We’re Back On the Airwaves!

Posted in curtjazz radio, Holiday Jazz, The Jazz Continues... with tags , , on December 11, 2017 by curtjazz

WE’RE BAAAAACK!

CurtJazz Studio 300x400When Charlotte Community Radio went off the air last spring, I felt in my spirit, that this was going to be a temporary absence from the air. I had heard rumblings and rumors that Live365, which had been my on-air home from late 2004, until its demise, due to draconian governmental regulation, in January 2016; was going to make a comeback. The format would be essentially the same, the costs,  slightly higher.

The rumors became true, late in the summer, when I got an email from Live365, inviting me to reopen Curt’s Cafe Noir. My heart wanted to jump in that day. My head told me to do a little number crunching first. I had set a goal of getting back on the air, sometime during the 2nd Quarter of 2018.  It was going to be a long wait, but I was willing because it was worth it.

While talking to my queen (aka the world’s greatest wife) over the weekend, I mentioned my plans. She then told me, “Well…actually, I had planned to give you station as a Christmas present. I know how much you love to do your Christmas show, so why don’t you just start now. Merry Christmas!”

Click the link below, to stream the new CURTJAZZ RADIO. It’s 100% Free.

http://player.live365.com/a09856

I was immediately speechless, and then grateful, to my family and to God for the chance to do what I love, again, and even more quickly than I had planned. I also knew that I had my work cut out for me, because all of a sudden, the 2017 JAZZMAS Party was on.

Mike hackett

I also did something I had wanted to do for a while, which is change the station name. Curt’s Cafe Noir, was a name that I came up with back in 2004, when I envisioned the station as an amalgam of many musical styles. As jazz became our identity, I never found an opening to make the switch. Now is that time.

So, the station formerly known as Curt’s Cafe Noir, will now be known as CurtJazz Radio. I’ve become known by that moniker, so I figure it will be easier for new fans to remember and for old fans and friends to get used to.

Nicci Canada 1

We kicked off the new CurtJazz Radio, on Sunday, December 10. Almost thirteen years to the day, that we started Curt’s Cafe Noir. Since it’s the Holiday Season, we will start programming with one of our most popular features on the old station, the 24/7 JAZZMAS Party. Wall to wall, Christmas and Holiday-themed jazz vocals and instrumentals – some familiar and some rare. This will go on, 24 hours a day, until December 27. On that date, we will switch to playing tracks from the best jazz albums of 2017, which we will do through mid January. After that, it will be what you know us for – straight-ahead jazz, mostly by living, working artists.

If you’re a fan of Curt’s Cafe Noir, we welcome you to CurtJazz Radio, with open arms. If you never heard Curt’s Cafe Noir, we’d love for you to give CurtJazz Radio a try. I think you’ll like it.

We ask for your support and we appreciate every minute that you spend with us.

The link below, will take you to the party!

http://player.live365.com/a09856

https://broadcaster.live365.com/v1/now-playing/large/a09856

Two New Jazz Albums To Warm Your Holidays

Posted in CD Reviews with tags , , , , , on November 29, 2017 by curtjazz

Each Holiday Season usually brings a few new discs in most genres, including jazz. Here’s our take on a couple that stand apart from the rest:

Champian Fulton – Christmas with Champian

Christmas with Champian final coverThis delightful Oklahoma native has had quite a year – She released a fine, all instrumental album (Speechless). This was followed by a terrific, live date, as a co-leader, with the great tenor saxophonist, Scott Hamilton (The Things We Did Last Summer). Champian Fulton now caps 2017 with Christmas with Champian, her first Holiday disc. It is another winner.

To be successful, Christmas albums, need to exude a certain joy of the season and this one does, from the finger-snapping backbeat of “White Christmas” (nice work by drummer, Fukushi Tainaka, throughout) to the closer, “Merry, Merry Christmas”, a lovely original number by Ms. Fulton. The rest of the album is filled with familiar songs of the season but thanks to Ms. Fulton’s first-rate piano work and the rock-solid backing of her sidemen; Mr. Tainaka, bassist David Williams and Champian’s dad, trumpeter Stephen Fulton, these tunes have new life.

Then there are Ms. Fulton’s vocals – to these ears, her sound is an amalgam of Dinah Washington and Nancy Wilson, to which she has added a touch of Blossom Dearie’s playfulness and charm. Yet, it manages to be all her own. She has grown by leaps and bounds as a singer, in the decade that she has been a part of the jazz scene. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, opens with a cool, bluesy piano figure, which pulled me in, prior to Ms. Fulton’s sassy vocal, which was then followed by a rollicking piano solo…Nice. Papa Stephen is on board, with his flugelhorn, for a swinging “Sleigh Ride”, with dad being pushed a little by his baby girl during his solo. That brought a smile to my face. “A Child is Born” is the stronger of the album’s two instrumental tracks, thanks to Ms. Fulton’s sensitive piano and outstanding work on the bass by Mr. Williams.

