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Showing posts with label Long-ass Car Ride Review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Long-ass Car Ride Review. Show all posts

Friday, December 11, 2015

Long-Ass Car Ride Review - Rob Reddy & Lisa Parrott!

Long-Ass Car Ride Reviews: I take long-ass car rides, I listen to albums, I let you know if they are worthwhile.

Nice artwork for a great album!
Rob Reddy - Bechet: Our Contemporary (2014) - 9/10

Rob Reddy - soprano sax, John Carlson - trumpet, Curtis Fowlkes - trombone, Charles Burnham - violin, Marika Hughes - cello, Marvin Sewell - guitars, Dom Richards - double bass, Pheeroan Aklaff - drums, (guests: Lisa Parrott - bari sax, Oscar Noriega, clarinet)

In a word: great

Mingus meets Frissell meets Ellington meets Reddy.... meets Bechet. This is a very satisfying collection of brilliant, fun & adventurous arrangements of songs by Sidney Bechet and strong, Americana-infused originals by Reddy. "Up-South" utilizes an extreme cumulative idea and succeeds, with a delightful humorous ending. Reddy seems more interested in
from robreddy.com
the architecture and presentation of the long-form pieces, often taking a back seat for the sake of the arrangement. A wonderful example is the beautiful Bechet classic "Petite Fleur", where Reddy doesn't appear until the end, joining the ensemble & then giving a touching solo over the vamp. The album then launches in to 3 very long tracks - all very worthwhile. Reddy's bluesy and appealing "Erasing Statuses" moves along at a crawl and remarkably grooves, there is neat use of pizzicato cello, pedal guitar and a particularly fine chorus from violinist Charles Burnham. "Song of the Medina" is an absorbing & compelling 15 minutes long - sheer enjoyment. Lisa Parrott adds her distinctive baritone sax to "Chant in the Night", and "Broken Windmills" is a thrilling romp, executed with aplomb by the whole group. If you think my first sentence sounds like a great idea, or even if you don't - don't miss this album. It's great, and a bit of a mind-opener... rare these days.

good 'un!

Lisa Parrott - Round Tripper (2014) - 8.5/10
Lisa Parrott - Baritone & Alto saxes, Carl Dewhurst - guitar, Chris Lightcap - bass, Matt Wilson - drums, Nadje Noordhuis - trumpet/flugelhorn

In a word: delightful 

For what Lisa describes as a nearly impromptu session - this is an astoundingly surefooted, organized and stylistically solidified album. To coin an old phrase: "You can drop the needle down anywhere on this album" and have a good time. The conversation & interplay between Parrott and guitarist Carl Dewhurst is amazing, delightful and rare. The songs themselves are nearly all uplifting, Parrott's own attractive lament "Do You
The band on "Round Tripper"
source: lisaparrott.com
Think That I Do Not Know" is the main exception.
Having the ever creative Matt Wilson in the mix is a real plus, supplying energy and drive as well as tremendous support; locking in big time with fine bassist Chris Lightcap. Lisa's musicality and liberty is her 'voice' on either baritone or alto, both are distinguished and beautiful. Finally, the selection of songs is a treat. Bright and catchy material by fairly underground musicians (here in the States, at least) like Carlos Ward and Cameron Undy, or the
Ornette Coleman penned title track. A re-harmonized "Waltzing Matilda" (from Parrott's homeland) startles in how well it works in the minor key. Picking a best track is extraordinarily difficult on this release; my go-to cut is "Dancing Laughing". More difficult - finding a track you're not fond of!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Long-Ass Car Ride Review - Cory Weeds Celebrates Jackie McLean!

Long-Ass Car Ride Reviews: I take long-ass car rides, I listen to albums, I let you know if they are worthwhile.

