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Terri Lynn Carrington
The Mosaic Project: Love and Soul
June 11, 2018 Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival Series
This Friday night, June 15, 2018, the inaugural occurrence of the Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival will begin with an appearance of Mr. Marcus Miller at the August Wilson Center (Brian’s Corner May 21, 2018). But on Saturday, June 16, 2018 from 7:30 – 9:00 at the Liberty Avenue Stage II, Jazz Drum great Terri Lynn Carrington will grace the stage.
Terri Lynn is a multi-genre drummer who first came to prominence when she played in the house band of the Arsenio Hall show in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. She has plied her craft in jazz, R & B and Smooth jazz, and her 2015 CD The Mosaic Project; Love and Soul is not only a smooth jazz masterpiece, but it also features some of the best female singers in the country. This album is a “who’s who” of great female singers within the jazz and R & B framework.
Terri Lynn composed six songs on this masterful disc. Other songs were written by such notable composers as Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra, Ashford and Simpson, Marcus Miller and Luther Vandros, and others. Terri Lynn also picked a stellar group of female musicians to grace each track, and an equally stellar group of female singers for each track as well. Among those singing on this album are the voices of Ledisi, Chaka Khan, Nancy Wilson, Natale Cole (one of Natale’s final recordings), Lalah Hawthaway and Valarie Simpson.
The first track on this CD is the Ellington/Shirmer composition Come Sunday . This was Natale Cole’s last recording before her passing later that year, and it is appropriate because this song is a prayer. But there are two things you’ll immediately notice on this cut. The first thing you’ll notice is the narration, which is done by no other than Billy Dee Williams, and the second thing you’ll notice is the fantastic drumming of Terri Lynn. Terri Lynn’s counterpoint staccato drives the song along in an easy, but up-tempo beat.
This is a beautiful treatment of this song. The electric piano of Elin Sandberg is mellow and understated, and the mood expressed by the other instrumentation and backup singers is muted and soothing. Negah Santos plays a beautifully smooth alto sax solo that rises and falls along with the mood of the song, and emotes the hope described within the lyrics.
But the best part of the song is the vocals of Natalie Cole. Natalie’s approach is strong but easy. She sings in a manner that makes the lyrics seem to glide from her vocal cords. There is no strain, and no hurried or tentative notes. She seems to simply allow the lovely words to glide from her throat with no effort at all. She ends the song with an easy and beautifully melodic scat. She was a remarkable singer, and this song is testament to her amazing abilities and a capstone of her amazing life and career.
The second song on the LP is entitled I’m a Fool To Want You .This is a modern treatment of a 1957 classic written by Frank Sinatra, Jack Wolf and Joel Herron . The classic voice of Chaka Khan allows the emotion portrayed in the original to be translated to the twenty-first century, in a satin danceable beat. Whereas the original was done in a Hollywood orchestral style (and the original is marvelous; Sinatra at his peak of performance and the Hollywood style arrangement at an emotional height; check out the link and compare the two), this cover is done in a modern neo-soul smooth jazz style that reinvents this song as though it was written yesterday, and not nearly sixty-one years ago. There is also a fantastic soprano saxophone solo done by one of my favorite sax players Ms. Tineke Postma (look for an upcoming album review of her work coming soon). Tineke is a world class sax player and her work her adds greatly to the quality of this impressive cover.
Chaka is sparkling on this track. She is at her best and demonstrates that she has not lost a bit of her prodigious vocal talent. But she also demonstrates that her years in the business honing her emotive prowess allows her to transpose a song from five decades ago seamlessly into this era. This song is spectacular.
This album is so good (sorry bout that), that I could actually take each song and easily review it, but for brevity sake, I’ll skip down to song number four (not so big of a skip); this song is named So Good (Amazing), and this song is actually one of my favorites. It’s a song that I liked back in 2015 before I realized that it was on this album. Its sung by the effervescent Jaguar Wright! This song jams! It’s written by Terri Lynn and it smokes, and Jaguar kills on this track. Jaguar sings in a sultry sexy voice that carries anything she does, and she carries this tune to the finish line it in stellar fashion.
The song is R & B magic, and if you haven’t heard it before (and that is hard for me to believe), then you are in for a treat. This song will lift your mood. It’s a fun song, that sings of love and promise and it’s also simply nice to hear people who are obviously having a good time laying down a track for others to enjoy. This is one of those tunes. Not much description necessary here, just have a listen.
The number eight song on the album features Lalah Hathaway and is entitled This too will pass. The song is written by Terri Lynn; it’s a somber tune that tells of difficult realities of life. The guitar of Negah Santos, Linda Taylor’s bass, and the subtle organ of Lauren fuller are featured on this song, as well as tight horn ensemble work.
Lalah’s penchant for storytelling in her music is on full display on this track. This is a talent she shares with her dad, and Lalah has received the knack for the artform of musical narration honestly. This song is a sad song with a ray of sunshine in the lyrics, and nobody could have done it better than she.
Can’t Resist is the ninth tune on this album. A subtle love song in a conversational tone, this song is intimate and tender, and this song is special because it features a special lead singer on it, Terri Lynn Carrington. And Terri Lynn’s sweet voice has an intimate tender tone to it that adds a shy innocence to the lyric and delivery.
The addition of Patrice Rushen on Piano adds to the all-star fire power on this album and adds to the musicianship on this piece. All the ladies on this particular track add their talents to make a song that would make any man sit up and take note. The intimate workings of a woman’s mind on display. It’s cute and definitely sexy, and the musicianship is world class. It’s like a pleasant summer date tucked away in a jar to be enjoyed anytime like a vivid memory. When art reaches this level, you realize, once again, that you are listening to top notch talent.
The last song I’ll talk about is Get to Know You featuring Ledisi. Ledisi is one of my favorite singers, and she’s everywhere. She has a strong distinctive voice, and the woman can flat out sing. And it doesn’t hurt that she’s so cute either. Her voice is sexy and emoting, and she has all the tools to use it to wow anybody who hears her, and she does it on this tune too.
This song is written by none other than Terri Lynn Carrington, and it’s as though she wrote it for Ledisi. The song itself unfolds in layers. It slowly builds and then settles into a platform that allows the singer to float along on a river of sound that accentuates the lyrics and tone Ledisi expertly sets. It’s a gorgeous song and it has definite hit potential, and it would probably be a hit if it weren’t for the fact that Ledisi’s own album has several hits on it that are played on the air already. This one should take its rightful place alongside the others. Very nice tune indeed!
Well, of course I could go on, but I’ve said enough, and it’s time to thank any and all of you who have taken the time out of your busy day to read my thoughts. As always, I hoped you enjoyed reading this work as much as I enjoyed writing it. It’s always a pleasure to share my thoughts and feeling with readers. And if you’d like, feel free to leave any feedback in the space provided.
If you get the chance, go to downtown Pittsburgh and check out the Jazz Festival. You will not be disappointed. You might just see me there. I’ll be on “Brian’s Corner” of course.
And remember to be on the lookout for our updated website; it’s coming real soon (I promise).
Thanks again, and next time “Catch You On the Corner”!
Kenny Garrett Quintet
Do Your Dance!
June 4, 2018 Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival Series
The third installment of the PIJF series is the most recent album of Detroit Michigan’s native son Kenny Garrett entitled Do Your Dance.
Kenny’s first album was released in 1985; he’s a master musician, and a veteran of the industry. He not only plays alto sax, soprano sax, flute, piano, and Shiruti box on this album, but he composed, and arranged every track on it, and he co-produced the entire project too. To say the man is multi- talented is an understatement. He is adept at all phases of music production and interpretation, and this CD is a shining testament to that expertise.
The first song of this LP is entitled Philly. On this track Kenny plays the alto saxophone, Vernell Brown Jr. plays an amazing piano, Corcoran Holt plays bass, and Ronald Bruner Jr. plays drums in a very beautiful and musical fashion.
The beginning of the song is slow speculative and beautiful. It’s open with Vernell’s pensive searchingly quiet examination of the melody on the solo piano. Its’ lovely and enchanting, Vernell carries the mood along for a few measures, but as he begins to restate the theme he then breaks into a bop-ish groove that examines the same melody from a driving modern beat, pulse and feel with the full band and Kevin carrying the lead. The feel is almost frenetic in mood, but the musicianship of the players prevents the pace from becoming overwhelming, and instead allows the listener to enjoy the upbeat examination of the theme via the vehicle of this tight quartet.
As with so many great musicians, the listener can hear shades of influence from past generations of players while the uniqueness of the individual is still at the forefront. This quartet is killer. They are examples of not only being students of the genre, but players and innovators as well. Kenny solo is creative, logical and musically balanced. When Vernell finally takes over, it is as though a caged animal has been unleashed. He attacks the piece with eloquence and ferocity that is astounding; I want to hear more from this man (and you do later on in the album). The piece is well rounded and complete, and once the end is heard, the listeners feels that completeness as only true artists can deliver.
I have never really knowingly listened to Kenny, but from track one, I know I’m listening to musical genius of the highest degree. But, I also know that this man knows how to evaluate talent, and he has constructed a band of the highest degree to complement his talent and grace the collective musical palate of his audience. All three supporting bandmates are consummate musicians, and their skills grace and augment the whole. Great cut!
The next cut I’d like to talk about is the third cut on the CD Wheatgrass Shot (Straight To The Head). This song again features Vernell Brown Jr. on piano, and Corcoran Holt on bass, but it also features Rudy Bird on percussion, and McClenty Hunter on drums, but the most interesting feature of this track (and maybe the entire album) is the appearance of Donald “Mista Enz” Brown Jr. as the “Rapper” on this cut.
Now, this is a true “jazz” tune. It is not hip hop or popish in any sense of the genres. It’s straight ahead jazz that ever so slightly leans towards the Avant-garde. It’s well done with a tension that is initially built up by the sax and piano, but the hook is strictly jazz; jazz at its best. Jazz and hip-hop have so much in common historically speaking, and to hear the two wedded together in such a way is appropriate because both forms of music were a distinct revolt from the norm. This song has melded the best of both forms, and the drum and percussion act as the bridge between the two respected musical artforms, with the two instruments also continuing to carry the tension that was initially carried by sax and piano. I’ve heard hiphop and jazz done together before in some very fine ways, but none that I’ve heard was ever done better than this (maybe just as well, but not better), and that is saying something.
Mista Enz’ rap is phenomenal. He’s a natural for this marriage. He has a flow that augments what is being played and his bars bring the head nodding flavor of hiphop to the jazz album in such a way that it does not sound at all out of place. A tune well worth listening to. My hat is off to this crew!
The fifth song of this CD is the title track Do Your Dance, and this song is appropriately named because it JAMS! Mr. Garrett and crew stretch out on this thing and lay down a danceable groove the will make you pat your foot and want to get up and do your thing. This song is reminiscent of the 60’s groove set down by Jimmy Smith or Stanley Tarentine. It’s a good song to listen to, and the musicians seem to be having fun jamming to the incessant beat. Every band needs s good song to jam to and this is the one for this band on this album. On the live version of this song (the one I linked to), you can hear that Kenny does not have a bad singing voice, and he does know how to jam.
The players on this cut are the same players as are on cut 3, with Mista Enz making a return appearance near the end of the cut. The bass, piano and drum jam in a fashion that can be heard on tracks of old such as Ramsey Lewis’ In Crowd. The feel is similar without being a copy. Well done, and another good song.
Next, I’ll skip down to the eighth song on the CD Persian Steps. This song sticks out for three reasons; number one, it’s the longest song on the album at 8 minutes and 8 seconds, and number two, there is a ubiquitous chant by pianist Vernon Brown (who does not play piano on this track). But the third reason has to do with instrumentation. On this song Kenny plays piano, flute and the Shruti Box, an instrument of Chinese origin that looks like a box with levers on the face of it and it sounds somewhat like an organ or accordion (the box can be heard at the beginning of the song).
The song has an eerie feel to it due to the chanting, but that eeriness is augmented by the flute and piano at times playing notes in unison. The combination of all this creates an exotic, and at times eerie sound that is grounded only by the presence of the jazz drum of Ronald Bruner Jr.
This song is very nice, and it must be remembered that it was written by Kenny. I say this because of the uniqueness of the tune, and also because this entire album has a classic feel to it. But this song has a groove and feel that is all its own. Kenny’s piano playing is measured and thoughtful. The cords are expressive and carefully chosen. It’s an excellent demonstration of the many facets of jazz music. It carries the listener to the edge of the exotic world of foreign music, but at the same times it is grounded in the American style that parented this great art form. Very nice indeed.
The last song on the album is entitled Chasing The Wind. On this tune Kenny comes back home with a straight-ahead groove. His band on this track is the same band that is on his opening cut with Brown, Holt, and Bruner carrying the heavy smooth load. This song is a demonstration of what jazz players are all about. Good music using the vehicles of virtuosity and musicality. This is good listening music, and good thinking music. The players stretch out and burn the eardrums for five minutes and thirty-eight hot, funky minutes. Kenny’s virtuosity and musicianship are on display for all to see. He doesn’t hold back, but simply has fun jamming with the crew. His interplay with the piano and the rest of the bandmates is phenomenal. This is world class jazz music at its finest. I don’t care what genre you may like, or what may be your favorite, but if you cannot hear the quality in this cut, the you simply don’t want to. This track is incredible.
And please pay close attention to the solo played by Vernell Brown Jr. This man is a beast of a pianist. Incredible from start to end. A fine piece for a fantastic album that is a pleasure to listen to. Pittsburgh will be getting a world class player in its inaugural Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival. Go see this man!
Kenny Garrett will be appearing Sunday, June 17 at Stage II on Liberty Avenue from 3:45 -5:00 p.m. It will be a phenomenal show you don’t want to miss.
Well, again, as always it was an absolute pleasure to write this article. This is the best job in the world! I get to listen to great music played by great players, and then I sit down and tell you good folks about it. Who could ask for anything better?
I’d like to thank any and all of you who took the time out of their busy day to relax with me and read this article. Let me assure you that you didn’t have as much fun reading it as I had writing it.
Also, come on down to the Hilton Garden Inn in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh every first Friday of the month for our First Friday party night. There is always plenty of good music, great food, and great dancing there for your “grown folks” party night (and remember to tip the “hard working” wait staff!).
Next week I’ll end this Jazz festival series with an album by Terri Lynn Covington (it’s a good one with a guest singer on every cut!).
Thanks again; tell your family and friends, and next time “Catch You On The Corner”!
B. B. Suber
Cory Henry; Taking us to Church
The Revival (Live) Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival Series
May 28, 2018 Memorial Day Edition
I guess it is appropriate that we should be going to church on this Memorial Day, and Corey Henry is just the one to take us there. Cory is an organist and pianist who also happens to be the son of a preacher (Bishop Jeffrey White), and from his style one can tell that he used to (and probably still does), play organ for his dad in the church (and “yes” his dad is featured on this album singing “Old Rugged Cross). Cory has also played with the likes of Snaky Puppy, Michael McDonald, Boys II Men, Kenny Garette, and many other well-known secular and gospel artists. He and his band “The Funk Apostles” are scheduled to appear in The Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival (PIJF) on Saturday, June 16 at Liberty Avenue Stage 1 from 6:15 – 7:30PM.
The album being reviewed here is entitled The Revival. It’s a 2014 release recorded at The Greater Temple of Praise in Brooklyn, NY (yes, his dad’s church). And his stated purpose for recording this album was to feature the organ not only as a vehicle for gospel music in worship, but also to showcase the impact the instrument has in music in general. And being that the organ is one of my favorite instruments in jazz music as well as other musical genres, I was more than a little interested in what I would hear. For this review, I won’t concentrate too much on the gospel music, but instead I will focus on the jazz aspect of his playing (although I do have some Gospel Music reviews coming up in the not too distant future; D.V.)
The first tune I’d like to talk about is the Naanaanaa song. I chose this song because it’s an example of the pure joy this young man exhibits in his play. I can imagine him composing this song; just sitting down at keyboards and playing just because he’s happy, and this cute, beautiful song was the result. Now, the only accompaniment he had was the drums and tambourine, and of course the audience, but because of the instrument the sound is full and complete. That’s the magic of the organ. And believe me, this song will make you smile and put you in a good mood. You just can’t help it. One other fun aspect of this song is that it reminds me of another one of my favorite musicians, Bobby McFerrin. Bobby has the same kind of youthful exuberance and playful attitude in his music and with his audience, and I believe Cory has listened to Bobby a time or two. You simply cannot remain stuffy while listening to this one; this song won’t let you.
The very next song is entitled That is Why I’m Happy. Yes, this is a gospel song, but on this song, Cory really stretches out and shows off his chops. His musicianship and virtuosity are on full display, and the man is on fire. He starts out a little subdued (for him), but he slowly fans the fire, and by the end of the song he is fully lit. Immediately following the drum solo Cory really lights it up! He makes the organ roar with a driving groove and unadulterated funk! The man is a player, and please don’t let the venue fool you; church or not, this man will lay it down. He is startling in his virtuosity; a truly gifted musician!
On the eighth track of the CD, Cory interprets John Coltrane’s Giant Steps. Initially his approach has an eerie feel to it. The song seems to cautiously move along as he gains momentum and fully expresses his soulful intent as he enters the body of the song. Cory then enters the groove and lays down his interpretation in his own fresh handling of this piece that so many have done before him. He manages not only to keep the standard fresh, but at the same time stamps his name over the body of the work as though it were his own composition. Cory does exactly what any accomplished master does, he takes the historic and brings it to the contemporary in a fashion that not only makes it palatable to the new generation, but also keeps it satisfying to the traditionalists. His pedal bass play would make many bassists envious, and I imagine Jimmy Smith is looking down on Cory and giving him his nod of approval. This tune demonstrates that he can handle jazz with as much vim and expertise as he can with gospel. Exemplary work from a master musician.
The next song, number 9 on the album is another standard. This time by an R&B master with as much renown as John Coltrane. Cory pays homage to this great artist by doing his excellent interpretation of Stevie Wonder’s All is Fair in Love. The song begins with an almost dirge-like pace, which quickly evolves into a slow ballad feel. The song emotes the pain of love in a way that most have felt. Cory pulls so much emotion out of his instrument that you can almost hear the organ weep. It’s amazing. The final bars of this song cry in anguish as Cory brilliantly wrings tears from his instrument. His connection to the keyboard is astounding.
The eleventh song of the CD is entitled I Want To Be Ready. This song is an almost 12-minute ride of joy. On this song, the drumkit is replaced by an African drum and tambourine. Cory takes his time and stretches out in a joyous display of the love of music, and the love of the Gospel. There is just no other way to describe it. On this track, as well as on the entire album, you can tell that not only is Cory at home on the stage, but he is at home in the Pentecostal Church too. He has spent his whole life there, and his love for what he does, and Who he does it for shines through. I can imagine three-hour long church services with the young Cory inciting the congregation into throes of passion with his remarkable playing, and then bringing them to tears as he settles down into an emotional solo. This man can do it all on his instrument of choice.
This CD gets a big “Thumbs Up” from me.
But wait! At the PIJF Corey will not be solo but will be performing with his band “The Funk Apostles”. He probably won’t be playing too much gospel music (although I could be mistaken on that), because the new CD by his group has just been released, and it appears to be R & B heavy. But, a new single was released a little earlier on iTunes, and its entitled Trade It All. So, enjoy the live rehearsal version of the song here, go to iTunes and purchase the single (help the young man out), and if you have a chance, go see this man and his band do their thing. You won’t be disappointed.
Well, I’d like to thank all of you who took time out of their busy day to read this article. I have to say again that I really enjoy writing this column (Brian’s Corner). The research is so much fun. I get to hear great music, and I have the privilege of sharing it with you.
