Sunday, September 23, 2012

Stan Kenton:Remembering The Jazz Giants: Chapter 9

Stan Kenton and his Orchestra was one of the most controversial bands to come out of the 1940's.  The "Walls of brass" was the most famous characteristic that was used by many in describing the Kenton Orchestra.  Kenton's orchestrations used richly somber trombones, staccato saxophones and blazing-high trumpet notes. The Kenton arrangements were far ahead of their time but many mainline music critics considered his musical product as loud noise. But in time, Stan Kenton got to prove his critics wrong and continued to maintain a strong following long after the rest of the big bands of the 40's and 50's stopped performing.  Stan Kenton was a musical genius far ahead of his time.  Kenton provided a link with his unique sounds and arrangements between Jazz and Classical music. 

I have attached two YouTube videos that highlight the suburb musical arrangements and unique sounds of the Stan Kenton Orchestra.  The first is one of my all-time favorite Kenton arrangements, "The Peanut Vendor" recorded in London in 1972, six years before his death in 1979. The second video is a recording produced in 1951 featuring another of my all-time favorite trumpet players, Maynard Ferguson playing the classic evergreen, "What's New".  I think you will agree that both of these recordings, made more than 40 years ago, still sound new and fresh today.  This is a tribute to why Stan Kenton is considered by many as one of the founding fathers of modern Jazz

Important Note for all Stan Kenton Fans: Some of my readers might not be aware of the fact that there is a "Kenton Alumni Band" that is still touring the country.  I just received an email from them announcing that the band will be touring on the East Coast from April 8th to the 22nd next year.  They will be performing in Ohio, Pa, NY, Mass, New Hampshire, Conn, Rhode Island, NJ, Maryland, Washington DC and Virginia.  You can find additional information on their site: which will be up very soon.  You can also contact the leader of the group Mike Vax at:

Friday, September 14, 2012

CD Review: "Yeah......About That" by Johnny Hodges

I just listened to a remarkable new CD from Trumpeter Johnny Hodges which highlights his ability not only as a Trumpet player but also his talents as a composer/arranger and sound engineer.  John has been playing Trumpet since the 5th grade but don't be fooled by the fact that this is his first solo release.  Johnny has paid his dues over the years performing as a sideman for musical greats across many different types of music and sound.  Just a few of the notable artists he has worked with include: Paul Anka, The Temptations, The Four Freshman, Clark Terry, Roy Clark, Diane Schuur, Vic Damone and Johnny Mathis.

This CD has a funky jazz-inspired sound on some exciting new music that Johnny has composed and arranged.  He also produced all the rhythm programing and the Brass. A virtual one-man band with the feel of a big and serious jazz group.  Bryan Cook added his Trumpet to the mix on track 8, "First Try" and Jeff Barone played some serious guitar licks on Tracks 3 & 8.

I especially liked Track 1, "Dixie Twister", Track 3, "Cozumel" and Track 5, "Para Ti, Mi Amor". There is no doubt that Johnny Hodges is an excellent songwriter, arranger, sound engineer and jazz Trumpet player. This is pure and simple a great jazz CD with a modern but disciplined sound that won't disappoint any Jazz fan.  This CD was released on August 21, 2012.  In my opinion this CD is worthy of a  Grammy nomination. This proves that Jazz is still alive and well in the USA in year 2012.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Book Review: Carole King "A Natural Woman, A Memoir"

I have been a big fan of Carole King ever since I first heard her "Tapestry" album. Over the past years I have learned bits and pieces of her musical and personal life so I was delighted when Carole wrote her memoir, "A Natural Woman".  Carole King, unlike most musicians, wrote her autobiography entirely on her own. Her writing is excellent in both construction and style and has produced a book that tells a very beautiful and personal story laying out the major influences in her life and painting a clear picture of what made her one of the greatest singer/songwriters of modern times. I especially liked the stories she recalls about the relationships with fellow musicians who helped her develop into the singing/songwriting genius that she has become. She was a major creator and participant of the music of the sixties and has continued to have an impact on the music scene.

In my mind, as an artist, Carole will also always be musically linked to James Taylor. They share the same feel for melody and lyric and perform as if they were born as musical twins. Carole relates stories of how she performed as a sideman for Taylor in their musical beginnings at the Troubadour.  Carole also gives us the complete story of how she was literally pushed out on the stage by Taylor , an event she credits for starting her solo career.

For anyone coming of age during the sixties, this book and the music of Carole King will touch many emotional buttons and is a must-read. Her "Tapestry" album holds the record for the longest time for an album by a female to remain on the charts and the longest time for an album by a female to hold the #1 position. She has won four Grammy Awards and has been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She has recorded over twenty-five albums and is still touring the country today.

I have attached two "YouTube" videos for your listening pleasure. The first is a duet with Carole and James Taylor singing "Up On The Roof" a song written by Carole and Gerry Goffin.  The second is Carole alone singing her classic song, "You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman".

                                                         BOOK REVIEW
                                       The Music Man awards this book  "4 Quarter Notes"

                                             4 Quarter Notes= Excellent, Must Read
                                             3 Quarter Notes= Good Read
                                             2 Quarter Notes= Somewhat Interesting
                                             1 Quarter Note = Save Your Time and Money

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

CD Pre-Release Review: "Drink My Wine" by Darren Jay and The Delta Souls

Darren Jay & The Delta Souls

Darren Jay

Laura Cupit
If you love "Memphis Blues" and who doesn't, a new CD released on September 18, 2012 is for you. Darren Jay has been playing in bands since he was 15.  In 2007 he released his album, "Panhandle Blues" which won him critical praise for his songwriting and guitar skills. Darren joined the U.S.Navy in 1996 and when he completed his active duty, Darren spent most of his time playing in the Miami music scene.  His next move was to Washington D.C. where he joined The Stacy Brooks band as her guitar player.  Since 2010, Darren has been based in Memphis, TN where he met bass player Laura Cupit where the idea for this CD was born. "Drink My Wine" is their debut release. There are some great Blues Songs on this CD including "Hoochie Coochie Man" and "Tin Pan Alley".  The balance of the tunes were written by the talented Darren Jay. There are a bunch of highly talented musicians that supported Darren Jay and Laura Cupit:  Toby Thomas, Piano & Organ; Hubert Crawford, Drums; Laura Cupit, Bass & backup vocals; Darren Jay, Guitars and vocals; Chris Cloys, backup vocals, Marc Franklin, Trumpet; Art Edmaiston, Tenor & Baritone Sax; Wayne Jackson, Trumpet; Rodd Bland, Drums. This is a superbly produced Blues CD showcasing great guitar licks, soulful lyrics and some of the best Blues sidemen in the country.

CD Review: Jenny Davis, "Rearranged"

Composer, Arranger, Bandleader and Jazz Vocalist, Jenny Davis has just released her 4th album as a leader.  This CD spotlights Jenn...