Cory Weeds - "Condition Blue" (2014) 7.75/10
Cory Weeds - alto sax
Mike Ledonne - Hammond b3 organ
Peter Bernstein - guitar
Joe Farnsworth - drums

In a word: Invigorating

A seriously swinging set. Nothing earth-shattering...it is of course a tribute album; but it's a killer one and Jackie McLean is certainly worthy of the honor. Weeds and company do an A-1 job of evidencing that here, with a great and diverse collection of tunes associated with McLean. If you like your jazz straight-ahead, this is one hella-fine album. The performances are invigorated and very enthusiastic - everyone is grooving hard and playing their hind-quarters off. The best cut is "'Snuff". Other highlights include "Bluesanova", the driving "Capuchin Swing", an excellent "Marilyn's Dilemma" (penned by
drummer Billy Higgins) and the sleeper title track. As I mentioned earlier, it swings hard (look at that line-up!) without one boring moment. Great!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Long-Ass Car Ride Review - Scott Healy Ensemble!

 Long-Ass Car Ride Reviews: I take long-ass car rides, I listen to albums, I let you know if they are worthwhile.

Scott Healy Ensemble - "Hudson City Suite" (2012) - 8.75/10
Scott Healy - piano, Tim Hagans - trumpet, Jeff Driscoll - soprano sax,
Kim Richmond - alto sax; Tom Luer - clarinet/tenor sax, Alex Budman - tenor sax, Doug Webb - baritone sax, Bill Churchville - trumpet, Brian Swartz - trumpet, Tim Hagans - trumpet, Andrew Lippman - trombone, George Thatcher - bass trombone, Carlitos Del Puerto - bass, Bill Wysaske - drums, others...

In a word - marvelous!

Aside from highly listenable compositions and presentation, Scott Healy's gift is one of architecture. His use of dynamics to build tension and pace a chart so that it thrills rather than overwhelms the listener is marvelous. Solos are spaced apart by brilliant ensemble passages, and the unit is ridiculously responsive and tight!

"Hudson City Suite" is an impressionistic description of life in a mythical city - influenced by Ellington in the best possible ways but also highly original. Many of the pieces are either tone-poems or descriptive musically. Highlights include "Central Trolley" - a ride that begins with the pastels of a morning's hush in solitude, growing more brash as the train fills with caffeinated people heading downtown. Of note is Kendall Kay's brush work, first resembling the soothing rhythms of the trolley, slowly building to full blown stick bashing - driving the whole piece. The ingenuous "Summit Avenue Conversation" is just that: dialogue of all forms human, from everyday brass to sass-talkin' saxes, building wonderfully with great solos from Andrew Lippman, Tim Hagans & Alex Budman, ending in a very clever repartee between only plain brass and the languid sax section.

"Princess Tongora" is more impressionism with muted trumpets, tinkling piano and river-like melodies. Jeff Driscoll lights this one up on soprano sax. The composer's piano solo is mesmerizing, fraught with longing. A brief "Interlude" paints a magnificent still-life of big city existence. The bluesy and tradional "Franklin Steps" has much to love, particularly from drummer Kay, along with some cool poly-tonality. The soloing is a bit par for the course from just about everybody except Healy - who has a stellar turn on piano. "Gaslight" is expectedly film-noir, not quite establishing itself but boasting a truly wonderful ending.

Packed with intrigue is "Koko On the Boulevard"; more fabulous dynamic build ups over fun and ambiguous form with lush, complex harmonies and a seriously shining solo from Doug Webb on baritone sax. It all gets wrapped up by a neat combo of muted brass and clarinets. The closing "Prelude" (actually the first of the set to be composed) in particular evokes Ellington; more femme fatale music complete with Johnny Hodges-style vibrato and a mellow trumpet solo from Brian Swartz (just about all the soloists on this album are knockouts). Some of the best writing is saved for the end of the suite with lovely, shimmering ascending and descending lines.