As usual, I sincerely hoped you enjoyed reading this article just as much as I enjoyed writing it. I wouldn’t be here without this audience, and I appreciate all of you. Feel free to leave any comments in the provided space and you can also give me a heads up if you want me to hear someone I may not be aware of, or a new album that I missed.
Be on the lookout for our updated website coming very soon. You will love its improved appearance and streamlined controls.
Come join N-Motion Entertainment at our First Friday Celebrations at the Pittsburgh Hilton Garden Inn in the Oakland section of the city every first Friday of the month. Come join us; listen to the music, dance, enjoy some delicious food, and “holler at your boy”!
Next week I’ll review PIJF’s featured artist Kenny Garrett’s latest CD Do Your Dance.
Thanks, again, to all of you. Take care, and next time “Catch You on the Corner”!
B. B. Suber
May 21, 2018
2018 Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival Series
In honor of the inaugural Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival, (PIJF), I will be writing a 4-week series of album reviews of artists who will be performing in town as part of the festival. Although there will be many more artists who will be performing during the 3-day event, I chose 4 who I feel will give a wide overview of the quality of artists that the attendees to the event can expect to hear.
The inaugural Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival (PIJF), will be held on June 15 – June 17, 2018. It will take place in several indoor and outdoor venues throughout the city. The kickoff for the Jazz Festival will be held on June 15th at 7:00 p.m. at the August Wilson Center on 980 Liberty Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh, PA, and will feature none other than the world renown bassist, composer, multi-instrumentalist, and one of my favorite DJs on Real Jazz (Sirius FM), Mr. Marcus Miller! And since Marcus will kick off the Jazz Festival, I felt it would only be appropriate that I review his album as a kick off to this PIJF album review series.
I conducted an abbreviated search of his music, and Marcus’ latest album Laid Back will not be released until June 1, 2018, and since I did not want to wait to start this four-week series (because I don’t want the series to run into the start of the PIJF), the latest album I could find of Marcus’ work is entitled AfroDeeZia. So, this is where I’ll begin (although I will do an album review of Laid Back sometime during the summer).
AfroDeeZia was released in 2015 on the world famous BlueNote label. The album contains eleven tracks, most of which Marcus composed, and it has some surprising guest artists on it as well (although nothing should be surprising considering Marcus’ avant-garde attitude towards what he plays and what he listens to). Among those guests on the album include the likes of Lala Hathaway, Corey Henry (a participant in the PIJF who I will be reviewing as part of this series), Robert Glasper, and Chuck D (formerly of Public Enemy). Marcus is a musician’s musician. He plays what he feels and loves, and he doesn’t seem to follow trends, but instead establishes them. I believe it’s that freedom of expression that makes fellow musicians so willing to work with him.
So, let’s check out some music:
The first cut on the CD is entitled Hylife. HyLife is a Smooth Jazz gem. It’s a mix of African beats and lyrics with Marcus’ signature bass style. The bassline thumps and rolls, but the vibe is smooth, cool and exotic. The horns are as equally soft and cool with nothing being overstated. This song rolls wonderfully along and carries the listener along with it. It’s musically complex enough for the most stringent of jazz listeners but its funky groove is hard enough for the smooth jazz aficionado’s taste as well.
This opening tune gives credence to the word “Afro” in the title. The tune pays tribute and honor to the African continent and the people and culture of that part of the world, but at the same time pays equal tribute and honor to the African descendants of this continent too. The amazing part of it all is that Marcus does this in his customary laid back, almost casual style. The man is so comfortable with who he is, and his place in the industry that it seems that that relaxed nature allows him to easily express who he is and gives him freedom to explore and expand the edges of his style and delivery.
The song features Lee Hogans smooth and flavorful trumpet solo, followed by a beautiful piano solo by Pittsburgh’s own Brett Williams, all being supported by a lush carpet of percussion is laid down by Adama Dembele. This interplay is followed by the passionate sax solo of Alex Han as an outro. This song is, as I previously stated, is a gem. I could listen to it repeatedly. But why do that when there is so much more to enjoy?
The third song of the album is entitled Preacher’s Kid, a beautiful ballad that begins with the angelic singing of a choir consisting of Julia Sart, Alune Wade, and Alvin Chea. The choir is marvelous and although I couldn’t find the translation of the lyrics of the song anywhere, I guess it really doesn’t matter. Beauty in any language is beauty.
One of the standout aspects of this track is the bass clarinet of none other than Marcus Miller. As I stated earlier, Marcus is a multi-instrumentalist, and he is just as accomplished on the bass clarinet as he is on the bass guitar. Marcus is a phenomenal musician in every aspect of the term, and most accolades do not describe his overall virtuosity and musicianship. His bass clarinet play is emotional and awe- inspiring. He makes the horn plead and cry in its haunting muted tone. Towards the middle of the song, the voice of Lala Hathaway can be heard harmonizing with the choir. Surprisingly, she takes on a supporting role and adds her voice to the beauty of the choir.
Another aspect of this masterpiece of seemingly unfettered beauty is the organ work of Cory Henry. Cory’s playing takes us right to Church, and yet it has a tinge of blues to it. There is no mistaking the reverential feel of this tune, and Cory is the capstone of it all.
The song ends with the voice of the Choir and Clarinet, and the hushed understated sound of the acoustic piano played by none other than…. Marcus Miller. Lovely. Another gem in this CD treasure chest.
With the fifth track, Marcus takes us back to the Old Skool; Papa Was A Rolling Stone, the Stone and Whitefield composition that was a hit and a standard for The Temptations. On this tract Marcus’ grittiness and funk mastery take center stage. This song sounds like the streets, and Marcus emphasizes that with his play. He not only plays the iconic bassline, but also plays the lyrics on the bass as well.
Marcus and the band stretch out and open up on this tune. They explore the depths of soul and funkiness and are able to make this standard fresh and new, while never abandoning the feel of the original. It’s as though the spirit of the 1970’s is transplanted to the twenty-first century.
Marcus improvises on the bass with funky licks against a backdrop of the original bass line, and the ever-present conga and bongo percussion. Patches Stewart enters the fray with his N’awlins trumpet, Alex Han’s adds his alto sax and the stew is cooking. And we cannot forget about the Soul organ and piano play of Cliff Barnes either. It might be an old song, but it finds vibrant new life on this LP.
The ballad Xtraordinary is the ninth song on this work. It’s a beautifully subdued work that once again exhibits Marcus’ virtuosity and composition mastery. And get this, Marcus plays the fretless bass guitar, piano, bass clarinet, kalimba, and vocals. This song is extraordinary; not only is that the title, but that is what you hear. This is an absolutely gorgeous tune. It’s subdued and almost mystical in feel, and the kalimba is lovely. Alex Han plays alto sax, and Lee Hogans plays trumpet, all the while the fretless bass sings the melody. This song is otherworldly in beauty. It’s a peaceful excursion to an exotic land. One of the standout tunes on the CD.
The album closes with the song I Can’t Breathe. This song has a bit of Asian flavor in its body. The instrumentation has a hint of the Orient in the sound due to the cords that are being used. This song also features none other than Chuck D. The song is coolly funky, and it rolls along in a nice groove. It features Marcus’ bass and the bass playing of Mocean Worker. Marcus also holds it down on his bass clarinet (I’m really liking his play on that instrument too).
Chuck D’s rap is timely. It’s not the old Chuck D as we knew him. The timbre of his voice is the same, but he has a maturity to his tone now, and he inserts himself within the song expertly. Chuck also sets it off near the end of the song, and kind of takes it over. He was a good choice to do this one. The song also uses both basses to sing the melody and extenuate the funky groove. A thoroughly nice piece of work.
Well, I’ve come to the end of another installation of “Brian’s Corner”. As always, it was a pleasure to share some time with you all. I hope you enjoyed the read.
Next week I’ll be reviewing Cory Henry’s latest CD.
Thanks again, to all those who make this blog possible. And if anyone wants to comment or leave a suggestion for review, please do so in the space provided.
Look out for our upcoming site revamping, and next time, “Catch You on the Corner”!
B. B. Suber
May 14, 2018
This album is a few years old; in fact, it was released in 2014, but there are some very good reasons why I’m just reviewing it this week. The first reason is because it’s incredibly good! The album won accolades from various smaller recognizing bodies. For instance, it won “Album of the year for 2014” on SoulTracks.com, and SoulBrothers.com., and Jarrod won “Best Male Vocal and Best Album of the year 2014” on Jazz Ain’t Jazz Awards, and the prestigious British Jazz FM Awards “Soul Artist of the year 2014”. To tell you the truth, I’m surprised that this album did not get Grammy recognition; I think they missed the boat on this one.
I discovered this album only early last year before I ever thought of writing this blog site. I’ve been enjoying this thing for quite some time, and I believe this album is one of the best albums I’ve heard within the last 4 years (and that is not hyperbole). This man can write, sing and play, and the album is superbly written, performed, and recorded. Every time I hear this album I am amazed by how soulful, smooth and superior it is in comparison to so many things that I’ve heard. This album has all the making of a classic. And since I feel this way about the album, I could not just let it go. I had to tell you folks about it; that’s my job after all.
The second reason is that although a lot of people have heard of the man and his music many more have not, and if you’re a member of the latter group then you deserve to hear what you’ve been missing.
And one of the last reasons I’m reviewing this album now is that it is, as I write, timeless. It does not sound dated or out of place in today’s music. It has a freshness about it that comes by way of being produced with superior care and quality. This thing is so good that I have to ask myself “where is Jarrod, and why haven’t I heard any new music for him?”. I’ll do my research and try to answer that question later, (but it could be due to the fact that this album took 3 years to mix and release, and anything put out afterwards by Jarrod will have a lot to live up to), but for now let’s get to the music.
The first cut off this gem is entitled Music and Its Magical Ways. This song is so smooth and groovy that it defies description (although that is my job as well, so I’ll give it my best). This song and everything about it spells inner city soulful groove. Jerrod touches on a nerve that speaks to the soul of city dwellers. With the starting word “Welcome” the song takes the listener on a ride that is smooth, mellow but funky. The bass line ushers the listener into the world of soul; soul that hasn’t been touched this well since the 1970’s or so.
After a smooth intro rap a choir of street singers harmonize melodically as Jerrod cool voice crones in the background and then begins to lay down his fantastic lyrics on this neo-soul classic. This is the way this genre should sound. It’s some to the best of a genre that has lately been nearly drowned out by pop and trap rap. But you can’t drown this one out; this is killer.
Jarrod Lawson’s piano, the keys, bass, guitar, drums, handclaps, choir and Jerrod’s soulful lead; mix em all up, and you have food for the soul; no exaggeration. Jarrod vocally paints such a spacious and enchanting sonic picture that you will not want the groove to end, but worry not, because the rest of the album is just as good as the opening.
Anyone who regularly reads my stuff knows that I do not like to follow the direct numeric order when I review an album. I’ll usually skip over a song or two, but when the CD is this good sometimes it cannot be helped. So, with all of that being said, the second song of this CD Sleepwalkers is amazing; just as amazing as the first song. Afro/Latin drums and a jazzy bass solo deliver the listener to a Latin jazz horn ensemble followed by the funk/soul sermon sung by Jerrod.
The Samba groove has just as much a city feel and anything you’ll hear. This multicultural gem grooves in a fashion that makes you want to get off your seat and dance to the good music. Words escape me in trying to adequately describe what I hear. The song is so smooth and cool that it makes me want to find where this man is appearing and go hear him live (yeah, I missed him when he came to Pittsburgh).
Music, words and voice intertwine with the instruments to paint this tapestry, this picture of pleading and encouragement in a way that touches your soul and your feet with equal urgency. This thing is awesome!
And too bad that Jarrod doesn’t give more info as to who plays what on the album. I do know he’s plays the piano, and he plays it very well, but what I know of the rest of the band is only their first names. Which are: Ebon, Chris, Josh, Leisa, and Jans; That’s it; that’s all I know, and that’s too bad because these folks deserve better recognition. But on this track, a lot of the harmonizing is done by Jarrod overdubbing his voice, but there are other male and female voices on the track too. Kudos to the percussionist, horn players and drummer on this track also; they make it killer as much as Jerrod does.
One song I want you to hear, but I’m not going to talk about at all is the song He’s There; the third song on the CD. I don’t want this article to be too long, but this is a must hear. Check out this live version of the song.
Let,s skip down to track 6 Think About Why . This song is one of the most jazz heavy songs on the CD, and lyrically one of the most Spiritual. Jarrod is not only a musician, he’s a thinker too, and that not only shows through in his words and music, but it also shows up in the quality of his entire CD. There is not a filler or a dud on this LP, and this song is indicative of that fact.
At the beginning of the song Jerrod scats along with a deftly played jazz guitar, and then enters into his cool, sweet preaching vocals. The bass carries the smooth jazz beat as drums, horns and percussion mesh with bass and voice to tell this redemptive story. This song is jazz through and through, and Jerrod’s religious thoughts are carried along in this amazing musical exercise. This song is delightfully done; it’s a satisfying meal with a dash of Take 6 like harmonies.
The next to the last track on this superb album is entitled Everything I Need. If you didn’t know you were in church up to this point, then all doubt is now washed away. Jarrod takes us right into the sanctuary. His churchy blues serenade sweeps over us accompanied by lyrics that would make any preacher proud. It’s just Jarrod and his piano; church blues chords and soulful vocals tell this story. He sings about the brevity of life, and what is really important in it all. He is telling the truth after all, and he does it in a way that makes you think while your pat your foot. His remarkable voice and piano technique help us to understand the true meaning of our time here on earth. This is a great song on an equally great album.
Gotta Keep is the last song on this album. I nearly didn’t mention this one because the last song felt so much like a benediction. But this song has an important function on this album. It explains the “Why” in what Jarrod’s mission was in doing this masterful work. The song begins with a synthesizer and bass drum with rim shots that later morphs into a conga beat that is supported by an “oh so funky” synth bassline and cool flutes. This song is reminiscent of 1970’s conscious music, even to the point of the last third of the song incorporating a choir of voices that sing/chant a hard chorus. The song makes you nod your head along with the groove and in agreement with what is being sung. This song is like ice cream on some of the best cake you’ve ever eaten. If it weren’t so good, it would seem superfluous, but because it is so good it adds to what already has been presented and it accentuates it. Remarkable finish to a remarkable CD.
Well, I was a little long winded today, but it wasn’t my fault (passing the buck), the album was just so good. Now I’ve gotten this thing off my chest. I’ve talked about a project that I’ve enjoyed for so long, and I hope you enjoyed reading about it and listening to the music, because I really enjoyed writing and reminiscing.
Also, remember to go to www.nmojazz.com for all your jazz music, smooth jazz, and Neo-Soul music searches. It’s the number one Jazz music search engine in the world.
And come celebrate First Friday’s with N-Motion at the Hilton Inn Hotel in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh. We do it every first Friday (usually), of the month. Check out the web site for updates, or if you have an account be on the lookout for our informational blasts.
Be on the lookout for our updated website too. Yours truly is still trying to figure out how to navigate the site, but we all will be up to speed real soon. You will love the new site guaranteed!
Lastly, but not least, thank you for taking the time to read this article. I really appreciate you folks, and I look forward to any input you may give.
Thanks again, and as always, next time “Catch You On The Corner”!
Brian B. Suber
Play For Me (Smooth Jazz No. 91) Smooth Jazz Series
May 7, 2018
Although the title of the album may not be very imaginative don’t be fooled. This album is splendid. If you haven’t heard of Daniel Davis, he’s a violinist from Charleston South Carolina, and he is an amazing talent. He plays beautifully; in a light almost lilting manner. He has excellent command of his instrument and his creative expression. He transitions from various genres with ease. He can go from jazz to R&B, to smooth jazz, and gospel with an equal level of ease and astonishing virtuosity. There is also a sense of joy and freedom in his playing that is infectious. This is an early album of his (2010), but even this early in his career his creativity and expressive genius was evident.
The opening interlude of this album is remarkable. Voice, keyboard, organ, and violin combine in a lovely song that makes you wish for more, and acts as a harbinger of the treasures that lie within this offering.
The first full song on the albums is entitled That Guy . This R&B gem is smooth and catchy. It’s a quiet groove that features an understated percussion, keyboards and vocals by Dejon Bevins, Deo Soul (a group of three singers), and Nia Niakouei. A beautiful quiet guitar and soft percussion act as a backdrop for Daniel’s flavorful improvisation. The man’s play is fantastic. He leaves no musical stone unturned, but his approach is never overbearing or dramatic. He delivers exactly what’s needed to complete the beautiful tone and feel of a song. This song was a hit in 2010, and it still is. It’s a classic from a young man who will continue to climb in stature within the Smooth Jazz, jazz, and gospel world .
Directly from the last beautiful selection, Daniel enters right into another killer song Grover’s Groove. This song is breathtaking in approach and beauty. Daniel doesn’t miss the groove at all, yet his attack is so smooth and subtle that I can only think of one word “masterful”. Yes, he’s that good. This man is a credit to the smooth jazz genre. He’s a delight to hear, and his masterful work puts the violin right up there with any saxophone work you might want to bring into the argument.
The groove and beat of this song are only enhanced by Daniels imaginative play, and he even throws in some very artful pizzicato work for a few bars, and then seamlessly resumes his excellent bowing. This young man is a tiger on his ax. If any musician sees him step to their bandstand, WATCH OUT! He’s a giant in disguise.
One other thing I must comment about on this track is again the understated organ work on this tune. Jazz organ is one of my favorite instruments, and of course, as some of you may know I play the viola (although I’m nowhere near Daniels level). I don’t know why, but I never considered the organ as a compliment to the violin, but with Daniel’s gospel background its as natural and delicious as apple pie and ice cream. Another sweet component to a fantastic tune!
The sixth song on the CD is Girl I Used to Know. It’s one of the songs that Daniel plays very lyrically, yet he does with it with style and a creative artistry that is very fresh and honest. He doesn’t shortcut it or make it is sound trite. Deo Soul does the vocals on this one too, and the nicely played organ makes another appearance. This song is a nice dance tune that has a nice stepping bassline.
The song begins with Daniel accompanied only by the piano for a few bars, and then percussion organ and bass enter in followed by a brief overdubbed pizzicato. Also, on this tune, Daniel uses an overdubbed bowed violin as he accompanies himself for a few passages. The organ and keyboard interplay is beautiful and remains as fresh as it is on any cut of this work. This song is a stellar addition to this CD.
The tenth song on this offering is entitled Don’t Worry. This song is smooth, warm and mellow. It begins with the organic sound of a hollow body guitar and mellow keyboards, after which the vocals of Collete join the assemble. The electric piano and synthesizer give the tune an ethereal air which is balanced by the sultry vocals. This is a definite love song. It has all the trappings of a warm evening with the safety of your loved one. Songs like this one tend to remind me that life isn’t long enough to enjoy the moments these song evoke. Daniels beautiful play elicits thoughts and feelings that words never could. The player is in touch with his heart. His tools of choice are violin, rosin and bow, and though these media emotion shines through in the music.
Song eleven is named Stay With Me. On this song Daniel takes his lyrical style to another level. The vocals of Deo Soul are understated, warm and lovely as they accent the playing. Here Daniels violin sings and soars. He plays the violin as though it were vocalizing this song in words that are felt but not fully understood. His mastery is on display for anyone who wishes to examine it. Daniel has not only mastered the music, and technique, but he has mastered uniting his soul with the instrument. He expresses himself through bow, fingers and strings. It’s amazing to hear and feel. It’s fine art, and considering the age of this CD, it shows that he found himself as a musician quite some time ago.
