the West and in addition to all his playing gigs he finds time to manage the renowned "Coachella Valley Symphony".  Tim Pleasant, the Drummer for the group and Doug have known each other for years preforming together in the Valley and also in the New York area.  As a result of the talent level of these three musicians and the length of time they have played together, the sounds from the trio at times seem to be merged into one voice.  I had the pleasure of hearing Big Black play with this group recently at AJ's and he adds a special element of excitement to this wonderful trio.

There are 11 wonderful songs on this CD,  8 beautiful standards and 3 original songs written by Doug,  So you get to hear some great standards and also experience Doug's excellent composing at the same time.

Doug MacDonald, Guitar
Larry Holloway, Bass
Tim Pleasant, Drums
Special Guest, Big Black, Djembe

1. "My Shining Hour"
2. "Lance or Lot"
3. "Cat City Samba"
4. "Tran Jam"
5. "What's New"
6. "Give Me The Simple Life
7. "Stranger in Paradise"
8. "I Hadn't Anyone Till You"
9. "Woody'N You"
10. "Bossa Nueva"
11. "The Way You Look Tonight"

I have attached two "YouTube" videos for you to listen to.  The first is a tune written by Doug, "Cat City Samba".  The second "YouTube" is the Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen gem, "My Shinning Hour".
                                                                "Cat City Samba"
"My Shining Hour"


Tuesday, March 3, 2020

CD Review: Jeff Rupert & George Garzone, "The Ripple"

I have a real treat for anyone who loves to listen to the great Tenor Sax players of years gone by.  I just listened to a new CD, "The Ripple" featuring Jeff Rupert and George Garzone that was just released in January of this year and it's a listening celebration of the sounds of great Tenor Sax playing.  The title of this CD refers to the far-reaching effects of the great Lester Young and his playing influence on many of the great players who followed him.  By the late 1930's, Young emerged as the most profound improviser since Louis Armstrong.  He influenced not only Saxophonists, but Pianists, Trombone players and others who learned to improvise through Young.  Loved by all and nicknamed "Prez" by Billie Holiday, Lester Young brought individual style, song and concept to the American Jazz scene that continues to influence Jazz players up to this day.

Jeff Rupert and George Garzone are two of the best Tenor Sax players performing today, and they wanted to acknowledge Lester Young's influence on the style and tone of some of the most famous Tenor Sax players.  There are no songs written or recorded by Young on this CD.  Instead,  it highlight songs that were recorded or composed by some of the musicians influenced by Young, including Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz, Eddie Harris, Zoot Sims, Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson and others.  I have featured both Jeff Rupert and George Garzone in my Musician Blog before because they have and still are contributing to the American Jazz scene by performing and educating.  Most recently, I reviewed a wonderful new big band CD by The Flying Horse Big Band that was founded and directed by Jeff Rupert.  Jeff is Trustee Endowed Chair, and Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Central Florida.  George Garzone is a member of the Fringe, a Jazz trio founded in 1972.  He is also a member of the Grammy-winning Joe Lovano Nonet.  Garzone is a sought-after Jazz educator currently teaching at Berklee College of Music.  He pioneered the triadic chromatic approach.  His students include Joshua Redman, Branford Marsalis, Teadross Avery, Luciana Souza, Mark Turner, Donny McCaslin, Doug Yates and Danilo Perez.

Joining Jeff and George on this CD are some long-standing outstanding musicians and friends, Richard Drexler on Piano, Marty Morell on Drums and Jeremy Allen on Bass.  This CD produces some great sounds and revisits great musical history in a very comfortable way.  It's a winner for all Jazz lovers.

I have attached two "YouTube" videos and picking just two was no easy task because I loved every track.  The first one is "Without A Song" that is a tribute to Joe Henderson's famous version.  The second video is Hoagy Carmichael's "Stardust" that I think illustrates the duo's reverence for Young's impact.

I want to finish with a quote that I loved from Jeff Rupert, "Working on this music gave me the sense of having two painters collaborating on one canvas.  I think of Monet, Picasso, or Dali, though I'm not sure who George evokes, perhaps all of the above plus Pollock."

