Archive for the Who's New in Jazz Category

Album Reviews – A Sack Full of Sax

Posted in CD Reviews, curtjazz radio, Uncategorized, Who's New in Jazz with tags , , , , , , on March 11, 2019 by curtjazz

Our first review post of the year, features four new albums from veteran saxophonists who should all, be better known than they are. Start to right that wrong, by picking up these projects, which are all recommended.

Chris Greene Quartet – Playspace (Single Malt)

The native of Evanston, IL has spent most of his career close to home, which means the Chicago jazz scene. Readers of this blog are aware of my fondness for his sound, indicated by multiple appearances of Mr. Greene’s albums on my year end “Best of” lists. On his twelfth album as a leader, Greene gives us more of what his best qualities – that full bodied, gritty, tenor attack and a surprisingly rich tone, when he switches to soprano.  Playspace finds Greene and the CGQ in a deeper soul jazz vein than usual, and I loved every minute of it. “The Crossover Appeal/Uno Mas”, locks into the pocket and doesn’t let go, with Marc Piane’s electric bass setting the stage and Greene getting into a sweaty sax duel with guest star Marquel Jordan. A Latin reading of Wayne Shorter’s “Speak No Evil”, is surprisingly effective, with drummer Steve Corley taking center stage with a relentless groove and a killer solo. “Blues for Dr. Fear”, which appeared in a studio version, on 2017’s Boundary Issues, is back and funkier than ever, with Damian Espinosa’s cool keys weaving around Greene’s tough tenor. Playspace is another winning album from one of the true working groups in jazz today. Looks like we’re not going to get them out of the Windy City, y’all, so we’ll have to make the trip there, to experience in person, what we hear on this disc.

Nick Hempton – Night Owl (Triple Distilled)

Nick Hempton, who has called New York home since 2004, announces his intention from the first notes of this album. This a truly greasy session, influenced by the organ dates led by Stanley Turrentine, Lou Donaldson, Sonny Stitt and so many of their brethren, in the dives and after-hours clubs of the Big Apple, since the 50’s. He has assembled the perfect cast for the date: Peter Bernstein on guitar, Kyle Kohler on organ, and Fukushi Tainaka on drums. These cats have all logged many hours, backing up similar dates and they inspire Mr. Hempton to lay down the most soulful playing that I’ve ever heard from him. Most of the tracks are Hempton originals but they perfectly capture that long-ago vibe. Mr. Hempton switches between the alto and the tenor without missing a beat and is equally effective on each horn. The standout tracks are the Latin-tinged “I Remember Milady’s”, with Hempton getting a nice assist from Bernstein; “After You’ve Gone”, with Hempton’s alto, recalling ‘Sweet Lou’, during his Blue Note heyday and Koehler evincing a Big John Patton influence; and the nasty title track, which sounds like a lost track from one of those classic Jimmy Smith; Stanley Turrentine; Kenny Burrell dates. Buy this album, pour a glass of your favorite libation and put on your best “funky face”, because Night Owl is the real deal. 

Ralph Moore – Three Score (WJ3)

Hard to believe but it’s true. Three Score is Ralph Moore’s first album as a leader in nearly 25 years. He hadn’t left the scene during that time; Moore spent the better part of the last twenty years, on the West Coast, playing in Jay Leno’s Tonight Show band. He also was a sideman for Oscar Peterson, Roy Hargrove, Ray Brown, Tom Harrell and many other jazz greats; so, he was here; he just wasn’t leading any dates. He has returned with a stellar album, on the best boutique label in jazz – Willie Jones III’s WJ3. Joined by Eric Reed on piano, Gerald Cannon on bass and Jones on drums, Mr. Moore’s sound, which for me, always landed in the niche between John Coltrane and Joe Henderson, is as captivating as ever. The band of top tier pros doesn’t miss a beat and the compositions, mostly by Moore and Reed, are uniformly excellent. If you’re going to skip around, you must first check out “Another Time”, a Reed original, which opens the proceedings and throws down the hard bop gauntlet; the infectious, toe tapping (and too brief) “Donny” and the reflective title track, which features Mr. Moore’s finest solo on the date. But don’t sleep on the rest of the disc because it’s all choice. Ralph Moore is back, y’all and Three Score is one of the best albums that I’ve heard so far, in 2019.