Song 12 is a gospel instrumental called Glory To You. Daniel takes his playing back to the Church. His violin soars in praise, and as per the man he was named after, Daniel transcends the lion’s den of just mere commercialism, and finds time to glorify God with the work of his hands. If you search Daniel Davis on YouTube, you’ll find many of his videos happen to take place in the church or are accompanied by choirs, and the like. Daniel is a “Church Boy” who has grown up and found a way to not only express himself and make money, but he’s also found a way to continue to serve God with the fruits of his labor. Daniel’s talent is obviously a gift from the Most High, and Daniel has not forgotten that.
I have intentionally tried to keep this article short; I don’t want to repeat myself with words of praise and superlatives for this artist, and his music. There are actually 15 cuts on this album, and there’s not a dud in the mix. I highly recommend this CD, and I give it a big “two thumbs up”! Go buy this one. You will not be disappointed.
We, again, I’d like to thank any and all of you who have taken time out of your busy day to read this article. I really enjoy my job, and it’s a labor love to write on fine musicians. I hoped to have shared some of that felling with you the reader. Hoped you enjoyed reading it too.
Also, please remember to visit http://www.nmojazz.com/ for all you jazz, smooth jazz, and Neo Soul music searches. It’s the biggest and best jazz music search engine in the world, and it still continues to grow due to readers like you.
Don’t forget about N-Motion Entertainment’s First Friday celebrations. You can find details about them on this website; come down and enjoy the entertainment and party, Also remember to keep a look out for the launch of the updated website which is due out in the very near future.
Thanks again for your time and support, and remember as always, next time “Catch You On the Corner”!
B. B. Suber
April 30, 2018
The three-time Grammy award-winning band Snarky Puppy is the brainchild of bassist, composer, and producer Michael League, the band leader. And as many of you know, Snarky Puppy has a unique sound that seems to continually evolve and bring a fresh sound and unique conceptual outlook to the listening audience. This 2016 album Culcha Vulcha is no exception.
According to the Urban Dictionary .com, Culcha is Bostonian for “Culture”, or artsy (something I shouldn’t have had to look up after binge-watching several episodes of Ray Donovan), so, Culcha Vulcha is correctly translated “Culture Vulture”, and the album is reflective thereof. This album cannot be properly classified as R & B, NeoSoul, or jazz, and unlike a lot of Snarky Puppy albums, this CD is an entirely instrumental album. I think the most accurate descriptive analysis of this album would be Jazz Fusion, or Smooth Jazz Fusion (if there is such a designation). It’s an artsy kind of CD, and musicians will love this one too; it’s different, very interesting, and also very good.
Tarova, the first song of the album starts off with a nice drum/percussion heartbeat for a few short bars, after which the bass and keys enter in. This quartet grows into a catchy song that is led by the keyboards and a muted organ. A few measures later the song grows into a fully blown grove of horns, keys, flute, guitar, piano, keyboard, and a much fuller smooth funky organ to go along with drums and percussion. This song is a fantastic beginning to this album. It not only demonstrates the groove this band can carry, but it also exhibits the orchestral sound that this band has in its arsenal (a product of having 17 different musicians on this tune), and the compositional skills of Michael League.
This song is funky, cool, hip, and any other superlative you might want to hang on it. But it also has a cerebral aspect to it. It’s thinking person’s music; music designed to not only make you nod your head but give your mind a cognitive workout as well. This song will make you want to see this band live, an opportunity I’ll take advantage of in late June at Tri C Jazz Festival in Cleveland Ohio. The more I hear this band, the more of an enigma this band seems to become. I don’t know what to expect when I see them, but one thing I’m sure of is I’ll be treated to great music.
Next, I’ll examine the third song on the CD which is entitled Gemini; a song that was written by Justin Stanton, the band’s pianist.
The song begins with the drums, percussion, and the heavy groovy bass of Michael League. After a few bars the guitar, synthesizer, and voices enter in. And although this song does have human voices, they are not singing any words, but instead are harmonizing notes of a chord, and thereby become more of an instrument than a singer (so I stick by my assertion that there are no singers on this album).
As many know, the sign of Gemini is the twins, and on this song, the guitar notes are matched, or twinned by the voices. This device gives the song its odd beautiful feel. This song has an ethereal air to it and is reminiscent of the electronica musical genre. This song has a haunting quality to its delivery, but a full sonic quality as well, even though it uses a relatively sparse band (for Snarky Puppy) of only eleven players (including the overdubbed voice of Mike “Maz” Maher singing chords).
In the middle of the tune, the bass clarinet of Chris Bullock comes in for a few bars. The sound is almost jarring in tone, but it fits the mood and feel of this enigmatic piece. The song seems to tell a story of an epic journey, and it’s fitting because Snarky Puppy always delivers uncharted musical territories to its fans.
Song number 6 is entitled Go. This cut has one of the most jazz fusion-ish sounds on the album; and what I mean by that is that the sound is the most like jazz fusion when fusion was in its heyday in the mid-1970 -80’s. The bass line of Michael League (the song’s composer), carries the song and the mood throughout this selection. The bassline is funky and insistent, and like a lot of good Jazz, fusion reminds me of bands like Weather Report or Return to Forever (and even Jon Luc Ponty). All the elements of the genre are there; excellent composition, and grand instrumentation and virtuoso playing.
The song is very fresh; its new music and is no way a rip-off of anything that was done before, but this song has its roots firmly in that genre and time period. It’s one of the longest songs on the album which gives it the room to develop and evolve musically. The bassline keeps a funky steady beat, as the music revolves around its sound. The players seem to enjoy themselves as they are given the room to stretch out and just jam! The guitar and the keys stretch out to the fullest and ride the groove like professional surfers catching that perfect wave. It’s a fun song to get into and just let it play. This is a killer song and an excellent full-bodied composition.
Palermo is song number 8. In my opinion, this song has the most varied and complex percussion instrumentation on this CD. The song features 2 drummers, a shaker, an angklung (an instrument of Asian origin that resembles a hand held windchime), cymbals, handclaps, Kalimbas, congos, Bombo leguero (Argentinian drum and style of playing), a “Donkey Jaw” (yeah, it is what it is), maracas, and a tang-tang ( a percussion instrument made from bamboo which has beads that are shaken in one closed end, and a piston with a ball on either end that slides back and forth through a hole at the top of the instrument….whew! ; Please do yourself a favor and look this one up). There are also 14 players on this tune with the majority playing some type of percussion instrument. Also, there is an organ, and a Fender Rhodes (the famous electric piano), a synthex (look it up), a hammertone guitar (it kinda looks like mandoline), and five different wind instruments. This is a sonically complex song with a rich full sound and compelling percussion play.
Marcelo Wolowski, the band’s percussionist composed this song, and it’s one of the best songs on this album. The complex percussion instrumentation on this cut gives it an interesting sound through and through. The sound mixes the old with the new. The percussion undertone is as old as man himself, but the play of the newer instruments gives it a funky overtone that sets the sound right in the twenty-first century. Old meets new in a fascinating way. It’s a lovely song to hear, and it has a contemplative air about it as the percussions tend to mesmerize the listener. Snarky Puppy at its finest!
The last song on this CD is called Big Ugly, and its anything but. It’s the longest song on this amazing CD. It’s grandiose in conception and approach, and it’s a fitting end to this artful CD. When you hear this album, you can only wonder about the amount of work that went into producing it. This song exemplifies that work; it’s a microcosm of not only this album but the complete body of work that Snarky Puppy has produced to date. This is an amazing band, and they end this album in equally amazing fashion.
The song begins in mellow enough fashion, but it slowly grows in presence and expression. Its slow buildup is symphonic in feel and effect. But it’s mature sophistication never loses its funk appeal. There is a fantastic violin solo by Zach Brock, and of course, the percussion work is exemplary. I could listen to this one over and over again. Its albums like this one, and songs like this one that makes me enjoy this work so much. I am lucky and blessed to do this job, and you’ll be just as blessed by hearing this CD.
I cannot wait to see this band live.
Well, enough of my rambling. As usual, I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. To tell the truth, I’m the lucky one, and I can only hope to share a small bit of my enthusiasm with my readers. Thanks for coming along for the ride.
I’d like to let you all know that soon we’ll be migrating to our new and improved site, and format. I’m eager for this move, and I hope you’ll join us and tell your friends about it. Details will be coming shortly (as soon as yours truly learns how to navigate the new surroundings…. LOL).
And please remember to use http://www.nmojazz.com/ for all your jazz, Neo Soul, and smooth Jazz searches. It’s the largest, most comprehensive, and user-friendly jazz search engine in the world, and I am certain you’ll love using it.
Also, feel free to submit feedback in the comment section. Hit me up if there are any artists or music you’d like me to check out and review. I’ll even give you a “shout out” in the column.
Thanks again, and as always, Next time “Catch You On The Corner”!
B. B. Suber
April 23, 2018
World Wide Funk
Please don’t be surprised, I had to do it; I just couldn’t resist, and I’m glad I didn’t.
You see, I bought the new Bootsy Collins World Wide Funk CD a few weeks ago at Dorsey’s Record and Computer repair in the Homewood section of Pittsburgh. I was there to pick up an album that I wanted to have converted to CD. The conversion was being done by Mr. Neil Dorsey, the owner of Dorsey’s. Well, Neil wasn’t in at the time, but his son Marcus was. While I was chatting with Marcus, I heard some funk music that was playing in the background. I asked him “Who’s that, some old Funkedelics?” He replied, “No, that’s Bootsy’s new CD, and it’s pretty good.” And you, the reader, obviously know the rest of the story.
The first impression is the artwork for the CD, it is in the classic Funkedelic cartoon album cover style, and in fact, there is also a short Bootsy comic book (sans words), in the folder of the CD along with the liner notes. When you read the liner notes of this CD, one of the first things you’ll notice about this album is the killer lineup Bootsy has appearing with him on this project. To name a few of the artists: the renowned guitarist Buckethead; bassists Stanley Clarke, Victor Wooten, Manou Gallo, and Alissa Benviniste; Black Seeds, Musiq SoulChild; Big Daddy Kane; MC Eiht: Bernie Worrel; Eric Gales; and Chuck D (plus others).
Getting back to the music, the first song World Wide Funk Drive is classic Bootsy. Its written by Doug E, Fresh, Bootsy, and Beneniste, and it begins with a storytelling voiceover; a tale of prehistoric funk and the birth of Bootsy in Precambrian subterranean Ohio. The monologue is very funny, and, of course, immediately afterward the funk begins. The drive of this song comes from a nasty funky Go-Go drumbeat, and the horns, are off the chain (arranged by Benveniste) with classic Parliament/Funkedelic horn arrangement. This song jams! Bootsy does not hold back; I don’t really think he knows how, and I know he doesn’t intend to either. There’s also a special guest rapper; none other than Doug E. Fresh! The party is hot, and the house on FIRE! The flames are stoked by a killer funky saxophone and Buckethead shreds the guitar throughout the whole jam. Alissa Benviniste kicks it on the bass with her stunning bass abilities; so much so that you’ll never get a chance to catch your breath. With this cut, Bootsy announces his return in spectacular fashion.
The next song is one of the standout cuts on this album. Aptly named Bass-Rigged-System, which features five of the best and most well respected bassists in the country; Besides Bootsy (of course), is Wooten, Clarke, and two of the best divas of the bass, Gallo, and Benviniste. This line up is also accompanied by Bootsy’s latest iteration of his band World-Wide-Funkdrive.
The intro is a classically recorded horn fanfare, then the basses kick in and the party kicks off. It’s quintessential Bootsy with a big-time bang. Four of the funkiest bassists on earth on one jam, along with Bootsy at his classic best; its monster. If you like funky bass, then this song is your musical drink of choice; its bass from top to bottom and yet it still maintains musicality and, of course, a Godzilla, or as I should say a “Bootzilla” like booming groove. All the bassists have their opportunity to add to the song, and although, at times, it’s hard to tell “who is who”, it doesn’t really matter because you’re too busy wanting to dance. Bootsy himself does all the rapping on this track (that takes me back to the late 70’s), in his signature style. A word of caution to my friends from my generation; don’t hurt yourselves out there on the dancefloor trying to keep up because of these folks rock for real. Have fun, because they obviously did when they laid this one down.
Just when you think this album won’t let you catch your breath you’re reminded that Bootsy was good for laying down his own style of ballad as well, and he wasn’t bad at it either. An example of his talent in that respect is the song Heaven Yes written by G. Cooper, A. Benvenist, and Bootsy. Bootsy and his World-Wide Funk Drive band do this song, and it’s nicely done. It’s a break from the hard funk, and it also shows Bootsy’s “sensitive” side; sort of like Telephone Bill. The piano is the featured instrument on this song, and its beautifully played by N. Semrad. Bootsy sings the lead, with the background vocals sung by members of his band, and they sing in an almost choir-like fashion. Alissa plays a sensitive, yet heavy bass and an excellent sax takes us out of the song. It’s a beautiful tune, and it shows that Bootsy has not lost his touch.
There are 15 songs on this CD, and I want to do it justice, therefore, I’m gonna take my time, and tell you about another song Snow Bunny. This song is written by M. Mingo and Z. Adams, and for a Bootsy CD, it’s cool sound might seem a little tame, but don’t be fooled because of this song rocks just as much as any other on this album. It has a driving bass line played by M. Cobb, and a jamming rhythm guitar played by K. Cheatham, with cool horns that feature a nice sax accent at varying intervals. The harmonizing vocals of Adams, Colquitt, and Reinhold are top notch, cool and funky. This song actually has shades of smooth jazz in it (believe it or not), but it funks. Bootsy touch, as far as what sounds good, is acute as ever.
The very next song is another love ballad of sorts (remember, this is Bootsy), its entitled Hi-On-Heels. Although this song is definitely Bootsy through and through, the style is very fresh. It’s co-written by Curtis C. Broadus; that’s right, Snoop Dogg. The smooth style is reminiscent of artists such as Dwele or D’Angelo; artist much younger than Bootsy, and that speaks of not only Snoop’s input, but also Bootsy’s influence long after he was at the height of his popularity.
This song is smooth and cool, with a booming bass. Bootsy is at his ghetto fabulous best. His overdubbed voice tells most of the story, with the help from vocals of October London, and the entire piece is done with panache. Bootsy lays down his rap on top of the synth bass, synthesizer, smooth vocals, and synth hand claps. The lyrics are smooth and sexy with old school Bootsy rap that not only rings true to his game, but also, it’s some of the freshest R&B heard today. He’s actually putting on a clinic of how this style should be done. The man is a professor of funk.
The last song I’ll talk about (which is not the last song on the CD), Come Back Bootsy. This song features Mr. Eric Gale on rhythm and lead guitar, and Mr. Dennis Chambers kicking it hard on the drum solo, and F. Waddy on the main drums. This song is a hammer; funky from beginning to end. Again, its classic Bootsy, and that is no knock. Bootsy also does the horn arrangement and drives the beat. It jams just as hard as any song on this CD and showcases Bootsy and his World Wide FunkDrive band. The cool thing about is that everyone sounds like they’re having fun. Eric and Dennis jam and Eric also shreds on the lead guitar. Not only are the players of this jam a “who’s who” of the music universe, but so are the writers. The level of players on this song and CD is indicative of the level of respect that Bootsy commands in the music world, and he’s not only made a statement with this CD, and further solidified his already solid standing in musical “funklore” he’s reawakened the funk in all of us. James Brown is smiling down from above on his protégé’.
This album gets a bit “Thumbs Up”!! Its worth a listen, and it delivers on the CD creators legend. Do yourself a favor and check it out.
Well, I could have fun and review every song on this album, but I have to leave some things up to the reader. I just want to say that this is a fun album, and I’m sure I’ll be hearing some of these cuts at one of N-Motion’s First Friday sessions.
As usual, I’d like to thank everyone who took the time out of their busy day to read this article. And again, I hope you enjoyed reading it just as much as I did writing it. It’s a labor of love that I appreciate the privilege of being able to do.
Also, I’d like to thank Neil and Marcus Dorsey of Dorsey’s Records in Homewood for giving me the go ahead to mention them in this article. I encourage all of you in town to get over there and check out their store and support their efforts. They are probably the oldest business in Homewood, and their excellent work is still relevant today as it ever was. They can be contacted here http://dorseyrecords.com/. They are a huge supporter of ours and other black owned businesses in Pittsburgh.
Please feel free to express your feedback in the comments section of this site. Also, if you have any music or musician you’d like for me to review, please feel free to pull my coat. I’ll definitely give them a hearing.
And remember to check out http://www.nmojazz.com/ for all your jazz music searches. The search engine is the biggest, baddest and the best search engine for all your jazz inquires.
I’d also like to thank all of the people who help with the production of “Brian’s Corner”. You all know who you are; I appreciate you, and I could not do this without you, nor would I want to.
Thanks again for your support, and remember, Next time “Catch You on The Corner”.
B. B. Suber
April 16, 2018
Billy Childs / Rebirth
2018 Grammy Award Winner’s Series
Grammy Winning Child’s Play
On January 28th, 2018 Las Angeles native and USC Thornton School of Music grad (1979, BA Music/Composition) Billy Childs took home his 5th Grammy Award. This time around he won for Best Jazz Instrumental Album for his Bebop influenced album, Rebirth (Mack Avenue Records). Billy is a straight-ahead jazzman, and within this genre, he is both a highly accomplished piano player and a highly acclaimed composer. He has played with the likes of Freddie Hubbard, J. J. Johnson, Wynton Marsalis, John Henderson, and a host of others, and this album, simply put, is wonderful.
With Backward Bop (a piece written by Billy), which is the very first track on the CD, Billy, and his band come out the gate smokin! What immediately stands out when listening to this track is the killer drum play of Eric Harland. But the sum of the whole is even greater than the individual because the entire quartet is killer as well. Billy is, of course, on the piano, Steve Wilson is on alto sax on this track, and the bassist is Hans Glawishchnig. This is a tight-knit group that sounds much larger than a quartet. This song is fantastic in its sonic simplicity and musical complexity. The band is well rehearsed and well read. They know each other, and they know the music, and they play as though they own the music because they do.
Eric’s drum and cymbal work are fantastic, and the tight staccato of the quartet in the opening measures is not only amazing, but as cool as it is beautiful. For anyone who wants a lesson in great straight-ahead jazz sound, this is the album to listen to, and this song is a microcosm of what good jazz is. This song, this album, is why I love this music form.
After the blazing opening measures, the band drops their play into the background for a stellar bass solo by Hans of approximately 21 bars; the man not only has chops on the bass, but he’s pleasantly musical in his approach to a solo as well. His solo structure and execution exhibit world-class understanding and ability that even a novice listener can appreciate.
As Hans’ solo (no pun intended, but it’s still funny), comes to an end Billy kicks in with his piano solo, and yes, Billy’s play is pure genius. Within this solo is every explanation as to why this man now has 5 Grammys sitting on his mantle (or where ever he keeps them). With his style and approach, Billy’s play puts me in the mind of two of my favorite jazz pianists; Herbie Hancock, and McCoy Tyner, and Billy can handle himself in either of their company.
Next up to the plate is Steve Wilson offering his blazing alto sax solo. Steve is just as sonically, and musically adept as his bandmates. He exhibits an easy but intense style, and a fluid yet thoughtful virtuosity that is pleasant to the ear. Steve is a sparkling addition to this band and is a vital voice in this beautiful quartet.
Lastly, the floor is given back to Eric. Eric is an extremely musical drummer. It is my estimation that musicality is the final tool in the toolbox of any fine drummer. When the drum becomes more than a timepiece, then, and only then do you have a complete band, and the addition of Eric in this quartet completes this world-class combo. A fine solo by a fine musician. This first tune is the grand doorway into the musical treasury that this album is. Superb!