One hesitates to toss around the word masterpiece these days in regards to a larger jazz composition, since there are so many. "Hudson City Suite" is one, perhaps the first true masterpiece of the new millenium. If you like Ellington, you will absolutely love it; a very, very strong work that is highly enjoyable to listen to straight through (rare!) Check it out! 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Long-Ass Car Ride Review - Raquel Cepeda

Long-Ass Car Ride Reviews: I take long-ass car rides, I listen to albums, I let you know if they are worthwhile.

Raquel Cepeda - "I'm Confessin'" (2012) 8/10

Paul English - piano flugelhorn, trumpet; Jeffry Eckels - bass; Dean Macomber - drums; Warren Sneed - tenor/soprano saxes; Daved Cáceres - alto/tenor saxes; etc

In a word: Impressive

After 15 years as a geologist, Venezuelan born, Houston resident Raquel Cepeda throws her vocalist hat in the ring and comes out a champ with this impressive debut. The album is a good mix of familiar standards and Latin numbers with a few surprises including an exquisite original "Me Flechaste el Corazon", where Raquel displays an ease in her upper register. In general her voice is a full-bodied alto with clarity and attention to detail, spot-on pitch, control and plenty of expressive eloquence. Her gift in particular is an absorption of the lyric's meaning, relaying it effortlessly but with great impact. "Besame Mucho" is very slow, very long, and
photo by Diana Simonetta
totally worth it. The opener "East of the Sun" swings dreamily; an uptempo "What Is This Thing Called Love" burns and sports a cool unison chorus with Raquel and Warren Sneed on tenor, as well a great drum outting from Dean Macomber. Samba "Chega de Saudade" is handled with lovely grace in front of a neat horn chart, with winning solos from David Caceres on alto and producer Paul English on electric piano. Especially interesting and appealing is the gentle lilt of "Dream a Little Dream of Me" as a jazz waltz (!), with another convincing and sensual vocal. The best track comes rather late in the album; "How Deep Is The Ocean", reworked as a Bossa. Cepeda manages to tenderly reveal what an astounding proclamation of love is hidden in the comparative lyric. There are plenty more fine moments. All the superb backing (see the musician list) as well as a beautiful production (including an occasional string section) enhance an already solid performance. Take a chance on this one!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Long-Ass Car Ride Review - Alex Snydman!

Long-Ass Car Ride Reviews: I take long-ass car rides, I listen to albums, I let you know if they are worthwhile.

Alex Snydman - "Fortunate Action" (2012) 8/10
Alex Snydman - drums; Chris Pattishall, Miro Sprague, Doug Abrams - piano
Alec Derian, Tyler Heydolph - bass; Carl Clements - saxes

In a word: stimulating

For a drummer led affair - this is a subtle, beautiful work of art that is extremely pleasant and focuses on beauty rather than intricacy! Three different, distinguished pianists (and hence, composers) help keep things stimulating; along with great material, a fond mix, and nice textures and drive from Alex Snydman. Pianist Doug Abrams is the most adventurous, his
photo by Jesse Shotland
"Cross Fade" is a delight of complex rhythms matched with soulful, hooky melodies. Miro Sprague is the dreamier of the three. His title track (co-written with Snydman) is adventuresome, pretty and nebulous. Chris Pattishall plays on the covers as well as his own opener "In Joy". All three cuts are pleasant on the ears, the cover of Herbie Hancock's "Tell Me a Bedtime Story" in particular fascinates and brings strong performances from all. Snydman flexes his own compositional chops for the closer "Eternal Recurrence" dedicated to John Coltrane.
The addition of saxophonist Carl Clements on two cuts with Abrams is a real bonus. The bassists do their job and groove, but keep from the limelight for the most part. Partly because all three pianists are on the same piano - there is a wonderful continuity to the album. Memorable and plenty of intrigue. Nice!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Long-Ass Car Ride Review - Mike Pope!

 Long-Ass Car Ride Reviews: I take long-ass car rides, I listen to albums, I let you know if they are worthwhile.

