N-Motion Entertainment is currently developing a social media platform to be used in remote areas. This media will be used to communicate events, business happenings, new businesses, business directory, and any items related to entertainment. Our social media service will be a dynamic product that will be a voice to the community. Please stay tuned for future announcements.
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!”