The second song is the title track of this LP; Rebirth. Rebirth is a pensive masterpiece, co-written by Billy, and Claudia Acuna. It’s intricate in time signature but it’s a delight to the ear. It’s a beautiful piece, and Billy masterfully plays it. His play is powerful and thoughtful, and he approaches this track as he approaches every track, with exquisite touch, and a genius sense of expression. Steve plays his soprano sax on this cut, and he enhances the mood of the track with seamless virtuoso musicianship.
There are also two additional voices on this track. The first voice is human; it the voice of Claudia Acuna. Claudia sings in a haunting beautiful tone, and although she sings no words, just notes or scatting, it’s the addition of her voice which gives this song its feel. At times she harmonizes with herself, and the overdubbed choir effect is superb. Her alto voice is striking and commanding; she owns the song.
The second new voice on this track is the voice of the trombone played by Ido Meshulam. His interludes are a surprising ingredient that perfectly fits the mood and completes it. And I must also give kudos to the rhythm section. The bass and drums hold down this tune expertly. They enhance all that is played and heard. This band is topnotch, and I’d travel far and wide to hear them play.
I really hate doing this because this is not a liner note, I’m simply trying to give you an overview of the album but this thing is so good that I am forced to take much of it in sequential order so, the third song on this album is the ballad Stay. This song is written by Billy and beautifully sung by Alicia Olatuja.
The song’s intro is played by Billy in a hesitant contemplative fashion which morphs into a romantic sexy slow pulse and ushers in the pleading sensual voice of Alicia. The trio of Childs, Glawischnig, and Harland accompany Alicia on this beautiful ballad. Glawishnig’s brushwork is impeccable and understated, and Harland’s bass is masterful. The song has a lonely quality about it and the mood of the song makes the lyrics believable. The emotion is almost palatable. This song is superb and has classic written all over it.
I’ll resist the urge to talk about the rest of the songs in their order of appearance on this album, and I’ll skip over to song number seven, the 1968 classic The Windmills of Your Mind. On this song, it is Steve Wilson’s sax that carries the melody as Billy plays an increasingly urgent piano accompaniment, and Hans’ bass plays the compelling counterpoint on the bass. Eric’s drumming is subtle, intricate and artistically integral to the beautiful effect of the musical effort. This rendition serves to showcase not only this band’s composite virtuosity, but also its ability to put their unique slant on anything they do. As the combo settles into the song Billy’s piano and conceptual mastery takes over as he paints his impression on the soft sonic canvas. The song is not simply played, but like any good jazz effort, the song is re-created. Which each cord and measure the song evolves into a unique interpretation of the player’s spirit and interpretation. It’s beautiful to the ear, and amazing to understand that the exact same performance will never be duplicated, but at least it’s immortalized on this amazing LP. The Grammy selection committee got this one right; This album is a total winner, and I would go anywhere in the world to see this particular group of musicians perform.
Well, if you’ve stayed with me this far, I guess you already know that I’m giving this CD and double thumbs up. This one is worth hearing. It’s not only a lesson in jazz appreciation, but it’s also a beautiful and relaxing artistic offering. This is one album that if you have the time should be listened in its entirety.
This article was a pleasure to write, and I could have easily written five more paragraphs. But what do I have to write more for, just do yourselves a favor, and settle in and listen; you won’t be disappointed.
As usual, I’d like to thank any and all of you who took the time out of their busy day to read this article. Sharing my thoughts with you is not only a privilege, but it is an honor as well. I hope you enjoyed reading it, and please feel free to share your comments in the provided area. Also, if you have any suggestions for an artist you’d like me to see, or a CD/album you’d like me to sample, just drop me a line and I’ll at least investigate.
Come join N-Motion Entertainment for our First Friday celebrations being held at the Hilton Garden Inn on the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, PA. Check out our site for times, dates, and performers.
Also, check out http://www.nmojazz.com/ for all you jazz music/artist searches. It’s the largest jazz search engine in the world.
Be on the lookout in the near future for the exciting evolution of our online presence. I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly shocked at what we have in store for you.
Thanks again for spending some of your precious time here, and remember, Next time, “Catch You on The Corner”.
B. B. Suber
April 9, 2018
Lin Rountree: Stronger Still
Smooth Jazz Trumpet Magic
Trumpet and flugelhorn player Lin Rountree’s latest CD Stronger Still, on the Trippin N Rhythm record label, is a cool mellow excursion into the Smooth Jazz world via the trumpet.
In the smooth jazz genre, the saxophone, piano or guitar usually take center stage. At other times, various instruments may also play up front; usually, they are of the more unique voices such as vibes, or flute, with straight-ahead jazz being the more likely playground for a trumpet player. I can think of some of the older players of the instrument in smooth jazz such as Chuck Mangione, Herb Alpert and Hugh Masekela (also a great straight-ahead jazzman), who were (or are) stalwarts in the genre, and more recently trumpeter Chris Botti, but the younger generation of trumpet players seemed to leave the field of Smooth Jazz to the more traditional instruments. But, of course, the wheel of time keeps spinning, and someone comes along to upset the apple cart, and go against the imaginary boundaries of the “traditional”; Such is Lin Rountree.
On the first song on this aptly named cd Stronger Still, Lin launches off his aural excursion with the mellow cool sound of the song Pass the Groove. The song’s funky groove sails along in a pleasantly mellow fashion. Freddie Fox plays the guitar, Mel Brown plays the bass, and Michael Broening does the heavy lifting on the keyboards, Piano, and synthesizer on this track. I really can’t tell you who plays the percussion on this track as there is no info on the liner notes to help me out, but of course, I can safely say that Lin plays the horn, and he plays it exceptionally well. This is a very good song and should be a sure hit. The sound is layered and smooth, and it has a surprisingly expansive feel that is rich and full.
From the tune’s opening bass intro, the funk begins, and it carries through the entire length of the song. The wah wah of the understated guitar serves as the thread that holds the clothe together, and the fabric of the keys and horn is pure artistry. This song will make you smile, and it will make you want to hear more. It’s a well written piece (written by Michael Broning), and the performance is just as good. One standout on the tune is the use of the organ near the song’s end. I really wish they would have decided to give that instrument more room in the song, but the tease of the instrument is effective because it leaves you wanting more.
The Third song on the CD is the romantic This Time Around. Lin’s horn sings this love ballad and its song is carried along by the current of the mellow bass notes of Mr. Broening’s synthesizer. The beautiful intro by the synthesizer begins this tale which is delicately picked up by the bass synth and the horn. Together they blend to make a warm blanket of sound that wraps the listener in a lovely story. The tale is unique to each listener, but what is universal to anyone with an ear to hear and a heart to feel is the warmth and quiet ease of longing that the tune invokes. Much is being said, but no words are spoken. Emotion is a subtle giant, and it speaks loudly through the voice of the pleadingly soulful trumpet of Lin’s expressions. A real nice cut.
The fifth and title cut on this LP is, of course, Stronger Still. This soulful march, written by Lin himself, steps along at a cool mellow pace. Lin’s horn introduces the song along with the mellow keyboards of Ernest Tolbert. Big Mike Hart Jr. adds a couple of smooth rhythm guitar chords, then the full show begins. LaDell Abrams plays the drums and percussions on this track, making the groove one of the coolest on the CD. While Big Mike keeps a nice rhythm going on the guitar, and Alvin Sprately accompanies on the Bass, the groove continues in a mellow understated fashion that you wish would go on and on. Big Mike’s late solo puts you in the mind of Johnny Guitar Watson, while the funky keys and percussion hold down the continuing beat. Lastly, Ernie comes back in near the end to do some serious preaching on those keys once more. Not a statement is missing on this track. It’s well planned, well laid out, and flawlessly executed. It all adds up to a very satisfying and complete excursion.
There is one vocal track on the album; It’s entitled Something More, the sixth song on this album. The vocals are done by the lovely and exquisitely voiced Jessica Jolia. The song begins with Joe Archie’s exceptional string arrangement on the intro, it’s nearly classical, and the strings throughout the song are stellar as well. Also, the percussion play adds to the exceptional character or the song too. The mild echo of Lin’s horn gives it a hauntingly beautiful effect on the entire track, and Lin expertly accompanies and compliments Jessica’s singing. Big Mike’s guitar is fantastic as usual. And I must mention the strings again on the exit of this song; fantastic! The entire arrangement is top notch through and through. This song should be a big seller, and it has the potential of becoming a classic.
In My Soul is a sexy slow jam. This sound exudes sensuality; it sweats. The track begins with smooth cords of the keyboard, Len’s smooth trumpet, and the entrance of the sultry voice of Marcus Anderson’s tenor saxophone accompanied by the gentle cascade of the cymbal. Immediately following is the chorus; a pleading chorus of the voices of horns speaking of purposeful love and determination; you can almost hear the words, and I’m sure some lyrics will eventually be written for this song someday. I’ve never heard this song before, but I have lived it; we all have. If you’ve ever loved someone or been loved by someone you’ve heard this song. It is hot and insistent; you can’t get away from it, and you really don’t want to either. This is a must listen on this CD. It’s hot from the first bar until the last, and it will make you think of someone, so be careful. Thumbs up to this jam; it touches a nice nerve.
All in all, this is a very nice album. It’s artistic, sensual, well thought out and well performed. I didn’t cover all the music on this CD simply because the article would have been much too long but listen for yourself; you will not be disappointed. There is a diversity of feeling, expression, and emotion; every cut is worth hearing. Very nice job Mr. Rountree. I give this CD a solid Thumbs up.
Well, I’d like to once again thank you for taking the time to read this article. I hope you enjoyed reading it because it’s always fun to write about a subject that I enjoy so much.
I want you to all be on the lookout for our newly formatted N-Mo Magazine. “Brian’s Corner” will be moving there soon, and I’m certain you’ll appreciate the renovated format. Thank you, because we could not do it without the support of you, the listeners and readers. When it is fully available, take your time and enjoy exploring it; we’ll have some new and exciting content, writers and contributors to our site, and there will be plenty of space for feedback from you as well. Also, you’ll be able to access http://www.nmojazz.com/ the world’s largest and most comprehensive Jazz music search engine directly from the new site.
Please take the time to tell your family and friends about us, and have them give us a visit, and as always, next time “Catch You on The Corner”.
B. B. Suber
April 2, 2018
The Jazz/Funk of N’awlins
The New Orleans Nightcrawlers: Funknicity!
This 1997 CD is a worthy entry into the Jazz music discussion because of a few following facts. Number one; New Orleans is considered the birthplace of Jazz, and any discussion of the music is lacking without taking the city and the jazz style into account. Secondly, I feel that this CD has not been fully given the hearing by the greater audience that it deserves (and with 1 hour, and 12 minutes of good music, you definitely are getting your money’s worth buying this CD). And thirdly, because it rocks like few other jazz albums do. This band is remarkable in the aspect that it’s a New Orleans style band with world-class jazz horns (as is common to the genre). The drummer uses only a snare drum with sparse use of the tambourine, and the bass line is played on a sousaphone. This is not uncommon in New Orleans, but in this day and age in the jazz world at large, this sound is unique in a very good way, especially when the world-class chops of the horn players are taken into account.
The CD kicks-off with Bud’s Delight. The ensemble leads off with a short intro into a fast-paced sousaphone bass line that creates a classic New Orleans groove. The wa-wa mute of the trombone lets the listener know that “yes” you are in New Orleans; well, at least in flavor. But after the first break, the smooth smoking tenor sax of Ken “Snakebite” Jacobs breaks in with some monster chops that are worthy of any jazz bank. Yes, you’ve been Snake bitten, and you like it! Ken is a beast of a player and he keeps this groove flying along in a dazzling jazzy style. But it doesn’t stop there because after the second break Rick Trolsen’s bring his funky trombone to the forefront and lays down some killer chops of his own. But, it still doesn’t stop because after the third break Kevin Clark brings his trumpet in on the fun; you barely have time to catch your breath. The ferocity doesn’t quit, and it never slows down. This showcase piece is a stunning introduction to who and what this band is.
The next song is a 70’s classic that we all know and love; AWB’s “Pick Up the Pieces”. After a very brief intro, the sousaphone starts by spitting the song’s classic bassline as the snare drum (sans cymbal), keeps an extremely groovy beat. This song is cleverly done in a “round” fashion with each instrument voice layering itself on the previous instrument's line beneath it. Trumpeter Kevin Clark is responsible for this smart arrangement which keeps this classic tune fresh and relevant. All the horns can eventually be heard in this tune including Jason Mingledorff’s light clarinet. Snakebite hits on the first solos, and grooves in his sweet style. The trumpet is the next soloist (I don’t really know who, the liner notes don’t tell), and he tells his story as the other horns built dynamically. The Bone takes after the next break and preaches a fine but short sermon as the band continues its funky stroll. This song is over 8 minutes long, but never becomes laborious. Its light and funky to the end.
A sublet “fade in” begins the next song I want to talk about; Imperial March (of the Nightcrawlers). As the title suggests, the song initially has a definite imperial feel to it. The beat evolves into a danceable funky treat, and the band begins to party for 7 minutes strong. The Tenor is the first to step to the solo mic for a short lick, and then the trumpet takes over for a few short bars. The interplay between various horn voices goes back and forth, while the Imperial March theme is resuscitated. This Is a very interesting piece in its musical contrast; measure to measure, the subtle nuances of the feel of this song come to play. Although it never loses its imperial groove, it stays busy and keeps the mind of the listener engaged.
In my estimation, Crawlin’ is the best song on the CD. The horns growl on this song as the Sousaphone keeps the floor grounded, and the drum carries the driving beat. The song is cacophonous in its sound, but it’s never jumbled or scrambled. The saxes lay down hot licks between the brass ensemble, and it always returns to the smooth groove that is its feature. Also, there is enough musical space in this song that the drums can be noticed for how they play a bedrock role in this musical style. The drums hold the entire piece together and actually give the song direction. There’s a call and response interplay between the muted trombone and the saxes that are excellent and add to the excitement of this masterful piece. This song is complex in its simplicity, and it was wonderfully written and arranged by Jason Mingledorff. If I were to recommend one song on this album to give the nature of this band it would be this song. And at the end, the band finishes by chanting their name. Fantastic song!
Chicken is anything but (and I could also say this song is an album best too). The song opens by putting the chops of the horns on display for all to hear; the verdict is bravery and mastery. All I can think of when I listen to this opening line of the horns is that these guys studied Charlie Parker, and Dizzy Gillespie extensively, and are master students of them both; Yardbird and Dizz would be proud. The sousaphone, saxophone and drum then break in for a little trio play, and there the virtuosity of the trio can be fully examined. They pass the test with flying colors, and I do mean flying. On this particular cut, the sousaphone sounds just like an upright bass at times and it is dazzling to hear. When the full band finally breaks in you begin to understand that this band can play anywhere, and for or with anyone. They are not chickens or cowards by any stretch of the imagination. They have the courage and ability to take on the most difficult pieces and arrangements with the ease of top-notch musicianship. This is a fantastic tune. It’s New Orleans jazz, no doubt, but it has all the complexity and sophistication of any New York or big city band.
I could go on, but instead, for brevity sake, I’ll simply say “get this CD”. If you like music, and if you like Jazz music, you won’t be disappointed. There is even a song with singing on this CD; Funky Liza. So, check it out. A big “Thumbs Up” to the total CD!
Well, I think I rattled on long enough for this week. I’d like to thank all of you for taking the time out of your busy day to read my stuff. It’s really a privilege to have you read my thoughts, and I hope you appreciate the hard work and honesty that I try to put into them. Leave me comments and feedback in the provided sections, and please give me a heads-up on any music you’d like me to audition for future articles.
I’d like to give you a heads up that we are in the process of redesigning the website. I had the privilege of seeing the prototype, and I think you’ll like the improvements.
Also, remember to come down and enjoy “First Friday” parties at the Hilton Garden Inn in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh. Get on our mailing lists to receive updates.
And please check out http://www.nmojazz.com/ for all you jazz music searches. It just so happens to be the worlds’ largest Jazz music search engine.
And always remember (Lord Willing), “Catch You on the Corner”!
B. B. Suber
March 26, 2018
Emerging Young Artist Series
The Gym and Beyond!!!
Frisson: A sudden feeling of excitement or fear; especially when you think that something is about to happen. (Cambridge online Dictionary)
Now I know some of you are asking yourself “why is he writing about a rap album on a Jazz site?”. And since that’s a fair question, I’ll answer it. You see, one of the primary reasons for me writing these articles and CD reviews is to expose as many people as I can to what I feel is good music. I’ll write about Jazz, R & B, Smooth Jazz, Blues, and just about anything else that catches my ear. I feel that if I like it, then there will be a lot of other people who will probably like it as well and exposing new and different artists to the public is fun and rewarding. But there’s also a process to my article writing decision making. When I find something new I ask myself a few questions; Do I like it? Does it move me? Do I think anyone else would like it, and will it make interesting reading? And if the answer to these questions is “yes” then I’m going to do an article about it.
So, when I was asked by an acquaintance to review a CD which was made by a friend of his I was a little bit skeptical at first, but I’m always looking for fresh material. So, I told my friend to leave the disc at the desk of the gym where we both are members (LA Fitness Monroeville). When I got to the gym the next day, Frisson’s latest CD Motivation Music was waiting for me. I uploaded it to my iPod that night, and since I am more than a little tired of my old gym playlist, the next day I turned it on at the beginning of my work out.
As soon as I hit the “play’’ button on my iPod the musical “energy drink” (who needs Red Bull?) hit my eardrum; the song’s intro started the adrenalin rush in my body and then the music came a BANG, and I was up! Immediately my energy level shot up 50 percent! The very first song is an explosion! I was accosted by a banging beat and hyped up lyrics! Oh My Gawd is the first cut on the CD, and it explodes! The beat is hard; the energy and intensity levels are off the charts and the lyrics are fantastic as well! Frisson is no joke! The man came to play in the big boy league, and when you hear this song I think you’ll agree that he is an All Star.
This jam is a big time wake up call. It starts with what sounds like a motorcycle revving its engine, and then it just starts banging from beginning to end. Now if you’re like me, it’s not always easy to get up to speed in the gym, and since I don’t take a pre-workout drink, I usually need a sonic kickstart, and this jam is just that. This song makes you want to break out and dance, or squat and bench press 500 pounds (whichever is your preference). Frisson’s flow and lyrics are hype to the nth degree, and Tone Jonez’s track urges Frisson to kick it even higher. This explosive start to the CD is just a taste of what the listener (or weightlifter), is in for; just don’t get too hyped up and hurt yourself; the artist is not responsible for any sustained injuries due to overexcitement.
I could talk about any of the songs on this CD, but I want to give an overall sample of what you’re in for when you listen to it, so next cut I want to talk about Hi Hater. First, let me say that the beat by LND is nearly majestic in feel. It’s got a hard beat, and a driving snare drum, with synth horns and strings, and a hard bass line. Over this track, Frisson addresses life’s discouragers, AKA “haters”. He talks about the psychological mentality of haters and scorners and their fear of seeing someone else accomplish their dreams and goals. But ultimately, as the album title suggests, he encourages strivers to pursue their dreams. That’s what makes this CD, and rapper different from many of his peers; Frisson’s goal on this album is to motivate and encourage. This song, and actually the entire CD, is just what he says it is, “Motivation Music” with ridiculous beats.
Nothing Stopping Me Now is noteworthy because of not only the lyrics, but also because of the music. The music is reminiscent of Curtis Mayfield’s film music. The song’s music has Curtis’ style and flare; particularly his movie score musical style. When I hear this song, I cannot help but think of the 70’s music that Curtis wrote for movies that depicted life in big city ghettos. Frisson uses this musical backdrop to rap about overcoming obstacles and encouraging others to do the same. There is nothing downbeat about this song. The music is upbeat and driven, and the dramatic Mayfield like sound incites listeners who are striving to achieve to persevere in their quests, or to push out that one extra rep.