Mike Pope - "Cold Truth, Warm Heart" (2011) 8/10

In a word - keeper

Mike Pope - basses, Seamus Blake - tenor sax, Joe Locke - vibes, Geoffrey Keezer - pianos, Alan Blackman - piano on "Prelude...", Mauricio Zottarelli - drums, Lydia Courtney - add. vibes on "Ether".  

Once in a while you come across an album that unexpectedly lands itself in your regular listening rotation. "Cold Truth, Warm Heart" has melodies fancy and cool, a distinctive sound thanks to the addition of Joe Locke on vibes (and a well-parlayed assortment of tonal combinations), a variety of approaches not heard on many jazz releases today, and a great band of name players who are giving full-throttle performances.

Best tracks: all of them. "Prelude in E Min Op. 28 No. 4 (Chopin)". Pope expands certain measures of the piece, and gives a heartfelt, wonderful demonstration of his massive skill on electric bass, obviously influenced by Patitucci. (Who isn't?) "Bare Minimum" is highly reminiscent of mid 70's Bobby Hutcherson/George Cables angularity, very satisfying swing! "Out of the Ether" is descriptively titled, beautiful dreamy stuff. "Shadow of a Doubt" is a showcase for both Seamus Blake's hot tenor and a Geoffrey Keezer two-fisted piano and rhodes tirade! The opening title track sports a neat phrase, and has the classy move of Pope taking the last solo - it's a good one. Gliere's "Romance" becomes an enchanting mid-tempo ballad handled delicately. "RAL and Tonto" makes nice use of a fascinating vibes and bass combo on the melody, Keezer takes a monster solo on Rhodes with tremendous support from drummer Mauricio Zotterelli. LOTS of good music on this release - a new millennium keeper!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Long-Ass Car Ride Reviews - Duets! Steve Wilson, Lewis Nash

Long-Ass Car Ride Reviews: I take long-ass car rides, I listen to albums, I let you know if they are worthwhile.

Photo (C) John Abbott
To be honest - duo albums are not usually go-to albums for me. Often there is pomposity and heaviness or just a barrenness that can't be overcome by talent. Coincidence had me grab these 2 duet albums for a driving weekend. Boy! was I ever pleased that both were so awesome. Fun & musicality prevail for both.

Superb musicians having quality fun!
Steve Wilson|Lewis Nash - "Duologue" (2013) 8.75/10
Steve Wilson - saxes; Lewis Nash - drums

In a word - delightful

Both the title and the artwork had me a bit worried, but this is the best album I've heard in a long while, period. It is simply delightful all the way through. There is never a moment where you miss a fuller rhythm section or harmonic bedding. A wonderful balance of lightheartedness and intrigue pervades; the only real serious moments, and they are excellent, are for the Steve Wilson originals - "Black Gold" being particularly fine with funky, quirky hooks and Wilson's brilliant soprano chops. Other highlights include lightly driving alto and drums on a bright and splendid "Jitterbug Waltz". Thelonious Monk's angular approach adapts so well to the sparsity - both medleys thrill and entice. A solo drums version of "Freedom Jazz Dance"? Genius! Lewis Nash demonstrates the sensitivity that makes him one of the best drummers on the planet today, making everything sound easy and fun. Steve Wilson's tone on both horns has beautiful appeal - his abundant flow of ideas draw you in immediately on the two opening Ellington selections. Ornette Coleman's "Happy House" was a neat and fitting choice. Then there's the sound - simply stunning (kudos, Jay Dudt); Nash's drums sound so darn good! If you buy one album in this year's set of reviews - make it this one. Very satisfying!

two jazz giants mesh!