Justin Robinson – At First Light (WJ3)

Justin Robinson spent most of the last 15 years, alongside the late, great Roy Hargrove on some of the trumpet master’s finest live shows and recordings. His work with Hargrove, often overshadowed the impressive music that Mr. Robinson released as a leader. At First Light, is his first album in five years and his second for WJ3 Records. He is backed by a solid group of young cats, that he has worked with over the years, with Hargrove and in other settings; Sharp Radway on piano, Ameen Saleem on bass and Jeremy Clemons on drums. Mr. Robinson lists Jackie McLean among his influences and it shows in his sound, as do elements of Bobby Watson. His tone is in your face and hard swinging. Robinson composed six of the project’s eight tunes and there are many standouts: “Lamentations for R and D” starts with a mournful, wandering theme, which leads unexpectedly to a light bossa beat, while Robinson, sticks with the mood that he set in the opening. It’s compelling, and Radway and Clemons are especially good here. The beautiful “Love Thy Father”, allows Robinson to fully access his melodic side. There’s also “Cool Blues”, the Charlie Parker classic, that seems to be a rite of passage for alto players. Mr. Robinson’s take is a very good one, true to the structure of Bird but adding his own flourishes during his solos. It is Parker meets JMac meets Robinson and I liked it a lot. At First Light is another fine release from WJ3 Records. We don’t hear from them often but when we do, it’s consistently first-rate.

There’s a lot more that’s new and good out there, to tell you about. We’ll be dropping more reviews shortly. In the meantime, you can hear tracks from these albums and more on CurtJazz Radio, on Live 365. We’re always on and always FREE.

Until then, the jazz (and BAM) continues…

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.

JAZZ LIVES!!! with CurtJazz: Interactive Playlist 3/30/17 (with Amos Hoffman)

Posted in Charlotte Community Rado, CLTC Playlists, Jazz in Charlotte, JazzLives!, The Jazz Continues..., Video Vault, Who's New in Jazz with tags , , , , , on June 2, 2017 by curtjazz

amos hoffman collageOn the March 30 edition of JAZZ LIVES!!! with CurtJazz, on Charlotte Community Radio, we were fortunate to have as an in-studio guest, the brilliant guitarist/oudist, Amos Hoffman.

We discussed Amos’ influences, the jazz scene in his native Israel, New York and in the Carolinas, where he currently resides. We also played most of the tracks from his most recent album, Back to the City and as a special treat, Mr. Hoffman played some live in studio performances.

In this interactive playlist, we have included a link to the entire broadcast, the full list of tunes for the evening, clips of three of the in-studio performances and the official video for “Brown Sugar”; an infectious and compelling track from Mr. Hoffman’s 2010 album, Carving 

For more information on Amos Hoffman and his upcoming performances, visit his website: www.amoshoffman.com  To purchase a copy of Back to the City (CD Baby), click HERE. To purchase Carving (iTunes) click HERE.

 

TRACK TITLE ARTIST(S) ALBUM LABEL
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes Amos Hoffman Back to the City CD Baby
Easy Going Amos Hoffman Back to the City CD Baby
After Lazy Noon Amos Hoffman Back to the City CD Baby
Alone in South Carolina Amos Hoffman Back to the City CD Baby
Little Pigs Amos Hoffman Back to the City CD Baby
Pannonica Amos Hoffman Back to the City CD Baby
Back to the City Amos Hoffman Back to the City CD Baby
Blue Silver Pat Bianchi A Higher Standard Self-Release
Senor Blues Giacomo Gates Fly Rite Sharp Nine
The Outlaw Blue Note 7 Mosaic: A Celebration of Blue Note Blue Note
Monie (feat. Donald Harrison) John Michael Bradford Something Old, Something New CD Baby
Fortress Mark Whitfield Grace Self-Release
Soul Sister Warren Wolf Convergence Mack Avenue
My Shining Hour Tia Fuller Decisive Steps Mack Avenue
Doodlin’ Manhattan Transfer Vibrate Telarc
Homecoming Shamie Royston Portraits Self-Release
Hi-Fly (feat. Jon Hendricks) Sachal Vasandani Hi-Fly Mack Avenue
Fred’s Blues Brent Rusinow Old Guy Time Self-Release
Wake-up Call Jesse Davis As We Speak Concord
Music in the Air Jon Hendricks A Good Git-Together Pacific Jazz
Taiji Camp Keith Davis Trio Still CD Baby
Day Dreaming Roy Ayers Red, Black and Green Polydor

JAZZ LIVES!!! with CurtJazz: Interactive Playlist – 5/4/17

Posted in Charlotte Community Rado, CLTC Playlists, Jazz in Charlotte, JazzLives!, Video Vault, Who's New in Jazz with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 1, 2017 by curtjazz

Jazzmeia-Horn-A-Social-Call 225The penultimate edition of JAZZ LIVES!!! with CurtJazz on Charlotte Community Radio, featured mostly new releases. There has been a lot of great new music released in 2017 and I wanted to share as much of it as possible before wrapping it up. I had to drop in a Sonny Rollins classic and a few others, like the one from a few years back from my man, Etienne Charles and Chaka with Echoes of an Era ’cause they were totally in my head. But the majority of the love went to the new stuff, such as the sublime debut disc by Ms. Jazzmeia Horn and the striking groove of Nightintales, the latest release from that daughter of jazz royalty, Ms. China Moses.