The slow ballad cut on this CD is Dream Bigger. A synthesizer, and a drum synth are the framework for Frisson’s cautionary lyrics. Here he speaks to and about those who have the appearance of success for the sole purpose of making others feel inferior. Against the backdrop of DreamLife’s music, Frisson explains that his dreams are bigger than the façade of success put on by the types of people he chastises on this track, and by implication the listener’s dreams should be as well. The song has a slow but powerful groove, and the lyrics are delivered with power and finesse. The Synthesizer has an expansive sound, and when laid down with the synth strings, the sound is majestic. Very well done.
The one obvious club jam is entitled Clean. This song has an Electronica sound with a hood beat. It’s a song that is somewhat commercial, but still very good. The music is by Apollo V, and the style puts Frisson’s versatility on display. This song has dance tune written all over it, yet its better than most stuff you hear out there of the same nature. There are a few reasons why I cannot knock the man for this song. 1) I do like it. Its well written; it had a good beat, and a nice hook; 2) You gotta pay the bills. Everyone has to eat, and I cannot knock the man for trying to make some money; 3) Every dance club needs a good song to style to. This song will have all the club stars preening themselves to the beat. This song is a definite radio hit.
The last song I Hope is a benediction of sorts. Frisson ends his album in almost prayer-like fashion, in fact, it’s nearly a eulogy. He speaks about his potential future success, and how he wants to be remembered, and also how he wants to live humbly. He also expresses his hope that his life is an inspiration to those who will come after. The song is a song of hope, gratitude and encouragement, and as on the first cut of the album Tone Jonez is the producer of the music for the last cut; but instead of the hard driving style of the first tune, this song is mellow and large. It’s a very nice bookend for the CD, and a nice juxtaposition in comparison to the entry of this album; both in feel and word. Frisson makes sure that he, once again, inspires his listener to greatness; to their full potential. This song is another winner, as is the entire CD.
Here is a link to Frisson’s FaceBook page. You can find his latest video Blood, Sweat, Tears from this album there. Sorry I couldn’t get you more links. The intellectual property rights belong to the artist.
Well, if you’ve stuck around with me and made it this far, I’d like to thank you for your time, and I hope you feel it was well spent. If you enjoyed this article, then pass the word around and tell others to stop by. Also, by the time this article hits the website, you should be able to see some of the improvements and changes that we’ve made to it. Feel free to tell us your thoughts on the changes, and any suggestions you’d like to make. Also, feel free to leave your comments and feedback on this or any other article I’ve written in the space provided as well.
Also, if you are looking for music in general, and jazz music specifically, make sure you make use of http://www.nmojazz.com/. It’s the largest (and fastest growing), Jazz music search engine in the world.
I’d personally like to thank all those who are instrumental in the production of these article; you know who you are, and you all are appreciated.
I’ll sign off now, but I look forward to next week’s new article (haven’t really decided which one I’ll do yet), so please come back and pay us a visit. And next time “Catch You on The Corner!”
B. B. Suber
March 19, 2018
Insomnia - CD Review
A Sweet Dream
I bought Carolyn Perteete’s CD Insomnia at James Johnson III’s Full Circle CD release party. You see, James is Carolyn’s husband, and after hearing Carolyn sing a beautiful rendition of the Beatles’ Yesterday with James and his band at the party, and also hearing Carolyn sing Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun on James’ Full Circle disc, I was more than a little intrigued about Carolyn’s CD. Well after hearing the title song on a friend’s car stereo before driving away from the venue, I had to have this CD, and I’m glad I took the time to run back inside to buy it.
Carolyn is not your typical singer. She has a very original sound, and her overall tone and feel might be considered a bit melancholy to some, but this does not detract from her originality or likability, instead, it enhances both. She has a beautiful voice with excellent intonation, timing, and delivery, and her emoting seems organic; as if she deeply feels what she sings. This is what makes her so enjoyable to listen to. You are drawn into not only the music, but into her experiences that she conveys in the songs that she sings. The album is mostly a collaboration of husband and wife; James wrote most of the music, and Carolyn wrote all the lyrics. The two are wed, not only via matrimony, but they are wed artistically as well.
There is much to like on this venture; its rife with good music, amazing arrangement, beautiful lyrics and beautiful singing. The title track Insomnia, the first song on the album, is a gorgeous love song. It has lovely understated music; only Keyboards, finger snaps, and light percussions accompany the singing of Carolyn. Carolyn’s overdubbed voice sings the harmony and the hook. Two thirds of the way through the track Dwayne Dolphin comes in and plays a nice bass solo, and then bassist Lorenze Jefferson picks up the melody for a few bars, after which the voices return to sing the hook to fade. This tune is classy, quiet, and smooth. It’s a very nice song, and it’s extremely catchy. This song has the potential to be a top seller if it even gets airplay on Sirius or other major radio stations, and there are other songs on the CD that share that same potential.
Keystone St. is a beautiful piece. The music is written by Carolyn and James, with Carolyn also writing the lyrics (and playing the piano as well). The song is an ode of hope that speaks of being led to a better place. It’s a song of hope, love, and trust combined with a lush sound that is layered with the harmonies of voice, guitar and the subtle organ playing of Cliff Barnes. The vocals become more enthralling and expansive as the lyrics pull you into the song. Carolyn sings her own background, and she also acts as her own choir. It’s simply a very beautiful piece of music and exhibits the many talents of this artist in her own musical environment. An amazing piece.
New Past, is an up-tempo tune about getting over a lost love. It starts off almost quizzically and grows in tone and expression. It’s a simple song that builds in natural fashion as it expands vocally. The vocals lead this song, but the bass of Paul Thompson, and the piano of Danial May as well as percussion, and keyboards play a large role too. The vocals’ harmonies are beautiful and pleasing to the ear. It’s a real nice little song, and it leaves you with a light feeling. The wife/husband tag team are at their finest on this one.
The next song I’d like to talk about is the song Simply. This one starts with the kick drum and percussion. It’s a cute light love song, a light-colored canvas that features keyboard, bass and percussion, and the wonderfully relevant lyrics of Carolyn. Here she sings of why she loves the one she loves and tells of her experiences with him. This song reminds me a little of India Arie in style and flavor, but it’s all Carolyn. As aptly as its title, this is a simple song; not a lot of embellishment or instrumentation, but it’s large on expression and imagery. As the song continues it begins to tug at the heartstrings because Carolyn touches a chord in us that everyone wants to awaken. This woman is a lyricist of the first degree. A truly impressive artist, she seems to experience her emotions in a clear fundamental way that allows her to communicate them to others so that they can see and feel them in themselves.
The next song I’ll talk about is the very next song after Simply, and its entitled Love Song. This song was composed and written all by Carolyn, but James did a beautiful arrangement of the string duet. The song features Carolyn on the piano and Jeff Grubbs on the bass. If there are twins on this album, then its these two songs; Simply and Love Song. No, they don’t sound alike, but they feel alike. If you’re in love, or ever have been in love, then you’ll understand what I’m saying. But firstly, I’d like to talk about the instrumentation of this song. The use of two of my absolute favorite instruments, viola, and cello. They are gorgeously used here, and marvelously arranged, and on this song, these instruments weep; they cry for the lovers that she is singing about, and love lost. This is a powerful tune, and I warn you; don’t listen to it if you’re in a weak mood, you might just pick up the telephone and give someone a call. Absolutely fabulous!
Lastly, I’d like to talk about the last song on the album Better or Worse. Carolyn leaves us with an upbeat winner that will have you patting your foot and nodding your head. Piano and bass lead the song, with percussions (hand claps and tambourine), and bass drum. This song has potential in the greater music market as well. It’s a song of warning to an inattentive lover and a demand for things to improve. Again, it’s an understated song instrumentation wise; it only has the piano of Carolyn, the bass of Jeremy McDonald, and James’ clever percussion, but it sounds like so much more. My only complaint about this song is it’s too short. But, as the old adage says, “keep em begging for more”.
I could say something about every song on this album, and to be honest, this album must be explored patiently. I listen to a lot of hard driving music; it goes hand in hand with my busy lifestyle, so when I come across an album like this, it takes a little time for my mind to slow down and give it proper consideration. You may experience the same kind of thing, but believe me, take the time to listen, and you will not be disappointed. I give this CD my full endorsement. Carolyn sounds like no one else. She is unique and can fit into several genres of music. I look for great things from Carolyn and James. They are a refreshing couple and a great team. I wish them the best.
To further add to Carolyn’s already impressive resume, she has also toured with Sean Jones and performed with Pittsburgh’s own Elevations and others. Check out some of her videos I came across while researching this article: Don’t Know Why; Change the World; at Riverview park w/James Johnson III Esperanto; Letter of Resignation /w Sean Jones, Can I Come Over w/ The Bridge on the album Livin Lyfe, The Experience Volume 1; and I Confess /w Elevations, just to name a few.
Well, if you make it this far, I’d like to, once again, thank you for spending the time to read my column. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it. And please tell your friends and family about my weekly writings. I’d love to have them aboard too. Feel free to leave a comment in the comment section, or even drop a name of a band or artist you’d like me to review.
Also, if you are looking for music in general, and jazz music specifically, make sure you make use of http://www.nmojazz.com/. It’s the largest (and fastest growing), Jazz music search engine in the world.
Make sure you look out for N-Motion Entertainment’s First Friday Celebrations. We’ll make sure to keep you posted, and we have some surprises coming up in the near future, so keep your eyes open and an ear to the ground (mind the traffic though).
Thanks again, and as usual, next time “Catch You on The Corner”!
B. B. Suber
James Johnson III CD Release Party Concert Series
Full Circle at the Spirit Lounge
March 12, 2018
On Sunday March 4th, 2018, James Johnson III held his CD release Party at Spirit Lodge on 51st in Lawrenceville, Pittsburgh, PA. For those of you who have never been to Spirit (directly off Butler St behind the Sunoco Gas Station), the Lounge is in the lower level of Spirit Night Club. The décor of the entryway, and the downstairs Lounge in general is, well…funky, but not in a bad way. It’s funky in a kind of Urban Retro Chic way. The Lounge is at the bottom of a short staircase, and once through the two big doors you’re immediately inside a large “L” shaped room which is dimly lit. On the left side of the room there is a 20-foot-long bar that is adequately apportioned and nicely lit. On the right side of the room in the opposing corner from the bar is a small stage which is bathed in red lighting. There are about 20 round tables to the right of the bar between the bar and the front of the stage. The tables are made of old wooden cable spools that have been sanded, stained, and varnished, and the chairs seem to be the kind of kitchen chairs that were popular back in the 1970’s. There are also 2 large vinyl upholstered booths in the back wall near the stairs, and a sound table on a custom wooden framed cabinet to the right of the booths.
On the far-right wall is a make shift art gallery with painting for sale. But the most interesting feature of the room is the ceiling. The ceiling near the bar is acoustic tile that has been painted black, but the ceiling near the stage area and the paintings (it’s also the dancefloor area) is made of black painted stucco or Paper Mache’ like material that has been shaped into a natural rock wall texture. There is also a row of several coal mining lights hanging along the rocky ceiling and these lights outline the dance floor area. The final touch is a huge 70’s style disco ball hanging from the textured ceiling. It would seem outdated in any other place but Spirit lounge, but there it simply adds to the odd mystique of the place. And, by the way, the food is GOOD! Well, at least the pizza was (excellent large 16 cut pizza for only $15!). And the drinks are moderately priced.
Now that I’ve set the mood, let me tell you about the concert/party.
Early on, around 6:30 or so, there was a fair-sized crowd, but by the time the band began to play, about 7:00 of so, the place had essentially filled up (the place was near capacity even later that night). Most, if not all the seats were occupied, and the crowd was ready to hear some good music. As the band members took their places on the stage, James took to the mic and introduced that night’s players; Cliff Barnes/Keyboard and bass; Loren Kirklan /Keyboard; Chris Coles/Sax; Claude Flowers/bass; Anthony Taddeo/Percussion, Carolyn Perteet (James’ wife) doing the vocals, and of course James Johnson III/drums.
The band began to play the opening number which is entitled Rebirth, the second song from the featured album Full Circle. The music that night was warm yet cool. The groove was well defined and punctuated by James expert musical drumming. James is a virtuoso at his craft; he has a commanding powerful style by which he carries the tune and articulates a certain feel that’s being conveyed in the music. He is not just a timekeeper, but he is a musician on the drums; he tells a story as he plays.
The crowd was feeling the groove and appreciative of the music; they listened with rapt attention and grooved along with the band all night long. This particular song (Rebirth) reminds me of early Weather Report, and I feel their influence has a definitive stamp on this and other songs written by James. Weather Report is not a bad band to be compared with, in fact it’s a high compliment, but furthermore the stamp of influence is a sign of the continuing evolution and health of the music I love…. Jazz music.
A little later into the set, James invited Carolyn Perteete to the stage. Upon introducing her he stated that he was not going to announce the title of the song, but that the audience would know what it was once the music started. As the band started playing the intro, I wasn’t quite sure what the song was, but after the first cord I knew the it was the Beatles’ Yesterday. The combined effect of this band’s style and Carolyn’s amazing voice was mesmerizing. It was one of the most hauntingly beautiful renditions of the song that I had ever heard. Carolyn is fine vocalist, and she also has the ability to emotionally connect with a song and the audience at the same time. Her style is just as unique as is the band’s, and I’m sure we were the only audience in the world that was hearing what we were hearing at that particular moment in time.
After a few more very nice tunes, James announced that the band would take a brief break and be back for a second set. Upon their return, James introduced the next song in the evening’s repertoire; a song he described as “scary”, Kenny Kirkland’s Blasphemy. Although there are not any words for this song (or none written as of yet), on the album Carolyn sings the melody, but that night the band played the song without a human voice in it. Also, on the album Sean Jones’ trumpet solo improvs along the way, but that night Chris Coles’ sax took the place of them both. The song was excellently done, and just as ethereally beautiful as the album version.
The concert continued for a few more tunes, and finally James introduced the last number. It’s a song from James’ In Between CD entitled My Father’s Travels. James spoke of the song being based on his father and mother travelings in Africa, and how he had wished he had named it after his mom and dad. None the less, the song was fantastic. When I consider the long history of jazz music, and how James and the band epitomizes the continuing evolution of the musical genre of jazz, it is fitting that a song based on Africa would be the last number played that evening. Jazz is a hybrid of African music and Euro-American music, and as the offspring of these two musical forms this song, in a fashion, pays homage to the roots of it all. It was a fitting end to a fine evening.
After the concert, there were CDs for sale; both of James’ CDs; In Between, and Full Circle (of course), were available, and Carolyn’s latest CD Insomnia also. Well, of course, I purchased Insomnia (I already owned both of JJ3’s CDs), and I’ll be doing a review of it next week. If you have a mind to, please show some love for these two fine local artists and purchase their CDs. You can find them on Amazon, or if you live in Pittsburgh, you can give a call to the African American Institute of Music (AAIM) https://www.facebook.com/aamipgh/ ,in Homewood and possibly pick up a copy there. James Johnson II (JJ3’s dad), is a teacher there, and I’m sure he’ll help you get you a copy of any of the CDs (maybe he’ll even give you a package deal on all three; but that’s just me talking).
Also, if you’d like to see the schedule for concerts at Spirit Lounge, just go to http://www.spiritpgh.com/ They run a fine establishment and they have great concerts, and great food that is reasonably priced. As usual, I’d like to thank you all for reading my post. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. And again, if you want to research any Jazz or smooth jazz artist just go to http://www.nmojazz.com/ . It’s the nation’s number one jazz music search engine.
Thanks again to all of you; tell your friends about us, and please, come back, leave comments or suggestions in the comment section, and next time “Catch you on the Corner”.
B. B. Suber
Christian McBride’s Grammy Gimme! “2018 Grammy Award Winner’s Review Series”
March 5, 2018
Bassist Christian McBride’s 2018 Grammy Award-winning CD for “Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album”, starts out with a big BANG!! Anybody who says big band Jazz can’t be funky certainly hasn’t heard Christian’s band. This band can definitely bring the funk, and they groove and jam at the same time, and you know the bass is rockin because Christian is at the helm. He’s as strong as ever, and a sharp dresser too (just check out the back of the CD if you don’t believe me). This man personifies style, and it is fully embodied in this ridiculously fabulous big band!
Admittedly speaking, big bands aren’t for everyone, and to tell the truth, I’m kind of partial to smaller tight combos myself, but, good is good. And when you hear good, you know good, and you appreciate good. Well, this band takes the word “good”, and crushes it, remolds it, and redefines it on its own terms. This band is on another level, and not many can, or ever have attained this status. Furthermore, a band is only as good as its leader, and when being led by Christian McBride, what else can you expect but a redefining of terms, and an earth-shaking restructure of the genre. I can only imagine what would be the reaction of listeners from a former era. If this band could somehow be transported back to the 1940s, Basie and Ellington would have to sit up and take note; yes, they’re that good. But enough of the superlatives, let me get down to business and tell you about this album.
The first Jam (because that’s exactly what it is), on this album is off the chain; although that’s not the actual name of the song it does aptly describe the music. The name of the song is Gettin’ To It, and this song is too funky for words; it must be heard. It jams from beginning to end. The song is introduced by the saxes, then the funky rhythm guitar playing of Rodney Jones carries the groove from beginning to end. Christian’s bass playing is just as grooveful and funky, and he punctuates the groove with a couple of funky solos on the upright just to show who’s boss. This song serves to note that this band is doing exactly what the album title announces, “Bringing It”. The band throws down the gauntlet to any and all challengers and serves notice that they are here to play, and they play hardball!
The very next number is entitled Thermo, a cleverly written and arranged (arranged by Christian), piece that exhibits the talents of the group in showcase fashion; and the groove is definitely hot! It starts out with a sizzling combo feel of bass, drums, and the cool piano solo of Xavier Davis, but it soon ignites into a full-blown sophisticated big band explosion. But the blaze doesn’t’ burn uncontrollably, this fire waxes and wanes in the most pleasing of fashions. The band jams as a full ensemble for a few measures, and then the tune settles back into the combo feel with blazingly exceptional solos that are punctuated with the backdrop of muted tight horns. Freddie Hendrix’s trumpet solo is dazzling; its well-conceived and masterfully executed, and then it’s immediately followed by the smoldering tenor sax solo of Ron Blake. This “one/two” torch would be enough to light any flame, but the action doesn’t stop there. After several measures of the full band, and a timely crescendo Mr. McBride lays down his own fiery input, and the boss man keeps the blaze going. I wish Christian’s solo could have been longer, but, as they say, brevity is the mark of genius. As any fireman will tell you, a fire needs oxygen to burn, and on this tune Christians bass is the oxygen. He holds down this entire number and fans the flame throughout, and on his brief solo he further demonstrates the role he plays. This number is spectacular, and a must listen on this album. It’s no wonder this CD won a Grammy.
There are several other noteworthy songs on this album. Among the most striking is Sahara, which is just as hot and exotic as the name implies. The track begins with a tribal style drums solo that soon evolves with the introduction of cymbals, whistles, and flutes. These instruments combine to evoke images of the flora and fauna that live near this African Desert region. As the horns break in and the drumroll continues, the song then erupts into an up-tempo 6/8 driving groove featuring the full ensemble and underpinned by Christian’s consistent bassline. The sophistication and syncopation of this tune continue as its story unfolds. The story is marvelously communicated via the fantastic piano solo of Xavier Davis, and the sax solo of Todd Bashore, followed by the very musical drums solo of Quincy Phillips. After another downbeat, the full ensemble reemerges and picks the groove back up. The 6/8 finally fades and is left only by Christians’ funky exotic bass. This song is wonderfully crafted, and masterfully performed.