Order through Ms. Fulton’s website www.champian.net

Rating: 4 ½ out of 5 stars – Champian Fulton has produced a classic Holiday album that should be heard all year round.

 

Jason Paul Curtis – These Christmas Days

Jason-Paul-Curtis-These-Christmas-Days-CoverJason Paul Curtis is a Washington D.C. based vocalist and songwriter, who mostly works with a big band, called Swing Shift and a small combo, Swinglab. He is a pleasant, modern swinger, in the Harry Connick, Jr., Michael Bublé vein. For this, his second Holiday themed album, he has concentrated on his own music, having written eight of the album’s ten tracks.

These Christmas Days, has a warm, family feeling, with most of the tracks referencing family celebrations and Christmas memories with his children. Curtis is in fact, joined by his daughter, Isabella, on vocals, on two of the album’s more memorable tracks; the lightly swinging, “December Again”, which will touch a soft spot in the hearts of any of us who have watched our kids grow up too quickly; and the bouncy, “I Want Snow”, with a warm alto sax interlude by Dave Schiff. “Came Winter”, a finger snapping piece, with a punchy big band arrangement, and good solos. It’s a winning tune but its lyrical content is more along the lines of Wham’s “Last Christmas”, with its topic of Holiday season bitterness against the treachery of a former lover. Not exactly one for decking the halls. “I’ll Feel Christmas”, with its Motown derived backbeat and the happy freneticism of “Christmas Breakfast” are more like it, as they celebrate, respectively, the start of the Holiday Season, in the city and the joy of Christmas morning with those you love.

The arrangements are sharp and tight and Mr. Curtis is in excellent voice, throughout. If you’re looking for a well-played, Holiday jazz album, with tunes that are not in the traditional vein, give These Christmas Days a try.

Order through CDBaby.com Click HERE

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. A Charismatic, swinging and warm Holiday album.

2018 Jazz Grammy Nominations

Posted in 2018 Grammys with tags , , , on November 28, 2017 by curtjazz

the-grammys-logoCongratulations to all of the nominees for the 60th Grammy Awards, in the Jazz categories. The awards will be handed out on Sunday, January 28, 2018; at Madison Square Garden, in New York. As usual, the Jazz categories will be presented during the segment of the program that takes place, prior to the live network broadcast. You will be able to stream the pre-show, online.

The nominees are:

Best Improvised Jazz Solo:
“Can’t Remember Why” — Sara Caswell, soloist
“Dance Of Shiva” — Billy Childs, soloist
“Whisper Not” — Fred Hersch, soloist
“Miles Beyond” — John McLaughlin, soloist
“Ilimba” — Chris Potter, soloist

Best Jazz Vocal Album:
The Journey — The Baylor Project
A Social Call — Jazzmeia Horn
Bad Ass And Blind — Raul Midón
Porter Plays Porter — Randy Porter Trio With Nancy King
Dreams And Daggers — Cécile McLorin Salvant

Best Jazz Instrumental Album:
Uptown, Downtown — Bill Charlap Trio
Rebirth — Billy Childs
Project Freedom –Joey DeFrancesco & The People
Open Book — Fred Hersch
The Dreamer Is The Dream — Chris Potter

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album:
MONK’estra Vol. 2 — John Beasley
Jigsaw — Alan Ferber Big Band
Bringin’ It — Christian McBride Big Band
Homecoming — Vince Mendoza & WDR Big Band Cologne
Whispers On The Wind — Chuck Owen And The Jazz Surge

Best Latin Jazz Album:
Hybrido – From Rio To Wayne Shorter — Antonio Adolfo
Oddara — Jane Bunnett & Maqueque
Outra Coisa – The Music Of Moacir Santos — Anat Cohen & Marcello Gonçalves
Típico — Miguel Zenón
Jazz Tango — Pablo Ziegler Trio

Album Review: Handful of Keys – Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra

Posted in CD Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on November 25, 2017 by curtjazz

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis: Handful of Keys (Blue Engine Records)

Handful-of-Keys

Handful of Keys, the sixth album released by the JALC label on their own Blue Engine imprint, was recorded over three nights as the prolific orchestra opened their 2016-2017 season, by celebrating a century’s worth of jazz piano. On the recording, there are six pianists, ranging in age from 13-year-old prodigy Joey Alexander to 89-year-old stride master, Dick Hyman, playing compositions by some of the 20th Century’s most outstanding pianist/composers, including Oscar Peterson, McCoy Tyner, Bill Evans, Wynton Kelly and James P. Johnson. In all except one instance, the arrangements were by the pianists or JALC Orchestra members.