Fred Hersch and Julian Lage - "Free Flying" (2013) 8.25/10

Fred Hersch - piano; Julian Lage - guitar

In a word - lightness

There is of course more headiness involved with this duo than the above album, but surprisingly "Free Flying" is also mostly a lighthearted and occasionally whimsical affair. The empathy displayed in the opening "Song Without Words #4: Duet" is astonishing; especially considering these two only met in 2011. The sound at the club Kitano is so right for the timbre presented; I remember being surprised to hear applause at the end of this one - not at all sounding like a 'live' album. "Down Home (for Bill Frissell)" is appropriately bluesy/gospelly, but much more uplifting and good-spirited than anything Frissell has put out! All of the Fred Hersch dedicated originals are slyly fitting. "Free Flying" is an exceptional work; playful, puckish and memorable - all the while the tightness of Hersch & Lage is jaw-dropping. The audience is particularly dazzled by this one and the similarly clever, bluesy "Stealthiness". "Gravity's Pull" and a heartfelt but airborn "Beatrice" (Sam River's haunting classic) are the best cuts; there is just so much improvisatory talent here, as well as very astute comping behind one another. The closing "Monk's Dream" also wows. Hopefully these two will continue to record together - this is nearly perfect modern jazz.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Long-Ass Car Ride Review - Mark Buselli

Long-Ass Car Ride Reviews: I take long-ass car rides, I listen to albums, I let you know if they are worthwhile.

pretty artwork!
Mark Buselli - Untold Stories (2013) 7.75/10

Mark Buselli - trumpet, flugelhorn
Danny Walsh - saxophones
Steve Allee - piano
Jeremy Allen - bass
Steve Houghton - drums

In a word: pleasant!

Don't be fooled by the artwork - it isn't professor jazz and it's not boring straight-ahead, either. Very good players tackle very good, positive music. The opening title track has appealing melody and solos. Pianist Steve Allee's "Slider" could be right off of a 1965 Lee Morgan album. There's nothing wrong with that when it's done well, and it is. Buselli's take on Ellington's "Angelica" winds up being the best track among many good ones; alternating between a happy, gentle funk and swing; Saxophonist Danny Walsh sounds great, here. Buselli's soothing ballad

"Claude" is a nice showcase for his superb flugelhorn with a busy but cool solo, Allee really shines, as well. "Istanbul" is pleasantly jaunty but still manages to sneak in the neat chordal hooks that pervade throughout the album. The long form allows for a lot of great solos: Bassist Jeremy Allen has an excellent turn and Buselli is reminiscent of Art Farmer with fine tone and moody, pretty, searching lines. The pianist's "What About Me" (over "How About You" changes) is whimsical and Konitz-y with pop inspirations where everyone shows off their considerable bebop/postbop vocabulary; Walsh sounding particularly cozy on the alto, and drummer Houghton finally getting some. The combo of alto/flugelhorn in unison is very nice, at times sounding like a human voice. "Jetstream" makes a good closer with it's simplistic melodies and strong outings from everyone. Nice sound from all, an excellent band with modern, feel-good music. Winning!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Long-Ass Car Ride Review! - World Jazz from NYC

Long-Ass Car Ride Reviews: I take long-ass car rides, I listen to albums, I let you know if they are worthwhile.

Trio Shalva

This week coincidence strikes again! Both albums I grabbed were recorded at The Bunker in Brooklyn, and both album artists were born in Israel and embrace a new-ish approach to jazz, mixed with forms/songs from their homeland, surrounding middle eastern countries, and beyond. They also both make great driving music!

Trio Shalva - "Breeza" (2013) 7.5/10

Assaf Gleizner - piano, melodica, guitar
Koby Hayon - bass, oud
Nadav Snir-Zelniker - drums, percussion

In a word: cool

Good stuff. A mix of Hebrew songs, originals and some Beatles & Bjork; with modern arrangements reflecting their origin, variety of tone colors thanks to the multi-instrumental skills, and all played with serious spunk. Their is some metric modulation played expertly that will tickle others in the know. For the rest of the, there are plenty of hip Hebrew melodies employed, cool mid-eastern riffs that drive and rock, [both found in the excellent opener "Mizmor Laila (Melody of the Night)" as well as the enlivened and upgraded "Eleanor Rigby"] fun twists in swing and tempo changes ("Ani Godin"), and for those who dig mideastern folk/improvisation there is the splendid oud playing of Koby Hayon blendid with haunting melodica by Gleizner on "Yad Anuga (A Delicate Hand)". Some ballady but artistically fluid piano trio cuts balance things out (the waltz-meets-freetempo "Isabella"). Hard to pick a favorite, but the uptempo opener has many delights. These guys are a good unit. You will dig. 