The next song features the smooth articulate vocals of Melissa Walker. She actually does two songs on the album, and they both demonstrate the band’s ability to seamlessly allow a singer into its midst. Melissa’s voice is an excellent match tor the complexity of this big band. She is not outmatched or overshadowed in any way, but the two beautifully complement one another because of the consummate skill and artistry of both band and singer. Upside Down, and Mr. Bojangles (the other song that features Melissa’s voice) allow the band and Mellissa to meld into one lovely instrument.
Upside Down is a beautiful love song written by Regina Werneck and Djavan Caetano Vianna. It utilizes a 3/4 swing with a Bosa Nova feel. The horns and flute lead the listener into the tune’s melody and Melissa’s melodic voice. Her voice and emoting give the song believability and relevance. It’s a beautiful ode to her lover and her unrequited love for him. The song moves along in the built up emotional tension, as Mellissa pleads for her lover’s affection. After a gorgeous full-band interlude and a pretty trombone solo featuring James Burton, Mellissa picks up the 3/4 groove with the band for a bit and then the song breaks into a 4/4-time signature change for 16 bars. This break gives the groove a real hip feel, and after the 3/4 picks up again Mellissa continues her ode to the very satisfying finish. It’s a nice neat package, and it nicely done!
Mr. Bojangles is a song that always reminds me of The Master: Sammy Davis Jr. Late in Sammy’s career, as Sammy aged, this song became a trademark of sorts for him and was also a fitting soliloquy to his then fading dancing abilities, but his ever-present exuberance for his craft. On this album, this tune is done in an upbeat fashion featuring the use of the brushes on the drum head courtesy of Quincy Phillips, and the lyrics are again sung by Melissa Walker. The brushes give the audible effect of the “old soft shoe”, and the memories that dance evokes. The song also features trombone solos by Joe McDonough, before and after the “soft shoe” solo. The song goes out on the walking bass of Christian, the scatting of Mellissa, and Joe’s solid trombone play. Sammy would smile at this one, and probably get up and dance as well.
The last song on this remarkable track is entitled Optimism. It’s a fitting title for the last tune on this album because anyone who loves big band jazz music, or the wider genre of jazz, will have nothing but optimism about the state of this art form after listening to this album. This jam is a Straight-ahead jazz tune if ever there was one. Written by Steve Davis, it features all the elements of a jazz standard; a driving bass line, cool sophisticated horns, sparkling solos, an understated but complex drumbeat, and an urban vibe that will guide you through any big city. From the opening drumroll onward, this speaks to music lovers in general, and jazz lovers particularly. It reminds me of busy days, and entertaining nights in any big city on the east coast of America; of trains, planes, and taxicabs; of jazz clubs and nightlife. This is what jazz music is about at its finest. It’s the embodiment of 20 century (and the 21st century as well), American lifestyle. The good and the bad; the melting pot, and the flame. It’s a good ride, and you’ll have to listen to it, so it can describe itself.
Well, once again, I thank all of you for the time you took out of your busy day to read this article. I appreciate each and every one of you who took time out of your busy lives to lend me a few moments time. Feel free to leave your comments and suggestions in the appropriate spaces provided. I’ll try to get back to anyone who has reached out.
Also, please remember to use http://www.nmojazz.com/ for all your jazz music inquiries. It’s the world largest and best jazz music search engine.
Also, come to N-Motions next “First Friday” Party. Check out the website for details. www.nmotionent.com.
And as always; next time “Catch You On the Corner”!
B. B. Suber
The World of Chantae Cann
February 26, 2018
I decided to check out Cleveland OH’s Chantae Cann on the recommendation of Pittsburgh native musician and drummer James Johnson III. I had recently done an article reviewing James’ most recent CD Full Circle, and was impressed with his music, so I trusted his judgment and gave Chantae a listen. As expected, I was not disappointed. Chantae has a beautiful melodic voice, and a style that is as warm and inviting as a burning fireplace on a cold winter’s evening. Her latest CD Sol Empowered is beautifully crafted and an inspiring musical gem.
At first blush, I thought Sol Empowerment was simply Neo Soul music mixed with Electronica, but I realized that in the place of a bass synthesizer and synthesized horns there is a real bass and real live horns. That fact had me kind of confused for a bit, in fact, I was startled. As I listened to the music I began to realize that it was in kind of a realm of its own, and a very good realm at that. I have a pet peeve with new music in general, and pop, smooth jazz, and jazz specifically, and that is that many artists seem to fear being too different or taking risks and stretching their creative muscles before the listening public. Well, that is not a problem with Ms. Cann. She has a unique sound and presentation that’s refreshing and distinctly original.
One of the songs that demonstrates this fearlessness in an exceptional fashion is the song Sol Glo. The song is written and performed by Chantae, and Tarriona Tank Ball, and produced and arranged by Chantae. In the song there are only two voices (instrumentation) are those of Chantae, and Tarriona. The only other musician on the track is bassist Anthony Parrish, but this is not what you hear. What you hear is a choir (Chantae), Percussions (Chantae on the vocal beatbox), bass, and the ingenious and fresh flow of Tarriona. The lyrics are encouraging and inspirational, and the sound is lush and full, and its all due to the creative ingenuity of Chantae.
I could gush over this entire CD, but for brevity sake, I’ll talk about only a few of the tracks. One track I really like is The Light. It’s written by Chantae and arranged by her and keyboardist Justin Gilbert. A muted horn and a keyboard along with Chantae’s mellow vocals lead you into the song. Once in, the song develops into a smooth groove that has an almost Bosa Nova feel to the drums and baseline. All the vocals are magnificently done by Chantae, but what really sets this track apart is the instrumentation. Here you get an appreciation of the horn section. The horns’ punctuation and accents, and their use in the bridge have an almost big band feel to it. The use of the keyboard is tasteful and satisfying, and the treatment of the Wurlitzer Organ is reminiscent of days gone by. Near the end of the song, Chantae sings a sparkling counterpoint with herself. This is a really lovely tune and I recommend listening to it a time or two to get the full perspective of what goes on. Enjoyable to say the least.
Let me go back and talk about the first song on this CD U Gotta Love Ya. I intentionally talked about the CD in non-sequential order not only to keep things fresh for the writer, but also because I appreciated the album for the inside out (the inner tracks caught my fancy and gave me the initial perspective of where everything was for this CD creatively speaking). For me, the first track was the very first music I had heard of Chantae’s. It is this track that exhibits all of Chantae musical skills (arranged by her and Justin Gilbert), and it also exhibits her skill as a lyricist.
Chantae has a penchant for singing encouraging lyrics to and for her listeners, and in today’s world I believe this is a necessary task for musicians who are lead to do so. Music can be an escape for some, but it can also be a rallying cry, or an aural support system for many. In Chantae’s music, you can hear her experience with struggle, as well as her experience with overcoming adversity. On U Gotta Love Ya Chantae expresses the knowledge of finding light in sources other than daylight. She enlightens her listeners in a smooth melodic exercise of sound, and she sings of hope as the band begins a growing swing groove. This song is a subtle delight. The horns exhibit a muted majestic tone, and the bass kicks a danceable mellow groove. This sing, although subtle in tone, has much to say about who Chantae is as a musician, and person. It’s a very nice intro into her world.
Another high point of the CD is Happy Song Interlude. This song is a jazz interpretation of the song directly preceding it Happy Song. It’s short (being only an interlude), but it exhibits the musicianship of the players on this CD. The interlude is arranged by Justin Gilbert, the keyboardist. On this track, he plays the Rhodes electric piano beautifully. The drums are magnificently played by Big Ed Clark (as he plays on most of the CD), and the exceptional bassist is Brian Cockerham. Percussions are played by Frankie Quinones and Joey Gonzales. I would not be surprised to hear this song become somewhat of a standard. It’s that good.
The Interlude is followed by The Love Above cowritten and arranged by Chantae and Justin Gilbert. This instrumental is intriguing and quietly introspective in feel. The players are the same players which appear on the Happy Song Interlude with the addition of the “Good Time Brass Band” consisting of Melvin Jones on Trumpet/Flugelhorn/Trombone, and Mike Burton/Alto Sax, and the subtle violin playing of Brooke Alford. This song has a very “Weather Report” sort of feel to it, and if there is one band to emulate from the late 70’s an 80’s that would “Weather Report”. The synthesizer, bass and percussion combination give this song a very jazz fusion feel. It’s a well-placed palate cleanser and seems to give a contemplative pause in the Neo Soul groove of the rest of the CD.
Craters is an arrestingly beautiful love song featuring Chantae and PJ Morton. It was written by Gordon Walters, and arranged by Chantae, and GPAC. Also singing on the track is Anthony Parrish. The song is quietly beautiful, and pleadingly sensual. Although not written by Chantae, the song does not feel out of place on this CD, and that is because of the lyrics. The lyrics sing of love being like craters on the moon. The simile is so odd that it actually makes sense within the boundaries of the beautiful song, and brilliant Album. The lyrics are unexpected and fit right into the fabric of this unusual and unique CD. If this song gets the airplay, it will be a hit. It’s unforgettable in feel and beauty.
The last song of the album features one of my favorite bands (as its one of the favorite bands of a lot of people), Snarky Puppy. The collaboration of band and singer makes a lot of sense. Both band and singer define who they are for themselves. Neither of the two seem to allow other’s expectations to interfere with their exploration of their musical journeys or identities. For this reason, the singer and band collaboration not only make sense, but works flawlessly. Although the sound of the band is somewhat different from the rest of the album, it fits right in with the fabric of the greater work. The song has an undercurrent of tension that diffused in the triumphant refrain of iRise. The music is big, bold and beautiful, and gives the CD and epic ending. An ending that makes you want to see both Chantae and Snarky Puppy live and in person (something I hope to do this year). It’s a triumphant ending to a triumphant CD.
As usual, I’d like to take a moment to thank you all for taking the time to read this article. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it, and I hope you’ll give Chantae’s CD a listen, even better, buy a copy and help the sister out (lol). Also, please remember to pass the word around, and have your friends drop by and check out the blog.
Please feel free to leave comments in the comment section, and leave the name of any CD or artist you’d like me to check out.
Remember http://www.nmojazz.com/ for all you jazz, smooth jazz, and Neo-soul music searches. It’s only the #! Jazz search engine in the world!
Thanks again, and next time “Catch You On The Corner”!
B. B. Suber
Jazz Soul Seven; Impressions of Curtis Mayfield
February 19, 2018
The first time I heard the Jazz Soul Seven I had just climbed into my car and turned the engine over. As the radio came on my ear picked up a funky jazz groove in mid-song. The band was jamming, and I was swept away by an intellectually honest, and sonically beautiful musical treat. When the hook came around the bass line and the beat made me say to myself “That sounds like Freddy’s Dead!”. Well, sure enough it was, but it was no mere knock off of the original, instead it was an original in and of itself. This band and the arranger had hit upon an impression of a classic that had all the feel of the original, but the vigor and spunk of something new; I felt as though I was listening to an instant classic in the making, and I simply had to buy this CD.
Well, Freddy’s Dead happens to be the first song on this deliciously enjoyable CD, and it doesn’t’ matter if you’re a jazz lover, a classic R & B lover, or a Curtis Mayfield lover, this album delivers in a big way. It’s clean, honest, and respectful of the composer and of his beautifully composed music. The album is entitled “Impressions of Curtis Mayfield”, Jazz Soul Seven. The Jazz Soul Seven is made up of Terri Lyne Carrington/Drums; Russ Ferrante/Piano; Master Henry Gibson/Percussion; Bob Hurst/Bass; Wallace Roney/Trumpet; Phil Upchurch/Guitar, and Ernie Watts/Saxophone. These seven players assemble a cohesive unit of pure funk, groove and Jazz, all the while paying homage to one of the great, and perhaps one of the most under-recognized musicians and composers of his generation.
Terri Lyne Carrington is the leader of the band, and as such, one of the biggest impressions you’ll notice while listening to this CD is the driving force of the drums and percussions. The songs are arranged and performed from the “bottom up”; what I mean by that is that the tracks are grounded and driven by the drums and congas. Curtis, himself relied heavily on the drums and congas to express his music and set the tone, and Terri does the same. Her drumming sets the mood for the track, and the other players seamlessly follow suit. This phenomenon is expressed on the first track (Freddie’s Dead), and it continues strikingly throughout the entire CD.
This album is candy to the ears. I can’t really say one tune is a standout over another. Curtis was such an accomplished composer, and this CD is almost a compilation of his best stuff, so please forgive me if I gush a little bit over what I hear; but let me tell you the second tune “It’s All Right” took me back to “in the day”. This song grooves just like the original, and it evokes memories for me of childhood picnics with grown folks fast dancing to this groovy tune. “It’s All Right” was always one of my favorites, and it remains so on this album. The feelings it elicits are raw and emotional for me because I can never actually go back to that time, but it’s songs like this one that take me as close as I can humanly get. It’s an excellent song, and I believe a person who never heard the original would enjoy this version just as well. This was Curtis at his best, and its Jazz Soul Seven at its best as well.
Russ Ferrante’s piano lays the intro for the next song “Move On Up”. It’s followed by the voices of the congas, drums (at first simply keeping time on the rim of the drum), and bass. Then in comes the smooth guitar of Phil Upchurch, with Ernie’s mellow sax entering next, and finally the muted horn of Wallace Roney round out this epically beautiful song. This song evokes the hope and encouragement of the original in such a masterful way. I had to go back and listen to original just to get a feel of what Curtis was trying to say. Curtis’ music was such an integral part of the civil rights movement; especially this song. I had nearly forgotten how powerful and encouraging this song was for the then young black boy in Pittsburgh (yours truly), and I’m sure many young blacks around the country. “Move on Up” was an anthem, and it still is today. It reminds me of the struggle for equality and the complexity of the times, and this version reflects that so aptly. That song needs to be remembered today. It reminds me that individually we all must do our part to continue the next phase of that struggle. It reminds me of the debt we owe to that brave past generation, and the debt we owe to the ones after us. This song is that powerful, and the wonderful music of this rendition reflects the majesty of that movement in a powerful way.
The next song I’d like to discuss is the 1972 released original title song “Superfly” I’ll leave discussion of the entire “blaxploitation” movie era for another article. I don’t want to complicate the discussion too much. On the merits of this version of the title song alone, this rendition of the song does the original far more than due benevolence. As with the original, the bass and bongos along with the punctuated syncopation of Russ Ferrante’s piano take the listener into the mood of the track. Wallace Roney’s trumpet and Ernie’s sax sing the original tune before taking us into masterful improvisations. The horn and the rhythm guitar playing of Phil gives us a feel of the life and times of the characters of the movie, as well as where the psyche of the national black community was at that time. Russ’ superb piano solo shines is its authority and voice, and Roney’s trumpet solo is amazing. The grit of the streets, and the grit of that age in American history are reflected by the musicians in the bars of this song. Phil Upchurch rounds out the song with a chorded solo (at times reminiscent of George Benson), and then takes us to the end of the well performed song.
One of my favorites songs by Curtis Mayfield is “I’m So Proud”. This song is superbly done on this album. The swing is so intense on this 6/8 cut that at times it almost feels like a waltz. It beautifully performed, and it has a warm and gently sweet feel. Ernie’s sax sings of love and beauty and the band plays in a subdued easy swing. This rendition is uniquely beautiful in texture and feel, and has the potential to be a classic; just as much a classis as the original. The song begins with the solo guitar giving the short hint of a 6/8-time signature, and as the rest of the band comes in the signature is fully revealed. It’s a clever device that adds a little drama to the beginning before settling into a nice swing feel. Phil also lays down a clean, sweetly played, warm solo. This is a love song, and that feel is accentuated in stellar fashion.
The CD ends with “Amen”. This song was done was an old gospel song that was popularized by Curtis in the 60’s and also sung in the movie “Lilies of the field” by Sidney Poitier. On this album it seems to be the perfect song to end the album with. Ernie Watts’ saxophone sings this song loud and true, and Wallace Roney’s trumpet enters in with a more contemplative voice that gives he song an improvised feel. This choice of song gives the album the feel of having just completed a fined meal; it leaves one satisfied, and of course, it ends with a nice “church chord”.
This is a very nice album. If you are apt to collect albums, then this one should be considered for addition to you library. If you only rent the music, then its worth having around to help you enjoy your day. Any way it goes, this CD deserves a hearing. You will not be disappointed. I give it a big “Thumbs up”!
Once again, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to read this article. As you can tell by now, I only write about CDs and albums that I like (I’m not here to shatter dreams), and I won’t lead you astray. Please tell your friends about this site and encourage them to drop by. In the near future, we plan on having a comment section where your input will be welcomed. If you have any artist or album you’d like me to check out, please drop a line. Also, remember to check out http://www.nmojazz.com for all your jazz, and smooth jazz inquiries. It’s the number 1 jazz search engine in the country.
Thanks, again, and as always, next time “Catch You on the Corner”.
B. B. Suber
The Diva Meets the Boys; February 10, 2018
Lyndsey Smith Rocks the Hilton with the N-Motion Band!!
On The “First Friday” of February 2018, at the Hilton Garden Inn on Forbes Ave Pittsburgh (Oakland), Lyndsey Smith performed with the N-Motion Band in the beautiful downstairs banquet room of the hotel. Now, although that last sentence is indeed ‘factual” it doesn’t begin to tell the whole story of that evening’s events, nor does it touch upon the amazing talent and energy Lyndsey and the band displayed that night to an enthusiastic near capacity crowd.
The N-Motion band is always impressive; they are tight, polished, musically fit, and entertaining. This First Friday’s iteration of the band included Randraiz Wharton/Keyboards, John Hall/Bass, Dennis Garner/Drums, and Steve Delach/Guitar. They started off the evening with a soulful rendition of George Benson’s” Affirmation”; Steve’s guitar was mellow and strong, and the band members all took turns displaying their chops. This band is a top-notch crew, and they can play with anyone. Their rendition of “Breezin” warmed up the crowd with a smooth soulful groove that the audience fully appreciated.
After the band’s first song, Lyndsey came to the stage. Lyndsey has a commanding stage presence that is obviously a result of spending a lot of time in front of an audience singing and entertaining them. She lit up the stage with her personality, and after a brief explanation of her objectives for the evening (to entertain and make the crowd party with her) the band broke into Anita Baker’s “Angel”. Lyndsey sang it beautifully, and she had the crowd enthralled with her voice and her interpretation of the song.
It was my first-time hearing Lyndsey perform, and I was immediately impressed by her stage presence and professionalism, but I was blown away by her voice; the woman can sing. She has exception range, immaculate vocal control, and she also knows how to work a room. The band was also at the top of their game, and they accompanied Lyndsey wonderfully.
Lyndsey’s next choice was Erykah Badu’s “Other Side of the Game”. Lyndsey shined singing this tune and made the song her own; it was as if she wrote it herself. She sang with passion and emotion that comes from living a life immersed with love and music. She followed it up by singing a song that completely caught me off guard, and that was the Gap Band’s “Yearning for Your Love” . The song choice caught me off guard because I hadn’t heard it for such a long time, and because I couldn’t imagine anyone singing it but the Gap Band, but with the emotional carryover from the previous song, the timing made perfect sense. The choice of these two songs back to back exhibited a level of artistic planning that made me consider the singer’s pedigree; I was watching a true artist at her craft.
But it was the very next song that made me want to give this woman, this “singer” a standing ovation; she had the nerve and audacity to sing James Brown’s “This is a Man’s World”. Not only did she pull this off, she killed it and make it her own. To me, this was the standout song of the evening. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard a woman perform this song, and I don’t believe I’ve ever heard it sung so well (James Brown excluded, of course). When a singer makes a song make sense when, on the surface of all things being considered, it shouldn’t make sense, then you know you’re watching not only a good singer, but (as I stated previously), a consummate craftsman.