1. "Bahia"
2. "Go-Go"
3. "Stardust"
4. "Without A Song"
5. "The Shadow Of Your Smile"
6. "Detour Ahead"
7. "The Red Door"
8. "Red Hop"
9. "Hoboken"
10. "Beauty Becomes You"
11. "Lester Left Town"
12. "Alone Together"


Friday, February 21, 2020

CD Review: Sam Fazio, "Let's Go"

This week the Musician Blog moves to the Windy City of Chicago to meet the marvelous singer, Sam Fazio who just released his fourth CD, "Let's Go".   Sam has performed at almost all the Jazz venues in Chicago including a 6-year run at the historic Drake Hotel.  In recent years, Sam has performed in many of the major Jazz rooms from LA to NYC with rave reviews.  If you like the era when vocalists were cherished for the quality of their voice and phrasing, then you will love Sam Fazio.  I found this CD interesting because Sam has put together a playlist of songs he loves to sing that cover Jazz and Pop tunes.  Sam has a rich, deep voice and his delivery is smooth as silk.  The first time you hear Sam sing some his, and probably your favorite songs, my bet is you will award him a place on your favorite singers' list.

The arrangements for the 10 songs on the CD are new, creative and fresh.  The musical configuration on the 10 songs on "Let's Go" are different for each song. On one song like "Pure Imagination"  Sam sings with just a Piano and Harmonica and it's perfectly matched to the melody and lyric of this classic gem!  On some he used Piano and Drums then used Guitar and Harmonica for others.  The results are great and allows the listener to hear Sam perform in multi-musical environments.

I have attached a copy of the Playlist listed on the CD that shows who the difference musicians are on each track.

I have attached two "YouTube" videos from this CD.  The first is the wonderful "Pure Imagination" from the brilliant writing duo of Bricusse and Newley.  Chris White on Piano band and             Michael Peloquin on Harmonica give some wonderful supporting work behind Sam.  I just couldn't resist picking the Oldie but Goodie, "Do You Want To Dance" that Sam sings as smooth as silk with a new spirit of understanding of the lyric.  Enjoy!  


                                                          "So You Want To Dance"


   Playlist and Players:

Thursday, February 13, 2020

CD Review: "Albare Plays Jobim" by Albare

I have a treat for all the Latin Jazz lovers!  Guitarist and Composer, Albare has released his new CD, "Albare Plays Jobim" and it is one of the best new interpretations of songs from the Jobim song book that I have experienced in quite a while.  Albare exhibits a sensitive understanding of Antonio Carlos Jobim's creative compositions and rhythms which when combined with the Samba and Jazz produce the wonderful new musical sound of the Bossa Nova genre.  Albare states " As Jobim was such an influence in my playing, I feel this album is overdue and I am now ready to express the intense beauty of these melodies to my own satisfaction".    

Albare was born in Morocco and grew up in Israel and France.  His musical development was completely self-taught.  Sadly, Albare lost his central vision faculties due to a genetic illness; his playing is completely by ear.

The musicians joining Albare on this CD are all superstars in Latin Jazz and add greatly to this award-winning new CD.  Joe Chindamo plays Piano, conducted and put the String arrangements together.  Joe's accomplishments include recording over 60 film soundtracks, 23 CDs and collaborated with James Morrison, Ray Brown, The Brecker Brothers and Olivia Newton John,   On Drums is the sensational Antonio Sanchez.  Antonio has a degree in classical Piano from the National Conservatory in Mexico and Magna Cum Laude in Jazz Studies from Berklee College of Music and New England Conservatory.  He has been awarded 5 Grammy's.  If you haven't heard him play Drums before,  get ready to be musically surprised.  Ricardo "Ricky" Rodriquez is on Bass and he is also a classically trained musician who was born in Puerto Rico and then moved to New York City where is he soon began playing with revered Jazz musicians and Latin Jazz luminaries including David Sanchez Quartet, Branford Marsalis and The Arturro O' Farrell and The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra.

Albare- Guitars
Joe Chindamo- Piano, String Arrangements and Conductor 
Antonio Sanchez- Drums
Ricardo "Ricky" Rodriquez- Bass
Phil Turcio- Producer 

1. "One Note Samba"
2. "Corcovado"
3. "Chega De Saudade"
4. "Orfeu Negro"
5. "Desafinado"
6. "Agua de Beber"
7. "Double Rainbow"
8. "Aguas De Marco"
9.  "Wave"
10. "Brazil"

I have attached two "YouTube" videos so you can hear two songs from this CD.  The first is the opening tune on the CD, "One Note Samba".  The second one is the well-known Jobim song "Agua de Beber.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

CD Review: Kelley Johnson, "Something Good"

Vocalist and Arranger Kelley Johnson has released her 5th CD, "Something Good".  In this new CD, Kelley has chosen 10 familiar standards where she applied her own unique interpretation.  I have said many times that one of the tests I like to use when evaluating a new performer is how they approach a tried and true standard.   A lot of vocalists I hear singing standards simply use past recordings of the standard and the result, most times, is a rehashing of a familiar song.  However, Kelley approaches each familiar song from her own unique understanding of the music and lyric.  Her voice is silky and rich and her all important phrasing is new and spot on.   As I listened to "Something Good" I was struck with the ease of her delivery and a sound that feels effortless.  These are the classic skills of an accomplished Jazz Vocalist, and there is no doubt the Kelley Johnson delivers all these skills.