This album virtually had “can’t miss” stamped on it, from the beginning. JALC Orchestra is at the top of their game, as are the piano players. And the arrangements often breathed new life into pieces that we have heard many times. Helen Sung’s arrangement of “Four by Five” adds richness to Tyner’s original and the solos by Ms. Sung on piano, Victor Goines on piano and drummer Ali Jackson, are on fire. Walter Blanding’s lush arrangement, ripe with flutes and muted trumpets set a perfect scene for young Mr. Alexander on Evans’ “Very Early”. Joey’s precocious brilliance has been done to death, so I will just say that he was in his customary fine form and the arranger also contributes some nice tenor work. 19-year-old Isaiah J. Thompson, whose name is new to me, floored my twice – first on an epic version of “Lulu’s Back in Town”, that was a virtual history of jazz piano all by itself, with a stellar chart by Vincent Gardner; then on a hard swinging and deeply soulful take on Oscar Peterson’s “Hymn to Freedom”. I have GOT to hear more from Mr. Thompson. Then there is Myra Melford, an avant-garde pianist, with whom I am, again, unfamiliar. She leads a Ted Nash arrangement of her own composition, “The Strawberry”, which Mr. Nash has turned into a Latin infused tour-de-force. Ms. Melford names Andrew Hill, Don Pullen and Cecil Taylor as some of her influences and I hear a bit of all three of those giants in her attack. She is stretching her use of the keyboard to the limits of the boundaries of tradition, laid down by Nash’s arrangement and it is a thrill to listen to. No wonder Wynton takes his only solo of the album on this piece. He fills his horn with expressive growls, trills and cries, equal in unbridled joy, to the arrangement itself.

Rating: 4 ½ out of 5 Stars. Great composers + great arrangements + great pianists = a great album.

What’s New (and Good) from WJ3 Records

Posted in CD Reviews with tags , , , , on November 21, 2017 by curtjazz

WJ3 Records is another of the cadre of the small, but mighty, jazz record labels that have cropped up in our post-CD society. Founded and helmed by drummer Willie Jones III, WJ3 releases around 3 – 4 new projects each year, featuring top flight mainstream jazz masters such as pianists Cyrus Chestnut and Eric Reed, L.A. based guitarist Jacques Lesure and Mr. Jones, himself. I first became hip to WJ3 about a decade ago, when I was assigned by a publication, to review a couple of their new releases. I can honestly say, that I’ve never heard a bad album from any of their artists.

Here now is a review of two recent WJ3 releases:

Jacques Lesure – For the Love of You

jacques lesureJacques Lesure…educator, actor, social media raconteur, and above all, master guitarist. Though his name is still unfamiliar to many, Mr. Lesure has been part of the music scene for over 30 years. With an inviting, single-note guitar line that is reminiscent of Grant Green, but infused with the warmth of a Kenny Burrell, Jacques Lesure, is always worth listening to, be it live or on one of his recordings, the last three of which have been on WJ3, including his latest, For the Love of You.

The title of the album should give you a hint about the vibe. Whereas his two prior efforts When She Smiles and Camaraderie, were fine, straight-ahead blowing sessions, For the Love of You,  is more accessible, but just as good; featuring several, mid-tempo romantic tracks, with titles straight out of pop radio. It’s a perfect antidote to a long day. Mr. Lesure is as always, in top form, as are his band mates, pianist Eric Reed, bassist Tony Dumas and WJ3’s chief, Willie Jones III, on drums.

Strong performances abound, including a bright, infectious version of “The Lamp is Low”, with a tasty solo by Mr. Reed; “Put On a Happy Face”, on which Lesure builds a simple starting line, layer by layer, into a very nice solo. His tribute to one of his musical idols, “That’s Mr. Burrell, Thank You”, is a head nodding, finger snapping blues, that is pure fun. It will be a definite crowd favorite during his live performances. The centerpiece is Cedar Walton’s anthemic classic, “Holy Land”. I’ve heard many versions of this tune over the years; this is one of the best. Following the familiar opening theme, Mr. Lesure digs down deep and delivers a blistering solo, which clearly inspires Reed, who then matches Lesure’s virtuosity in his turn.  Dumas and Jones take strong turns before all four musicians trade eights until the close.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars – Another first-rate album from Jacques Lesure. It will appeal to fans of all categories of jazz.