She ended the set by singing two more songs which were nicely done; “Can We Talk” by Tevin Campbell, and Janet Jackson’s “I Get So Lonely”. Both were marvelously done, and she left a satisfied crowd as she took a short break before a second set.
During the intermission, DJ Mike Tha Punisher played a short set. He immediately had a lot of the crowd up and moving (as many already were dancing while Lyndsey sang), and he gave a brief glimpse into what was in store after the band finished for the evening.
When Lyndsey returned to the stage she had to cut off Mike because he was in full-fledged party mode. It was a funny moment, and Mike apologized profusely while everyone had a good laugh in the relaxed atmosphere of the evening. Then Lyndsey announced that it was indeed “Party time”. She encouraged folks to come up to the front of the stage area and dance with her during the last set.
Lyndsey began with a bang by singing Chaka Khan’s “Can’t Nobody”. She had the crowd jumping with her, and there was a sizable crowd in front of the bandstand that never seemed to sit down. And Lyndsey was not shy because she was having fun dancing and intermingling with the crowd. She virtually worked the entire front third of the banquet room.
After the first song, she kind of mellowed the mood with a Jill Scott number “The Way”. Lyndsey handled this song with just as much sensuality as the original, and the crowd kindly responded. She, the band, and the audience grooved in unison, and needless to say, Lyndsey had them eating out of her hand.
Lyndsey and the band brought the party back to full force with the next three songs; the first of them being Zhane’s “Hey Mr DJ”. The party was back in full effect, and Lindsey was not only singing, but dancing with the crowd as well. The band followed it up with Mary J. Blige’s “Real Love”. Lyndsey’s voice was still strong and clear after nearly an hour and a half of singing, and she and the crowd were still partying. She looked as though she was having a good time, and everyone was having a good time with her.
She ended the night with a bang by singing BBD’s “Poison”. She not only sang the song, “and” did the rap, but she threw in a bunch of old school dance moves as well. She was having fun, and so was I, and the rest of the crowd too. She did a fantastic job, and it left me with a sense of “I need to interview this woman” feeling. Folks, I tried to get an interview, but she was swamped with admirers, and the band was tearing down equipment after the show, and unfortunately, I had to leave so I could be at my other job in the a.m. But I finally got a chance to talk with Lindsey for a few moments, and exchanged contact information. I expect to have an interview soon, and of course it will be on “The Corner”.
After the show, Mike Tha Punisher took over. The audience was warmed up and dancers as well, as line dancers took over. The party did not stop until well after midnight, and everyone had a good time.
If you didn’t make this one I’m sorry you missed a great show. Take some time to check out Lindsey on WQED’s Sessions. But don’t worry, next First Friday, we’ll do it again. Be on the lookout for coming information about the next guest artist.
As always, thanks for taking the time to read this article, and remember to check out http://www.nmojazz.com/ the nation’s number one online search engine for jazz, and smooth jazz music. And as always, next week “Catch you on the Corner”.
B. B. Suber
Ranky Tanky; February 2, 2018
A five-piece band of Gullah influenced musicians
and the beautiful music they bring.
The Gullahs are a people of the Carolina Islands, they also populate the islands off the coast of Georgia and Florida. They are descendants of African Slaves who settled into the region of the Atlantic coastal islands of the American southern states. They have their own culture, food and language, and although they are a part of this country it is difficult to get to know this unique people because most have never heard of their existence, but they and their culture have continued to thrive in this secluded region since the end of the Civil War.
The band Ranky Tanky has recorded a small sample of the Gullah musical heritage on this strikingly beautiful CD which shares the band’s name. The music is at times folksy, sassy, reverent, spiritual, and jazzy, but it is always good. The music evokes the feel of a way of life that not many of us has ever experienced, and it gives us a short glimpse into the lives and times of these reclusive people.
The band consists of five players (four of whom are Gullah descendants); Quentin E. Baxter/drums; Kevin Hamilton/bass; Quiana Parker/vocalist; Clay Ross/guitar & vocals; and Charlton Singleton/Trumpet & vocals. Interestingly, the album was produced by the drummer, Quentin Baxter, and that might give you a small hint as to what you will hear,
The Album begins with the spiritually inspired “That’s Alright”. It’s a simple hymn of sorts. The song speaks of better times in the coming new life. What makes this song noteworthy is the instrumentation. The upright bass, drum and trumpet lead the listener into the heart of the song, and we also get our first taste of the beautiful voice of lead singer Quiana Parker. Her voice is a beautify strong and clear alto. She exhibits a knowledgeable use of dynamic range and excellent vocal control. Listening to this song you know you’re in for a pleasant ride.
I wouldn’t be going my job well if I did not write about the song “Been in The Storm”. This song showcases Quiana in a nearly solo soundstage; she’s only accompanied by the drum kit. The song displays a tremendous amount of emotional depth from this duo. The drums tell the story of an impending storm, and Quiana’s pleading prayerful singing mesmerizes the listener. This song is gem. It’s a short drama that you’ll want to “see” again. Very nice.
The next song is the title song “Ranky Tanky”. It’s a playful story of life in Gullah community. Clay Ross sings the lead (he’s the guy who is the easiest to spot), and here the band shows how they jam. Clay’s voice and vocalization are well done, and pleasant, and you can hear the entire band’s love for what they do together as a band, and the love they have for the music they play. The simple instrumentation is maintained, but the trumpet is absent until a mid-song solo, and the sound is augmented by an expertly played tambourine, handclapping, and the groovy solo of Clay Ross’ guitar. It’s a fun song, and it will have you tapping your feet.
I’ll resist the urge to continue to write about the songs in the numerical album order, and I’ll skip over to the song “Knee Bone”. This song begins with the tambourine, handclaps, and a “call and response” singing intro; after a brief fadeout, it then leads into a nice jazzy tune that puts the musicianship of the band on full display. The bass, drum and guitar interplay are worthy of any jazz band, and these guys show that they are in no way musical lightweights. The trumpet solo of Charlton Singleton shows that this man has the chops to play for anyone anywhere, and Clay’s virtuoso guitar is thoughtful, rhythmic and cool. The song ends just as nicely as it begins with the “call and response”, handclapping and tambourine. This song has a swinging melodic groove and should get airplay on many different types of radio stations.
“Go to Sleep” is a short sweet little lullaby which features the solos vocals of Quiana, and Clay’s guitar. It’s hauntingly beautiful and soothing. The lyrics seem to evoke the spirit of the islands from which it gets it life. The use of soft dynamics and the interplay of the bass and soft drums add to the quiet beauty of this song, and Quiana’s voice is amazing.
Lastly, and appropriately, the “Goodbye Song”. Not only does this song evoke the flavor of the Caribbean Islands, but the drums and trumpet seem to speak of the New Orleans’s sound and region (I believe there is a definite similarity of the music of these two regions). The song is well done and is a nice cap on a very delightful CD.
I hope I’m wrong, but I think upon first listening, a lot of people might be reluctant to give this CD a chance. It is different from what many are used to hearing (including the writer), but if you are patient and hear it out, then you’ll be treated to a delicacy of sound and feel. This LP is a glimpse into the life and sound of a sometimes-forgotten people, and a forgotten era. It’s thoughtful and beautify done and a worthy addition to a music lover’s stash. Enjoy it, just as much as I did (and will).
A definite “thumbs up”.
Well, once again, thanks for taking the time to read this column. I enjoyed writing it, and I hope you enjoyed reading it. Please fell free to send your feedback on this site. Also, if you have any music or musician you’d like for me to review, please feel free to pull my coat. I’ll definitely give it a hearing.
And remember to check out http://www.nmojazz.com/ for all your jazz music searches. The search engine is the biggest, baddest and the best search engine for all your jazz inquires.
Thanks, again, and as usual, “Catch You on the Corner”.
B. B. Suber
Bad Ass and Blind! January 26, 2018
Raul Midon’s Grammy Nominated Killer CD
Raul Midon is one of my favorite musical artists. I first heard his music in 2006; his monster CD State of Mind, and I’ve been a fan ever since. If you’ve never heard of him let me take a few lines to fill you in: Raul was born in New Mexico, and was blinded by the same means that his idol “Stevie Wonder” was blinded; inadequate eye protection while in a preemie incubator. He is youthful 51 years of age. He doesn’t look it, and he sure doesn’t sound like a typical artist of that age either. He’s a singer, song writer, guitar player, percussionist (he usually uses his guitar as a drum while he plays), and a trumpeter of sorts; well, he doesn’t actually play trumpet, but instead blows his lips and sounds like a trumpet. He is an absolutely incredible artist/musician.
Raul has also performed with many artists including Stevie Wonder, India Arie, and Herbie Hancock, just to name a few. Here is a link to Raul performing a Stevie Wonder tune with Herbie Hancock “I Just called to say I Love you”. Herbie’s arrangement it beautiful, and Raul’s delivery is so perfect that I feel this version of the song is better than the original.
Since I hadn’t heard anything from Raul in a while, and I was wondering what he was up to. Well about a week ago or so, while on a food shopping trip with one of my daughters, I happened to have my car radio tuned to Real Jazz (Sirius XM 67), and who do I hear being interviewed? You guessed it Mr. Midon himself. He and the host Mark Ruffin (who did a great job interviewing Raul), were talking about Raul’s Grammy nominated CD “Bad Ass and Blind”. The show was great, and I found out a lot about Raul that I didn’t know (his being born in New Mexico for instance), but most of all I found the next CD I would purchase, and the next article I would write.
Making a great album is a blessing and a curse to an artist. The album becomes a milestone in the artist’s career, and it haunts them. In the back of their mind I know they must wonder if they will ever write another album as good as that one, and that CD for Raul has to be State of Mind. If you’ve never listened to it, do yourself a favor and buy it; it’s phenomenal. State of Mind was a Grammy worthy album. I don’t know who won the Grammy that year, but I can say Raul got robbed. I, like everyone else, thought he could never top that CD (that is a tower of a job to do), but Bad Ass and Blind is at least the equal of State of mind, and that is saying something!
Bad Ass and Blind kicks off with the title track, and the song jams! It features Raul singing lead and background, and the song has a funky groove that makes you want to dance, but, true to form, Raul throws in a couple of wrenches (good wrenches), in this straight forward song. For one there’s a brief time change in the middle of the song. It’s a 4/4. 3/4. 5/4 interlude that repeats itself for about 6 bars or so, and then ends with a 3/4, 2/2 break; That’s just Raul showing off. But right after that Raul spits some bars, yup, he raps! And, of course the man does it as he does all things musical, extremely well!!! He’s got bars and flow, so all you rappers better watch out cause this man ain’t playin, he is BAD ASS, and so is the song.
The second track of the album is entitled Red, Green, Yellow. This song puts me in mind of Prince’s Manic Monday, or Raspberry Beret; no, it doesn’t sound like either of those songs, but it has that kind of feel. It’s a song about everyday life, and how hectic it is, and in it Raul describes everyday events that we all encounter. The song has a way of sticking in your head, and it also showcases Raul’s song writing prowess. During the radio interview Raul spoke about wanting to be considered a song writer, and not just a jazz artist. Well, he is a song writer, and he can write about virtually anything, and make is sound good. I’m surprised to say that he has grown as an artist. He’s always been a high caliber songwriter, but in my estimation, he’s in a zone where everything he experiences vibrates with his life in music. He is at a height of creativity that boggles the imagination (as an example, Raul produced the entire album!).
On the fourth song of the album, Raul brilliantly pays homage to his jazz roots with the song Wings of Mind. On the track Raul sings the lead and background vocals and plays an accomplished jazz guitar. It’s a straight ahead jazz track, with mellow lyrics and tone. The song also features a true trumpet solo by Nicholas Payton (surprisingly Raul doesn’t blow his own “trumpet” at all on this album). Another amazing feature of the song is the guitar, and piano. The piano is subdued and lays the foundation for the entire song, and the guitar solos are amazing. Excellent work!
And, although I hate to do this (I don’t like talking about tracks in direct sequence), I just cannot help it; the next song is a fantastic love song entitled If Only. Raul is magic when it comes to love songs, and he delivers on this track in a huge way. This song is smooth and mellow, with a warm intimate feel. Raul plays both acoustic and electric guitar on the track, and the piano, drum and bass give the music a small combo vibe. The lyrics are romantic and have the ring of truth that anyone who has ever been in love can relate to. The song displays jazz overtones that are beautiful and warm, with the drummer keeping time via the rim of the drum which gives the feel of a ticking clock. Raul ends this song with a beautiful scat serenade. This track is magic.
I could talk about every track on this CD, but I’d only bore you to death, so I won’t do it. I understand why this CD is Grammy nominated. Every song on this thing is fantastic. No hyperbole is intended or given. The disc is great. This album impresses this listener more with each time it is played. I am going to resist the temptation and leave the rest unsaid, but the one thing I will say is ‘get this CD’. You will not be disappointed. Raul Midon is a remarkable artist, and this album reflects that. I don’t have enough “thumbs up” to give it.
Also, catch this man live if you ever get the chance. He’s as impressive in person as he is on disc; even more so!
Thanks for indulging me by reading this article. I hope I didn’t disappoint you, and please come back.
Remember, check out http://www.nmojazz.com/;The World’s largest and most active jazz music search engine. Also, come join N-Motion at their “First Friday” parties for the best in Grown Folk entertainment. Check the upcoming Facebook blasts for details.
Thanks again, and as always, “Catch You on The Corner”!
James Johnson III January 19, 2018
Full Circle – CD Review
I was excited to finally get my copy of Mr. James Johnson III’s 2018 release “Full Circle”. After waiting impatiently for it, I finally had it in my hands. Once in my possession, I couldn’t wait to add it to my iPod (I’m still old-school), and listen to it several times before beginning to write my thoughts. Well, the CD does not disappoint; not one bit. Let me start by saying that it is an excellent CD! It’s far more than I expected, and quite frankly I had to listen to it a few times to catch up with what JJ3 is saying. It is a beautiful album, (I also loved his last album “In Between”). It’s fresh, artistic, and exhibits a sense of bravery that is refreshing, and draws the listener in.
One facet of the album that is not only interesting, but enthralling as well, is the use of the human voice as an instrument. It’s done on several tracks; at times it a female voice, and at times a male voice, and it melds itself into the fabric of the music almost unnoticed. In many places the voice is only singing notes; no words at all. Used as such, it’s an enchanting device that adds a sense of spatial openness which makes the music seem to envelope the listener. And although this is certainly a jazz album, this album tends to transcend genre and definition. As you listen, you realize that the entire album is the device of an artist; a tapestry or canvas for his thoughts, and feelings. It’s definitely not “easy listening”, but it is easy on the ear.
When I first got my hands on the CD, of course I read the songs to get a sense of where James might be creatively; well the one song that jumped off the liner notes was the 8th track, a cover of “Black Hole Sun”; the 1994 Soundgarden hit. That songs always takes me back to my days of working out at “Exercise Warehouse” in Lawrenceville; at that time my children were still kids, so you know I was eager to listen to this track. More on it later (spoiler alert; no letdown at all).
James has constructed a top-notch album with every song being able to stand on its own. There are nine songs on the CD, and of the nine, five were written by him, and four by other musicians (among those musicians are Esbojorn Svensson, and Kenny Kirkland). All the music was carefully chosen for this project and lends itself to a cohesive whole that elicits feelings of completeness and satisfaction. I believe James considers himself a drummer first (I could be wrong on that one), but his skills as a keyboardist, and singer are top notch as well, and he’s an excellent writer and arranger. All those skills are on display on this disc.
The first song of the album is the title track “Full Circle”. It’s a cool little ditty that is contemplative, but light at the same time. It’s good driving music, and good music to do some cerebral work by. It’s cleverly constructed, and the players and vocals add to the airy nature of the song. Sean Jones’ trumpet is featured on this track, and Sean is his usual “awesome” self. The one word I comes to mind for me concerning this song is “delightful”. It’s just nice, and it bodes of more good music follow.
I usually don’t talk about an album in the order in which it appears on the disc; instead I like to skip around to give the reader a taste of the entire body of work, but I have to talk about the next song which is “Rebirth”. I love this song! The drum and cymbal work are amazing, and the vocals and keys are smooth and cool. The song puts me in mind of some old “Weather Report” music, but this music stands on its own! This track is a winner. I can’t say enough about how good it is…you’ll have to listen for yourself. This song has “classic” written all over it.
Next, I’ll choose Esbojorn Svensson’s “Seven Days of Falling”. This song features the vocals of “Carolyn Perteete. James’ arrangement of this song is fantastic, and his use of the keyboard to at times sing in unison with Carolyn is amazing. This album just seems to get better with each track (if that were possible). Once again, the drums are fantastic; understated, musical, with a mellow funky groove. And to add to the flavor, Claude Flowers bass is also superb!
Now I have to pay homage to all you funk lovers out there (of which I am one). Well, when you first hear this song, you might not get it, but just keep listening to “Movement”. It has a subdued funky groove, and it features trumpet/Sean Jones, and French Horn/Lorenze Jefferson (that’s right, French Horn). This cut is groovy; no doubt about it. The keys, horns and bass lay down a nice mellow groove that will make any funk master smile. The song is not overstated, and stays within the subdued boundary of the album, but it grooves none the less. Nice cut.
Lastly, I’m back at the cut that initially grabbed my eye “Black Hole Sun”. For those of you who are familiar with the original, you will appreciate the respect this version gives to it. It’s very true to the original in feel and delivery, but James’ arrangement gives the song a soft contemplative contemporary touch that lends itself to the feel of the album. The vocals are done by Carolyn Perteete, and she does a fine job, and makes the song her own. The words and voicing of the song are somewhat of a contrast to the rest of the album, but it still feels part of a whole. It doesn’t stand out as if it doesn’t belong, instead it adds a little flavor to the wonderful gumbo of this fine album.
If you can’t tell, or you’re still wondering how I feel about this album, let me spell it out in plain language, “Go Buy This CD”! For any jazz lover, old or new, this is a great addition to your collection. It’s thoughtfully done, and delivered with grace and respect to the music and listener. I give it a giant “Thumbs up”!
Well, that’s it for this week. I’d like to thank you all for the time you took to read this article. Feel free to leave feedback if you’d like. Also, remember to check out http://www.nmojazz.com/ for your jazz music searches. It’s America’s # 1 Jazz music search engine.
And, once again, “Catch You on the Corner”!
First Friday Kickoff Party 2018! January 15, 2018
The Gavin Horning Band
On the extremely frigid Friday night of January 5th, 2018, at the Hilton Garden Inn in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, PA, the Gavin Horning Band kicked off N-Motion Entertainment’s 2018 “First Friday” Series in admirable style.
Although it was one of the coldest nights of the winter to date (and a record breaking cold, at that), the band played to a surprisingly large (for such a cold night), crowd. To be honest, because of the weather, I did not expect a very large crowd at all, but the beautifully appointed bar and restaurant area of the Hilton Garden Inn had very few unoccupied seats, with nearly every table in front of the band stand filled, and a few tables in the bar area (on the opposite side of the partitioned room), occupied as well.
The “Gavin Horning Band”, featured four players: Gavin Horning/ Guitar, Kenzy Pierce/ Bass, Ben Brosche/Keyboards, and Jevon Rushton/Drums. Also, the special guest for the evening was Mr. Wayne Barber/vocals.
After a brief warmup and introduction, the young band of musicians began their set with the Harvey Mason tune “Groovin You”. The arrangement was fresh, and the rendition was flawless, crisp, and beautifully done. Gavin was in great form, as was the rest of the band. In a small band such as this, everyone must understand their role so that the other players can have the freedom to comfortably fulfill their own. Well, the foundation for a group this size usually begins with the drummer, and Jevon Rushton understands that important function well. He not only delivers a steady groove for his fellow bandmembers to play off, but he does it with musicality, and soulfulness. He was bedrock, and held down the beat with force and grace, and set the groove all night long.