There’s a link to the entire program below and video clips of a few of the tracks as well. Hope y’all dig it!

 

 

TRACK TITLE ARTIST(S) ALBUM LABEL
Sweet Georgia Brown Ori Dagan Less Than Three Self-Release
Karma Joey DeFrancesco Project Freedom Mack Avenue
Disconnected China Moses Nightinales MPS
I Told You I Love You Giacomo Gates Centerpiece Origin
La Cancha Eddie Palmieri Sabiduria Ropeadope
Old Men Sing the Blues Kevin Mahogany The Vienna Affair Cracked Anegg
The Aviator Bobby Watson Made in America Smoke Sessions
Take the Coltrane Kevin Eubanks East West Time Mack Avenue
Spanish Steps LCJO (feat. Jon Batiste & Wynton Marsalis) The Music of John Lewis Blue Engine
Tight Jazzmeia Horn A Social Call Prestige
Armando’s Song Christian Sands REACH Mack Avenue
Tatra Hermon Mehari Bleu Unlabeled
Soy Califa Allegra Levy Cities Between Us SteepleChase
O Pato Eliane Elias Dance of Time Concord
Black Enough Somi Petite Afrique Okeh
Take the A Train Echoes of an Era Echoes of an Era Elektra
Little Sunflower Ed Cherry Soul Time Posi-tone
Haitian Fight Song Akua Dixon Akua Dixon Self-Release
What a Difference a Day Makes Akiko Tsuruga Sakura American Showplace
Straighten Up and Fly Right Nnenna Freelon & Take 6 Soulcall Concord
Pandora’s Box Jeremy Pelt The Talented Mr. Pelt HighNote
Cinderella Poncho Sanchez Ultimate Latin Dance Party Concord Picante
Camera Eyes Behn Gillece Dare to Be Posi-tone
Surrey with the Fringe on Top Sonny Rollins Newk’s Time Blue Note
That’s Not Your Donut Champian Fulton Speechless CD Baby
Kitch’s Bebop of Calypso (feat. Lord Superior) Etienne Charles Kaiso Culture Shock
Down By The Riverside Christian McBride Trio Live at the Village Vanguard Mack Avenue
RED! Josh Lawrence Color Theory Posi-tone
Make America Great Again! Delfeayo Marsalis Make America Great Again! Troubador Jass
Breathless Terence Blanchard Breathless Blue Note
Central Line Art Hirahara Central Line Posi-tone

JAZZ LIVES!!! 10/20/16 – Trumpet Tribute (featuring Kenny Dorham)

Posted in Charlotte Community Rado, Jazz in Charlotte, Obscure Trumpet Masters, Who's New in Jazz with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 19, 2016 by curtjazz

JAZZ LIVES!!! with CurtJazz – Thursday, October 20: Trumpet Tribute – featuring Kenny Dorham

kennydorham_unamasOn this week’s edition of JAZZ LIVES!!! with CurtJazz, it will be all about the trumpets.

With the birthdays of Roy Hargrove, Wynton Marsalis and Dizzy Gillespie all taking place this week, plus the Grammy winning jazz trumpeter Ashlin Parker, paying tribute to the underappreciated trumpet master Kenny Dorham, in The Jazz Arts Initiative’s JAZZ ROOM this Friday and Saturday, it is a perfect time for a Trumpet Tribute, from 6 pm – 9 pm, Thursday on CharlotteCommunityRadio (CLTCRadio).

He was a trumpet player of exceptional gifts; a composer of jazz classics, such as “Blue Bossa” and a better than average vocalist. Nevertheless, McKinley Howard “Kenny” Dorham (1924-1972), often gets lost among the glut of trumpet stars of the 1950’s and 60’s. He was a member of Art Blakey’s original Jazz Messengers and he replaced Clifford Brown in Max Roach’s group after Brownie’s tragic death. Dorham’s recordings as a leader are some of the most enduring of the era, including Afro Cuban, Quiet Kenny, ‘Round About Midnight at the Café Bohemia and Una Mas. He also made memorable music as a sideman, especially with his frequent musical partner, tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson. Together, they made three classic Blue Note albums over a two year period, under Henderson’s name: Page One; Our Thing and In ‘n Out.

ashlin-parker

Ashlin Parker

Charlotte native Ashlin Parker plays with large and small ensembles nationally and internationally. His solos have been described at various times as being lyrical or fiery, with throaty growls or “brilliant vibrato,” and with lightning staccato runs or “superb legato” phrasing.  When part of a front-line, Ashlin can bring energy, bite, and zest to a performance through engaging in “fine counterpoint duets” or spirited trading with other horn players.  His newest ensemble, the Trumpet Mafia, is considered “an immensely talented band.”