 

Willie Jones III – My Point Is…

willie jones iiiWillie Jones III is one busy cat, in addition to leading his own group and running WJ3 records, he also is a first call sideman and producer on numerous projects outside of his label. If he is spreading himself too thin, it certainly is not in evidence on My Point Is…, his seventh album as a leader. This protégé of Albert “Tootie” Heath, recorded this album with some of his own label’s top talent, who also happen to be some of the best in the current jazz world; trumpet master Eddie Henderson, the criminally underrated Ralph Moore on tenor, the legendary Buster Williams on bass and the soon to be legendary Eric Reed, on piano.

I first became a fan of Mr. Jones, when I reviewed his fourth album, The Next Phase. The first thing I noticed was Jones’ rock solid timing and that even on ballads, he swings like mad. Nothing in that respect has changed since 2010. Like two of my other favorite working drummers – Kobie Watkins and Ocie Davis, Jones has an innate gift for pushing the musicians playing with him, while still doing things that are unfailingly rhythmically interesting.

The selections are a nice mix of Jones’ originals, along with a few from the band and one each by Horace Silver and Herbie Hancock. “Manhattan Melodies” a Reed composition from about 20 years ago, open the disc on a high note. I’ve heard three versions of this tune over the years and this one is my favorite. The theme takes on new life in the hands of the two horn players, who punch it up with strong solos. Buster Williams’ ballad, “Christina”, offers a nice opportunity for a muted Henderson to remind us of the good ways that Miles influenced him. “The Maze”, a tune that Herbie wrote for his debut album, is given a fresh reading here. The sinuous backbeat set by Jones, followed by Reed’s funky solo, pulled me right in. Yes, I was sitting at the keyboard with eyes closed and head nodding. I see an interesting hip-hop sample in this track’s future. The title cut is the best thing on the album, with Williams and Jones feathering an intricate nest for some sweet mute work by Eddie and a rolling piano solo from Reed. This was, and still is, on heavy rotation in my playlist.

I’ve never gone wrong with a Willie Jones III album and My Point Is… is no exception. Solid writing, first rate playing and a final product, that is a fine example of modern jazz.

Rating: 4 ½ out of 5 stars. Another straight-ahead jazz winner from Willie Jones III and WJ3 Records.

Two New Releases from Posi-Tone Records

Posted in CD Reviews, New on the Playlist, Under The Radar, Who's New in Jazz with tags , , , , on November 11, 2017 by curtjazz

West Coast based producer Marc Free, heads up one of the best little labels in jazz today, Posi-Tone Records. They consistently release high quality jazz, featuring respected vets, such as guitarist Ed Cherry and trumpeter Joe Magnarelli and also some of the finest up and coming names on the scene today. Here’s our review of the latest from a couple of those new(er) faces.

Bruce Harris – Beginnings

bruce harrisNew York native Bruce Harris makes an impressive debut as a leader, with this album. The trumpeter is a graduate of SUNY Purchase and a protégé of the great Jon Faddis. He has paid his dues over the last few years, playing with Barry Harris, T.S. Monk and Jimmy Cobb, among many others. On this joyous album, he has gone with a nice mix of jazz standards and a few originals that demonstrate his solid compositional skills.

Harris utilizes an accomplished rhythm section of Michael Weiss on piano, Clovis Nicolas on bass and drummer Pete Van Nostrand; along with a talented group of rotating saxophonists, including three of my personal favorites, Dmitry Baevsky, Jerry Weldon and Grant Stewart. Mr. Harris’ tone is what immediately draws you in; it is positively ebullient and clear as a bell, reminiscent of a young Clark Terry.  “Ask Questions” a jubilant Harris original kicks off the proceedings, with strong solos from the leader, Baevsky and baritone saxophonist Frank Basile. Prince’s “Do U Lie” is reborn as a fabulous, up-tempo, 4/4 feature for Harris, who drops one his best solos on the record. I’d never heard such a lively take on “Ill Wind” before now. I liked it, a lot, with Harris and Weldon playing musical tag over the rhythm section’s insistent beat. Harris’ “The Step” is a finger-snapping joyride, which lets Weiss and Nicholas in on the solo fun, in addition to the horns.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars – Beginnings is a fine start for Bruce Harris. I enjoyed every minute and I look forward to what’s next.