Oran Etkin - "Gathering Light" (2013) - 7.5/10

Oran Etkin - bass clarinet, clarinet, tenor sax
Ben Allison - bass; Curtis Fowlkes - trombone
Lionel Loueke - guitar, vocals; Nasheet Waits - drums

In a word: fanciful

Very cool trio numbers with just bass, drums and bass clarinet; and quintet numbers that have neat instrumentation. The players obviously are relishing this music. Oran Etkin has a sumptuous clarinet tone, his bass clarinet is downright astonishing. The album opens with "Gambang Suling", an Indonesian folk song that cooks and immediately shows off Etkins range and expression on the bass clarinet. "Taxi Dance" is a fanciful romp in 6, one of three numbers about an imaginary, mischievous globetrotter named Tony (!) where Etkin's delightful clarinet and Curtis Fowlkes trombone have a marvelous, dixieland-like rapport. Another fine element and timbre in the mix is Lionel Loueke, who frequently employs electronics to delightful and ear-tickling effect, and fits perfectly behind the horns, when he's not taking fully committed solos. Between numbers like the quirky and oddly funky "All I Really Wanna Do Is Dance" (duo with marvelous bassist Ben Allison) are calmer, reflective pieces like "Shirim Ad Kan" and "Scattering Light", the latter showing Etkin to have a unique voice on tenor as well, and the capacity to entertain at slower tempos. Tunes from Asia, Belgium, a Yiddish song and even a chilled "When It's Sleepy Time Down South" add even more variety; yet somehow the album comes out congruently as a whole, and will likely entice you back for more listens than you may have predicted. Kudos!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Long-Ass Car Ride Review! - Sam Boshnack, Adam Schroeder

Long-Ass Car Ride Reviews: I take long-ass car rides, I listen to entire albums, I
Adam Schroeder
let you know if they're worthwhile.

This week's albums have nice, unusual sound combinations, careful arrangements and a welcome sense of fun!

Sam Boshnack Quintet - Exploding Syndrome (2014) - 7/10

Samantha Boshnack - trumpet, flugelhorn; Beth Fleenar - clarinet, bass clarinet; Dawn Clement - piano, wurlitzer, keyboards; Isaac Castillo -- upright bass; Max Wood - drums, percussion

In a word: remarkable

The album starts off in a positive, fun mood and gradually descends into heaviness and seriousness. This is, after all, chamber jazz. The unique, singable repeated melodies in the first couple of cuts are selling points, and the playing is very strong at times. These are very, very well groomed compositions with fun twists and turns; the players obviously love the music; all originals penned by Boshnack. The sounds and instrument combinations are almost always delightful. The best cut is "Suite for Seattle's Royal Court Movement 1"'; "Juba" and "Dormant" also are ear/brain pleasers. The album lost a point for the slowly building headiness and especially for the crazed vocal moment in the title track (the only actual "exploding" on the cd) it's rather ridiculously out of place and disconcerting, it briefly ruins the otherwise superb vibe. Still - this is fresh and vital music performed exuberantly. Looking for something different and satisfying - this is it.