The second song the band played was Toto’s 80’s hit “Africa”. I was pleasantly surprised by this one. It’s always nice to hear a tune that is not usually consider a jazz standard treated as one. One big knock against jazz is that it can be boring; with new players being in such awe of previous generations of jazz giants that the new players tend to become stifled by an overblown sense of reverence, and thus become afraid to try new things, and play new songs (how many times do I want to hear Mr. Magic?). Playing songs like “Africa” is not only brave, but takes jazz back to where it needs to go, back to the hands, hearts, and minds of the players. That’s where it all started, that’s where it belongs, and that is what will save this great American artform. Hearing this song being played gave me a sense of respect for this band and its leader. It may seem like a small thing, but it takes guts to play what some may consider as unconventional music. I say play the music you like, and if you like it, then that enjoyment comes through to the listener, and they will like it too. Nice job guys!
Listening to the band play this song forced me to pay attention; it forced me to hear what they were doing, and examine and enjoy their musicianship. I was caught up in what I was hearing, and immediately had a respect for their music and vision. This band showed itself to be an extremely tight unit, and all four players were superb. I was equally impressed with all of them. Kenzy is an excellent, accomplished bassist, and Ben is just as fine on the keys, and Jevon is a powerful (yet not overpowering), graceful and “musically gifted” drummer. Gavin’s leadership is smooth and complimenting; he is the anchor that gives them their identity as a unit. I found myself wondering whether they had any recorded music I could buy.
After the first two numbers, Gavin brought Wayne Barber to the stage. Wayne was introduced for a 5 song set of primarily 90’s R & B standards. Among some of the song’s he performed were Levert’s “Casanova”, Luther’s “Never Too Much”, and the 1970’s hit “Me and Mrs. Jones”. Wayne needed no background singers, because the crowd eagerly sang backup right on que. Mr. Barber admirably performed and entertained the appreciative crowd. His mellow crooning style had the rapt attention and good will of the audience. He could have sung all night if he wanted to.
After the vocal set, the band played an excellent version of Ronnie Laws’ “Always There”. The band once again displayed their chops. Ben’s playing on the keys on this number was superb and centerstage, and Kenzy’s bass was simply extraordinary, and I couldn’t get enough of Jevon’s drumming; the man is a beast of a talent. Gavin’s band is excellent (as is his lead guitar), and I’m not only looking forward to hearing them again, I also am eagerly awaiting any new recorded music that may be on the near horizon. I’m sure that CD is most likely in the works.
The evening’s live entertainment ended with a very nice rendition of the Gap Band’s “Outstanding’ with the vocals, once again, sung by Wayne Barber. The entire performance was very well rounded and enjoyable. If you happen upon an opportunity to see The Gavin Horning band perform, do yourself a favor and check them out; you won’t be disappointed.
After the band finished performing, the party was not over, it simply moved to the other side of the partition. It was time to dance. The party was only just beginning, and the crowd was now ready to be entertained by the dance music of DJ Mike “Tha Punisher”. Mike always puts on a good show, and he keeps the crowd moving. Mike plays a wide selection of old, new, and “renewed” music, and every line dance and dance step imaginable was on display, and as you all know “N-Motion Entertainment” is always the number one party for grown folks, and they did not disappoint that night. Catch them at the next “First Friday”; February 2, 2018 at the Hilton Garden Inn, Pittsburgh, PA.
Remember, search for your favorite Jazz musicians on America’s # 1 Jazz search engine http://www.nmojazz.com/
Thanks, again, for taking the time to read this post. and as always, “Catch You on the Corner”!
Leslie Odom Jr. (The CD) January 8, 2018
“Palate Cleansing for the ear and Soul”
Every now and again, there comes along an artist whose work is so refreshing that you can’t seem to get enough of it; just like cool lemonade on a hot summer afternoon, you just have to have some more. The 2016 re-released self-titled CD by Leslie Odom Jr. is exactly that kind of offering.
Mr. Odom’s effort is refreshing and enchanting, and his delivery is as smooth as a polished mirror. The music is minimalistic in its presentation, but the fullness of sound emanates from the pipes of Leslie himself which he utilizes effortlessly. Mr. Odom doesn’t need a lot of musical support to do what he does; perfection doesn’t need much enhancement. Listening to this album brings many adjectives to mind; Beautiful; soulful; smooth; sophisticated; simple; complex; clean; I could go on, but I don’t think I’d do the music, or the defining of it justice. This man was born to sing; he’s truly a gifted talent.
If you’re not familiar with the Carnegie Mellon University Honor Graduate, Leslie Odom Jr, he’s the man who played Arron Burr in the musical “Hamilton” on Broadway for two years, 2015-16. You can also see him sing in a Nationwide Insurance television commercial which he marvelously performed. There (on Broadway), he gained national recognition by winning a Tony award for best actor in a Musical Production in 2016. The rigorous schedule of performances (sometimes two shows a day), has seemed to have a very beneficial effect upon his vocal chords, because he possesses remarkable vocal strength which allows him to sing effortlessly and expertly, with expression and superb intonation accompanied by subtle nuances of flavored emotion, and he showcases that strength on this CD. On every selection his dynamic range, vocal control and refined elegance are graphically on display.
There are ten tracks on the album, and they are all very nice, but of course I will only talk about of few of them, but I advise you to listen to the entire work and you won’t be disappointed. So, I’ll start with the opening number “Look for The Silver Lining”.
On this song he’s accompanied by a trio of Piano, Bass, and drums, with a trio of female voices accompanying him later in the track. The sparse use of the drums, and the gentle play of the piano and bass set the platform for Leslie’s remarkable voice, and technique. Nothing is overdone, or superfluous, and its comes off as clean as fresh fallen snow. The voices in the refrain add a gentle ensemble that ends the song perfectly. This start for the album sets the flavor for the entire body, and the remainder never falters from the pleasant mellow mood.
The next tune is a cover of “Joey Joey Joey” written by Frank Loesser for the 1956 musical “The Most Happy Fella”. Leslie sings this hauntingly quiet song with passion and a tinge of sadness in his voice. The rendition is stunningly beautiful; accompanied by only a piano, and a bongo, and muted brushed drum. It is easily one of the standouts (one of among several), on this album.
The next song is “Autumn Leaves” is an even older tune from 1945. It’s of French and Hungarian origin, with the English lyrics written by Johnny Mercer and it’s just as beautifully rendered as the preceding song. If you’ve noticed a partner in all of this then you are not mistaken. This is Jazz music at its finest, delivered by an artist of the highest caliber.
For brevity sake, I will have to move on, but I will not go on without at least telling you about two more songs (buy this album…that’s all I have to say!), and I’m choosing these two because they are simply remarkable.
The one tune of this LP that has serious R & B legs is the song “The Guilty Ones”. Man, this song is powerful! The emoting, and sensuality of this song is off the charts, and it just hits you to the core. Leslie’s “Beast credentials” are on display in a grandiose fashion; not due to the huge orchestration or a crescendo of horns and trumpets, but solely due to the quite yet powerful emotion translated through a fantastic singer who feels the lyrics that he sings. REMARKABLE!
The last song was written by Jule Styne, “The Party’s Over” from the musical “Bells Are Ringing”. It’s a fitting end for an excellent album. Leslie delivers this song with panache and style. Leslie starts the tune out quietly and slowly builds to a dramatic finish that caps off this lovely piece, as well as this top rate masterpiece. This album is a winner and will not disappoint. I cannot give it enough “Thumbs UP”.
A must buy for any jazz enthusiast as well as any true music lover. One of the best albums I’ve heard in a long time.
Once again, thank you for taking the time to read this, and check out your favorite jazz artists on http://www.nmojazz.com/. The world’s greatest jazz music search engine. And, as usual, “Catch You on The Corner!”
Moonchild; Voyager; A trip Into Inner Space. December 16, 2017
The 2017 release of Voyager by Moonchild, a four-piece band that shares its name with a 1962 album by vibraphonist Johnny Lytle, is a smooth, cool excursion into the heart and mind of band leader Amber Navran. What brings Jonny Lytle to mind is that his delivery was cool and low keyed, just as is Moonchild’s delivery on this CD.
I first heard Moonchild perform on November 27, 2017 at Mr. Smalls in Millvale, PA. They were the warmup act for Kamasi Washington. As I entered the auditorium that night, I was struck by laid back Neo-soul music, and a lovely, sultry singing voice; a voice that was reminiscent of Erika Badu, Billy Holliday, or Corrine Baily Rae. That beautiful voice belonged to Amber, lead singer, composer and leader of Moonchild. Later that evening, during the Kamasi performance, I walked out into the hallway, and I had the chance to meet the very personable lead singer, and purchase Voyager from her; it was a very good decision.
The first impression of the music on this CD is that it’s so cool, yet warm at the same time. The sound envelopes you in its groove and feel, and puts you in the emotion that is being shared by the group. The sound, and the lyrics evoke the feeling of the newness of experiences that the artist is living; it’s the purest of artistic interaction; an artist touching an observer in a personal core level through their artform. Amber’s musical story telling is enchanting in its delivery, and it takes you directly into her world. The harmonies that she sings (all of the voices appear to be her own), are beautiful and mesmerizing. It’s clean as fresh linen, and just as soft. One other funny aspect of the CD is the sparing use of the sound effect of a needle in a record groove on some of the cuts; the pops and hiss lend the music an air of authenticity of age. You can also hear Amber’s personal musical influences in the music; they’re there, but they don’t feel stolen or haphazardly inserted, but only delicately hinted at.
The CD, as a whole, feels like a cohesive unit. It all fits neatly together. If I had one complaint it would be that all the songs may be in the same key. I don’t know if that’s the case, or if it is, then I don’t know if its intentional, but I would like to hear Amber attack something in a noticeably different key. I believe she has the range and ability to be up to the task, and I hope to hear her do it on future recordings (of which I am definitely looking forward to).
There are several stand out tunes on this CD; I’ll only talk about a few of them, because you will want to hear this album for yourself, and you won’t be disappointed when you do.
The opening song on the album is Cure. Cure sets the mood for the entire CD, and puts the listener in the mind and mood for the entire mellow soulful offering delivered on every cut. The song is warm and inviting like a good cup of coffee. Amber’s mellow gentle voice invites the listener to relax, and trust that the band will allow them to float relaxingly along on this mellow stream of warm sound.
The standout track I’d like to mention is the song “The List”. This song is the most danceable of the entire album. Although it is mellow, it has a consistent low and funky grove that makes you want to move your feet. The song is so smooth that you probably won’t sweat much while dancing, but the beat and grove makes you want to get up and find someone to dance with to enjoy the nice sugar-coated sounds. Amber’s sweet sexy voice delineate the things she loves and hates about her lover, and the soft beat, and sexy delivery won’t let you stand still. The song ends with a catchy whistled exit. It’s a nice touch to this classy tune.
The last song I’ll talks about is called “Now and Then”. It’s a soft ballad in 6/8-time signature, and its very ethereal in feel. Amber and the band handle the song with a quiet sweetness that allows her to tell a story of her love and her lover. A high-hat cymbal and a windchime set the gentle mood, and Amber’s soft voice takes the listener into her dreamy memories. It’s very nicely done.
All in all, I think anyone who enjoys the Neo-soul genre, or who enjoys soft ballads of new love, will enjoy this CD. Moonchild, and Amber do an admirable job of setting a mood, and keeping the listener there in a manner that they won’t want to quickly leave. I give this CD a solid “Thumbs Up”, and I hope to hear more from this fresh ensemble.
A final though: Remember to research your favorite jazz artists on www.nmoJazz.com.
As always, thanks for taking the time to read these thoughts; hope you enjoyed it, and
“Catch You on the Corner!”
The King, and Moonchild conquer Mr. Smalls November 2017
On Monday night; November 27th, Kamasi Washington, and Moonchild played the Mr. Smalls theatre in Millvale, PA. That short sentence in no way begins to describe the musical banquet that the large and enthusiastic crowd in attendance was treated to. For those of you who have never been to Mr. Smalls in Millvale, please know that this venue may come as a surprise to the new comer. It seems to rise out of the landscape of the small town in an almost surreal fashion, and the striking architecture of the building makes it seem somewhat out of place.
Mr. Smalls theatre is a large old church building. It looks to be of Greek Orthodox origin, but the lighted signs, and the young eager crowd climbing the long concrete staircase and waiting to go through security let you know that there will be no church services there. A large shining black and silver tour bus with a stainless-steel equipment trailer attached to the rear was parked in the front of the building and indicated that whoever was playing that night seems to be doing rather well, and must be pretty good. And if you haven’t heard of Kamasi Washington (or as I like to refer to him; King Kamasi), or Moonchild, then let me tell you, pretty good doesn’t do either band adequate justice.
Since the venue is as much a draw as the bands (as least for first timers like me), I’ll describe the interior just a little. The entryway is a small metal framed glass door. Once inside, you come immediately to the aluminum framed ticket window. On the other side of the window the ticket office appears to be small and a little cramped. I recommend buying your tickets “will call” online, because it saves the hassle of waiting for them to come in the mail; just show your ID, and the teller will give you your tickets.
Next is a wooden door; the entryway to the main hallway. The décor is a little funky; picture the old Kiva Han coffee shop in Oakland, or an old bar, and you’ll get the picture; nothing to write home about. A ticket taker is seated behind two folding tables lined end to end. The walls behind her displays the featured artist’s CDs, t-shirts and memorabilia for sale. Near the end of the table, across the narrow hallway to the right is the door into the main stage area; what used to be the sanctuary.
Once in the door of the sanctuary, you’ll be standing under a wide dark wood balcony, and a few feet beyond that is a large open floor covered by an enormously high ceiling that is interspersed with large maroon baffle boards to suppress echo. There’s also a wooden door hanging between the ceiling baffle boards that may function as some type of sound reflector, but whatever its purpose, it adds to the gritty ambiance of the décor. The stage is in a large deep-set alcove to the left of the entryway. The dark wood, cavernous ceiling, and rustic décor of the room, gives the place an almost barnlike feel.
Just so you know, general admission means standing room only; there are no chairs on the main floor, but there are two small bars; one in the rear opposite the stage, and the other under the balcony to the far right of the entryway. The bars have only the basic liquors, and lots of beer, and drinks are reasonably priced. There is seating, but it’s upstairs in the balcony only, and it’s an additional $30 -40 minimum drink and food purchase per seat. There are actually two balconies, and I suppose the upper balcony is the cheaper seats. Luckily for me and my date, there were seats on the ground floor (but only 3 of them), in the back against the wall near the bar and the stairs to the balcony. We were lucky. We spent the night seated, enjoying nonalcoholic beverages (I had to drive), and chatting with a gentleman we met; George Grant, an ex-internet DJ, and jazz aficionado.
We arrived a little late, and as we entered the main hallway I could hear a beautiful voice singing from the main auditorium. The voice was reminiscent of Erika Badu, Corrine Baily Rae, or Billy Holliday, yet it was also liltingly light. I thought for a moment that it was King Kamasi’s band, or maybe some recorded music, but to my surprise it the voice of Amber Navran; lead singer and song writer for the band “Moon Child”; a blue eyed neo soul band (marketed as Alternative music), of 4 musicians. We had caught them at the beginning of their set. They were fantastic, and since I purchased the CD from Amber, and had a chance to briefly chat with her (I met her in the hallway during Kamasi’s set), I’ll save the rest of my thoughts for my next article where I’ll review Moon Child’s latest album “Voyager”. Let me just say here that they are fantastic band, and a great warm up act for the crowd that night, and they complimented the headline group excellently.
After a brief intermission, and stage set change, it was time for the main event. On stage was the band trademark of 2 opposing drums sets, and on them were Ronald Bruner Jr. & Robert Miller. Another trademark of the band is the plexiglass sound shield (far stage right), for the vocalist Patrice Quinn; an upright bass sat between the drums, and on it was Joshua Crumbly, aka “Young Genius”; the Electric Keyboards sat far stage left with Brandon Coleman, aka “Hot Sause” powerfully gracing the music with his highly energetic style. In center stage sat three mic stands for the horns: Tenor Sax, Kamasi Washington, (center mic); Soprano sax and flute, Ricky Washington (Kamasi’s dad, stage right of Kamasi), and Trombone, Ryan Porter (stage left). It seems like I’m never really ready for what I’m going to hear when this band starts to play, but I’m always amazed by the almost symphonic majesty of the music.
One of the most descriptive words I can use for Kamasi’s sound is “Epic”, which just so happens to be the name of his last 3 CD Album. His sound is warm, expansive, exotic, and adventurous in feel and expression. He takes you on a musical journey that you do not want to end. But Kamasi can also jam with the best of them. You will find yourself not only taking a musical trip with the band, but at times and on various cuts, you’ll be nodding your head and enjoying a funky groove that is right at home with this band’s persona as well. The band played songs primarily from the Epic album, and Kamasi’s new album Harmony of Difference. One of the first songs they played was off his new album; a song entitled “Truth”. It was beautifully done, and ushered the audience into Kamasi’s world.
Customarily, Ricky Washington doesn’t come to the bandstand until about 15 minutes into the set; a set which lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes. But when Kamasi’s dad shows up, you soon realize that he’s not there out of mere respect, or fatherly reverence; the man can play! His soprano sax and flute are a pleasure to hear.
There were several standout numbers in the set, but to tell you the truth, I was in “enjoyment” mode; the note taking had gone out the window, and my critic hat was off, and my fan hat was firmly in place. But, there were landmark songs in the set, and they caught my attention. One number was a song written by keyboardist Brandon Coleman entitled “Giant Feelings”. Brandon played the guitar strap keyboard for this number, and the funky intro had the crowd jamming. Brandon also uses the voice box synthesizer on this tune. This was somewhat of a departure from the norm for the band, but it blended right in with the avant garde nature of the group.
Although Kamasi has a style that is completely his own, he also pays homage to his influences. I’m not sure if it conscious, or not, but during the concert, I could hear snippets of Coltrane, Sonny Stit, and even my main man Stanley Turrentine. Kamasi bridges the gap from this generation of jazz to prior ones in a unique and artful way. One example of this is a standard that is on his Epic album; the song Cherokee. Patrice Quinn’s beautiful voice is highlighted on this song, and the handling of the song is fresh and new.
One of the last songs the Kamasi played is an anthem of sorts. It’s an inspiring song for people chasing their dreams; a song of defiance and an announcement to the world that many people of the underdog sort can relate to “The Rhythm Changes; I’m Here”. Patrice Quinn sings this song convincingly and with passion, and the band rises to the occasion majestically.
The very last song that the band played was off Kamasi’s new album “Harmony of Difference”. The song is entitled “Desire”. It’s a beautiful musical ballad, and Kamasi introduced it as a song that has five different parts, but comes together as a beautiful whole. The song is indeed beautiful, and the evening’s show was spectacular; spectacular in the simplicity of its delivery, and spectacular in its vision. Kamasi stays true to his vision, and delivers a satisfying product to his listeners. If you’ve never been to a concert of his, do yourself a favor and go and hear this band. You will be amazed and well pleased.
I’d like to take the time here to thank my cousin (yes, my Dad’s brother’s daughter), Ms Denele Biggs. She was a lifesaver in the writing of this article. She gave me all the names of the players, and their instruments (I had trouble hearing the spoken word from where I was seated). Denele is a published writer and poet; Her latest book is “The Unspoken”. You can find her at www.deneledbiggs.com.
One final thought; take a moment to research your favorite jazz artists on http://www.nmojazz.com/
It’s the # 1 Jazz search engine in the world!!!
I always have a good time writing these articles. It brings back good memories, and it’s a labor of love. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it, and I thank you for joining me here. See you around, and I’ll “Catch You on the Corner!”