 

Behn Gillece – Walk of Fire

behn gilleceVibraphonist Behn Gillece has been a Posi-Tone mainstay for the past couple of years, co-leading a group with saxophonist Ken Fowser, guesting on the albums of label mates, such as Walt Weiskopf and Michael Dease and leading his own group, which released impressive projects in 2015 (Mindset) and 2016 (Dare to Be). Keeping up that album per year pace, Mr. Gillece has released Walk of Fire, which is his most mature and fully realized project to date.

For this album, Mr. Gillece was inspired by the instrumentation on Joe Henderson’s Blue Note classic, Mode for Joe, on which Henderson used a septet of three horns, plus vibes and a traditional piano, bass, drums rhythm section. Walk of Fire replicates that sound on most of its tracks, with Dease on trombone, Weiskopf on tenor and another label mate, the brilliant Bruce Harris on trumpet. The rhythm section is Adam Birnbaum on piano, bassist Clovis Nicolas and drummer Jason Tiemann.

The ten compositions are all by Gillece and there’s not a bad one in the bunch. Things get started with the title cut, which sounds like a Mode for Joe, lost track with Gillece contributing a driving solo over the hard-swinging theme. This cat has grown exponentially over the last few years, to the point where I would now place him in the upper echelon of vibraphonists working today.  Gillece then gives way to strong, brief statements by Weiskopf and Dease. “Fantasia Brasileira” is a beautiful bossa, with an infectious head and tasty ‘bone from Dease. “Bag’s Mood”, is, as you would suspect, a tribute to that soulful master of the vibes, Milt Jackson. Gillece swings hard in the pocket and this time Harris joins in on the fun with some high-flying trumpet work. It’s a feel good track that I had on repeat for about 30 minutes. On “Celestial Tidings”, the horns lay out and you get to hear Gillece very much in a Bobby Hutcherson bag, with shifting rhythms and terrific solos that will keep you engaged.

When I first heard Behn Gillece a few years back, I was immediately impressed by his potential. Now, on Walk of Fire, he has arrived.

Rating: 4 ½ out of 5 Stars: Highly recommended straight ahead jazz. One of the best albums that I’ve heard this year.

Album Review: Harmony of Difference – Kamasi Washington

Posted in CD Reviews with tags , , , , , on October 21, 2017 by curtjazz

KAMASI WASHINGTON – Harmony of Difference (Young Turks)

kamasi - harmony of differenceSaxophonist Kamasi Washington turned the jazz world upside down two years ago with his aptly titled, 2 CD, 174-minute debut album, The Epic. After such an expansive beginning, we all wondered what he would do for an encore. So here now, is Harmony of Difference, which once again, is creating major buzz among forward-thinking jazz lovers. It shares some things with its heralded forerunner; the arrangements are dense, insistent and never dull; Mr. Washington’s tenor is still edgy, yet melodic. However, Washington and company have opted for the “less is more” approach, as Harmony of Difference is an EP, clocking in at a scant 32 minutes, with only one of the six performances exceeding five minutes in length.

Personally, I love the brevity. For as good as The Epic is, it did get weighed down in spots by its, dare I say, “Epic-ness”. This time around we are treated to five short, expressive excursions, that take us through a survey of many modern jazz styles, from soul jazz, to post-bop, to Brazilian. “Desire”, the opener, owes its lush, melodic groove to those great Bob James arrangements during the heyday of CTI Records. “Humility”, is a horn driven, bop based, workout that packs a lot of great things into a little under three minutes, including terrific solo turns from Cameron Graves on piano, Dontae Winslow on trumpet and Washington on tenor. “Perspective” is irresistible pop soul jazz, reminiscent of some of the fine, early work of another Washington, named Grover. And “Integrity” takes us on a nice trip to Rio by way of the West Coast Get Down collective.

Finally, there is “Truth”, the 13 ½ minute centerpiece of this EP, which was first released last spring, at the Whitney Museum’s 2017 Biennial, along with an accompanying short film, directed by AG Rojas. It is a perfect counterpoint to the concision of the preceding selections, as the track builds, layer upon layer, keyboards, then guitar, then vibraphone, brass and finally, a wordless vocal choir. Once it builds to a crescendo, Washington steps in with a head nodding, groove permeated solo, which is then followed by the choir and orchestra, returning to triumphantly restate the theme. It is anthemic, beautiful and deceptively simple.

Though Harmony of Difference is much shorter than its predecessor, it is no less of a complete musical statement. It is a luminous example of what I see, as 21st century jazz.

Rating: 4 ½ out of 5 Stars – Another triumph for Kamasi Washington and company.