Adam Schroeder - Let's (2013) 8/10

Adam Schroeder - baritone sax, Anthony Wilson - guitar, John Clayton - bass, Jeff Hamilton - drums

In a word - remarkable

With one of the best baritone sax sounds on earth - it's hard not to thoroughly enjoy this release, with the killer Clayton/Hamilton rhythm section in peak form, and the striking combo of guitar and bari, Anthony Wilson being the perfect foil for Schroeder in every way. Much of the album has a playful and lighthearted mood, thanks to selections like Duke Pearson's "Hello Bright Sunflower" and the old standard "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams". There are some unusual and striking surprises like Sam Coslow's "In the Middle of a Kiss" and Thad Jone's title track. Adam Schroeder is also blessed with sheer musicality; he's always saying something, and often just enough, only breaking into bebop staple licks (very well executed) on the burner "A Hawkeye, a Hoosier & Two Call Cats". The ballads are lovely and meaningful. The best tune is a Schroeder original - the funky and fun "Just Clap Your Hands", written for his daughter. Great jazz in the new millennium - you will enjoy this one.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Long-Ass Car Ride Review! Peter Bernstein, Chris Kelsey/Dom Minasi

Long-Ass Car Ride Reviews: I take long-ass car rides, I listen to albums, I let you know if they are worthwhile.

Peter Bernstein with the Tilden Webb Trio - Live at Cory Weeds' Cellar Jazz Club (2012) 7.25/10

In a word - satisfying

The album begins slightly ho-hum with the only original in the set: "Bones", a commonplace blues head. On the heels of that is the cd's standout track "Darn That Dream". Yep. It's a Cellar Live label release of straight-aheadness. Peter Bernstein's sincerity and quest for harmonic expression make this particular one quite worthwhile, and the trio is very supportive. Standard after standard receive Bernstein's full emotional commitment and technical expertise. "Darn That Dream" shows off his luscious guitar tones and constant stream of solid ideas that please and fascinate. "Love For Sale" features several very fine choruses, the final chordal one is especially fine. "Wise One" was a great choice to offset the warhorses, but would've fared better without the McCoy-isms and Elvin-isms. "Come Rain or Come Shine" sports the best solo from competent and swinging pianist Tilden Webb. Bassist Jodi Proznick takes a lengthy turn in "Django" and drummer Jesse Cahill finally gets some in "What Is This Thing Called Love", but mostly the unit does a great job in letting Bernstein shine, giving him plenty of comfort while he lets loose. Well played live jazz!


Chris Kelsey & Dom Minasi - Duets|NYC/Woodstock (2014) 6.25/10

In a word - Braxtony

The cons: First off - completely free jazz is not my bag. Seriously, whose bag is it? If it's yours, you can add another 2 points to the rating. Truth: the layman off the street won't be able to distinguish the middle of one track from the middle of another. There is nothing "new" here, it could easily be a recording from 1965. Finally - I think Dom Minasi is a great guitarist. It's hard to tell from the sound he emits on this release. Think Joe Cinderella on vinyl circa 1957, your stylus is shot and there's a healthy wad of dust under it, plus someone draped an old tee shirt over one of the speakers. About midway thru the album I got a slight headache coincidentally on the same side as Minasi's guitar is panned.
The pros:
I never felt compelled to turn the cd off. Chris Kelsey is quite the gifted soprano saxophonist (highly evidenced during the last minute of the opener "Fondness & Trepidation"). His tone is great and both artists cover most of the emotional spectrum allowed by this sort of music. The necessary empathy between players is in abundance. The tunes (if I may use that word) are never boring and more often than not engaging (they can in fact be distinguished one from the other). The shorter cuts work best. "Tip Toe" was my favorite, and "Blues Ultimatum" and "That Ain't the Blues" are also highlights. If you are in the mood for this sort of thing, it will be a fine listen.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Long-Ass Car Ride Review! - Gloria Estefan, MARS 4-Tet

Long-Ass Car Ride Review: I take long-ass car rides, I listen to albums, I let you know if they're worthwhile.