Kelley Johnson chose all the songs on her CD not just because they're great songs, but because they resonate with her on a deeper level.  In Kelley's words " These songs are about being an artist, being a partner, and being a daughter.  Like most people, I'm trying to maintain meaningful relationships and continue pursuing love and music with all the glory and humility that we need to keep our balance in an every-changing world.  Whether a song is about art or love or spiritual pursuit, it's really all the same path to acceptance."   Beautiful words, beautifully said Kelley!  Thanks for sharing your vocal inspirations with us!

Joining Kelley on this CD are some of the best musicians from the Pacific Northwest.  On Piano is Kelley's husband and performing partner, John Hansen who is one of the finest Jazz pianists in the Northwest.  Hansen provides wonderful support for Kelley which has been developed over 20 years of performing together.  Michael Glynn who has performed with Jazz legends such as Bud Shank, Jon Hendricks, Dave Grusin and Eric Alexander is on Bass and Veteran Drummer, Kendrick Scott adds perfect finish to the rhythm section.  Versatile  multi-instrumentalist Jay Thomas is a Seattle Jazz legion and performs Soprano Sax, Tenor Sax and Trumpet on this CD.

1. "Anyone Can Whistle"
2. "Goodbye To Love"
3. "You Do Something to Me"
4. "Lullaby of Birdland"
5. "Let's Do It"
6. "Some Other Time"
7. "Tip Toe"
8. "Unforgettable"
9. "You For Me"
10. "Something Good"

1. Kelley Johnson- Vocals, Whistle
2. John Hansen- Piano
3. Michael Glynn- Bass
4. Kendrick Scott- Drums
5. Jay Thomas- Soprano and Tenor Sax, Trumpet

I have attached two "YouTubes" videos of two cuts from "Something Good".  The first is the fine Stephen Sondheim tune "Anyone Can Whistle"  and the second one is a creative, new approach to the George Shearing classic, "Lullaby of Birdland".

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

CD Review: Roger Kellaway "The Many Open Minds of Roger Kellaway"

Composer Pianist Roger Kellaway is one of my favorite Jazz performers for multiple reasons.  He is a brilliant pianist who expresses his unique personality through his music.  Some of the adjectives I think describe this master musician would be witty, adventuresome, and an unpredictable spirit.  I have had the pleasure of hearing Roger in person several times over the last few years and every performance is different but spectacularly great.

"The Many Open Minds of Roger Kellaway" was recorded live at the world famous Jazz Bakery in Santa Monica, CA in August, 2010.  This recording is as fresh today as night it was cut!  Roger is joined on this CD by Bruce Forman on Guitar and Dan Lutz on Bass.  Together the trio revisits some of the most famous Jazz tunes ever written.  But in no way does this super talented trio just provide a cover for these famous tunes, they bring Roger's open and fresh musical mind to each one.  Roger has provided wonderful arrangements that keep the spirit of the melody in tack but takes each tune on an enjoyable and new path.  Starting with "Take Five' to "Night and Day" to "Caravan",  these tunes we all know well are re-imagined with creative Jazz spirit.

Roger Kellaway is a special Jazz giant who has covered a lot of Jazz ground during his 57 years of performing.  Roger is 80 years old this year but anyone listening to his CDs or seeing him perform in person will find his age hard to believe.  He is still playing at his prime losing none of his creativity, superb technical skills or enthusiasm.

Roger's lastest CD, "The Many Open Minds of Roger Kellaway" was released on November 1, 2019 by IPO Recordings, LLC.  This label has focused on releasing several recent CDs of Jazz giants like James Moody, Frank Wess, and Benny Golson just to name a few.  You should check out IPO's catalog that is filled with treasures from the Jazz masters.  They are keeping the best of our Jazz giants' music alive and should be supported by all Jazz fans.

Roger Kellaway-Piano
Bruce Forman-Guitar
Dan Lutz-Bass


I have attached two "YouTubes" for your enjoyment.  Picking just two was difficult because every song on this CD is great but I settled on the Paul Desmond classic "Take Five"  and Ellington's evergreen "Caravan".

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...