Gloria Estefan - The Standards (2013) 6.25/10

in a word: suitable

I was not expecting to like this at all...were you? lol Surprisingly, this is a decent album. Her voice has aged well and is nicely suited to most of the material. Sinatra she is not, but the lyrics are internalized in her usual fashion (just enough), going for beauty more often than drama. There are even moments when you will be slightly impressed, she can be wonderfully precise on her approach. All of the readings are competent and enjoyable. She doesn't reach beyond here stylistic limitations, but rather works with what she has and pulls it off. The arrangements are by Shelly Berg, so the harmonies keep the otherwise innocuous backdrops interesting. The playing is competent but no soloist really soars. Estefan sounds best (of course) on the tracks with Latin rhythms (Eu Sie Que Vou Te Amar in particular is well done) but really all the tracks work fine but for one: the jazziest and oddly arranged "How Long Has This Been Going On". Highlights include "Good Morning Heartache", "The Way You Look Tonight" and "Young At Heart". It's mellow, for sure, but it's nice.

MARS 4-Tet - The Blind Watchmaker (2014) 7.25/10

In a word: peaceful

Although the album is bookended by playfulness; a fun, inventive spin on Thelonious Monk's "Bye Ya" and a more chaotic and reinvented "Black Dog" (Led Zeppelin), the majority of this album has a mellow, slightly spacy jazz rock air to it; due in part to the rounder guitar sound Donato Soveiro favors (although he does employ a sweet rock tone here and there) as well as a superb mix. Everyone plays just fine, and this band functions very well as a unit. The standout track by far is saxophonist Jeff Antoniuk's moody and dreamy "Suddenly". The two Americana-flavored cuts also are pretty hip, Antoniuk's gospel-esque "Cowboy" and a fine reading of Keith Jarrett's "Country". No clunkers on the disc, and Soveiro's "Rudy's Blues" throws in a nice bit of contrasting straight-ahead feel. Overall, the originals by Antoniuk and Soveiro that dominate the set are unique, hypnotic, often easy on the ears and executed with taste and appeal. Good jazz!


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Long-Ass Car Ride Review! - Nate Najar, Tom Lagana

New feature on this blog! The long-ass car ride review: I take long-ass car rides, I listen to albums, I let you know if they're worthwhile.


This week by coincidence I grabbed 2 cds from the unlistened to jazz shelf with very similar intents: Brazilian jazz headed up by acoustic guitarists who aren't Brazilian. The approaches to the music are extreme, with subsequently extreme results. One works, one irks.

Nate Najar - Aquarela do Brasil (2013) 3/10
This will hardly be a review, since the album both annoyed me and frequently blended into the road noise. There is no lack of talent here, Nate is a fantastic guitarist. There is just an air of pretension & pedantry that turned me off: "we are about to show you how Brazilian music is done". In addition - not that I follow Harry Allen that much, but he conjures up Getz here to a degree I'm not comfortable with. The best tracks are "Canto de Ossanha" and the title track, (known to the rest of us simply as "Brazil"). Bassist Tommy Cecil's "Samba for Felix" also has it's moments. As I mentioned - the cd annoyed me, but not enough to make me shut it off. I think there are plenty of jazz lovers out there who will love it to pieces.

Tom Lagana Group featuring George Garzone - Vol. 1 (2013) - 7/10

The approach to Brazilian on this album is very casual and relaxed. Occasionally this results in overly long ballads. By and large though, this is a highly listenable album with quality sound and performances. There are just a few legit Brazilian numbers (Jobim's "Outra Vez" is a nice opener, Ary Barroso's "Para Machucar Meu Coracao" is lovely but very long) along with a few originals, the best being bassist Tom Baldwin's "Bossa Moderna"; and pleasant standards ("The Shadow of Your Smile", "Moonlight in Vermont" and in particular the duo version of "Nature Boy" are all very worthwhile listens). Baldwin and drummer Dominic Smith provide appropriately minimal support for this setting with enough pep to prevent boredom. The whole show is Lagana - who plays with heart and very little pretense, and Garzone - whose tone is lovely as %^&* and who is in a very subdued mode, for the most part. I have not heard him play this way - it's awesome. The best track is a simple reading of Chick Corea's "Armando's Rhumba", with Garzone waking things up on soprano.