Ashlin shared in the 2009 Grammy Award for Best Large Jazz Ensemble for the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra’s album, Book One.  Following Book One, Ashlin has recorded with numerous artists, including Ellis Marsalis, Harold Battiste, Dmitry Mospan, James Partridge, Terence Blanchard and Jason Marsalis. Ashlin has been teaching various aspects of jazz, including improvisation, theory, repertoire, arranging, and performance preparation in private lessons, courses, summer institutes, jazz camps, and master classes for more than ten years.  He has been leading the jazz trumpet studio in the Music Department at the University of New Orleans since January 2011.

Be sure to join me on JAZZ LIVES!!! with CurtJazz, as we honor the musical legacy of Kenny Dorham and play the music of Wynton Marsalis, Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Hargrove and  Ashlin Parker; Thursday, October 20; from 6 pm – 9 pm (EDT); on CLTCRadio.

Don’t miss Ashlin Parker as he pays tribute to Kenny Dorham, in the Jazz Arts Initiative’s THE JAZZ ROOM. Friday, October 21, at 6 pm & 8:15 pm and Saturday, October 22, at 7 pm and 9:15 pm. For ticket information, visit www.thejazzarts.org

JAZZ LIVES!!! with CurtJazz, airs LIVE every Thursday from 6:00pm to 9:00pm via CharlotteCommunityRadio.orgCLTCRadio.org OR use the Mixlr app where you can listen and chat with our hosts and guests alike.

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Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015 Preview: Sunday on the International Stage

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015, Who's New in Jazz with tags , , , , , , , , on May 12, 2015 by curtjazz

Arturo O'Farrill

Arturo O’Farrill

On Sunday, May 24th, the 38th Atlanta Jazz Festival’s International Stage will close in a big way, with the latest winners of the Grammy Award for Best Latin Jazz Album: Arturo O’Farrill and his Latin Jazz Orchestra. The group won the honor for their latest release, The Offense of the Drum (Motema), which is a stunning tour through a melange of Latin styles; with great guest stars such as Vijay Iyer and Donald Harrison adding to the fun. It was the second time they won the award, the first was in 2009 for Song for Chico.

A pianist, composer and bandleader, Mr. O’Farrill is the son of one of the legendary founders of the Afro-Cuban jazz genre, Chico O’Farrill. Born in Mexico, Arturo moved to NYC with his family at the age of 5. Soon began a musical odyssey, which would initially find Arturo decidedly moving away from the music of his father toward straight-ahead jazz. As he learned to play piano, one of his original idols was Chick Corea. Discovered as a teen, playing piano in an upstate New York bar, by Carla Bley. O’Farrill then joined Ms. Bley onstage at Carnegie Hall a few weeks later. He then spent three fruitful and educational years in Ms. Bley’s band before moving on to a stint as musical director for Harry Belafonte.

After later working with (and getting history lessons from) Andy and Jerry Gonzalez and their renowned Ft. Apache Band, Arturo made his way back to his roots, joining his father’s band in 1995, as Chico O’Farrill was experiencing a late career renaissance. With his father now being ill, Arturo became the band’s pianist, musical director and contractor, spearheading the group as they began a 15 year Sunday night residency at NYC’s famed Birdland, in 1997. After his father’s death in 2001, Arturo became the titular leader of the band, as they rose to new heights with a mixture of the traditional Afro-Cuban sound favored by Chico O’Farrill with the blend of Latin rhythms from all over the Western Hemisphere, that have become the younger O’Farrill’s trademark.

But before Mr. O’Farrill gets to close things out on Sunday evening, the International Stage will feature a Turkish percussionist, a Brazilian vocalist and a Haitian guitar based group with a remarkable back story. Sitting still throughout the day will be very difficult indeed.

1:30 PM – Fernanda Noronha

Ferananda Noronha is a Brazilian native who now calls Atlanta home. Her eponymous first CD, recorded in 2005, was produced by the master jazz drummer/producer Norman Connors, who also guided the careers of Jean Carne and the late Phyllis Hyman, among others. The disc was not released in the U.S. until last year, but it has received a lot of attention in the ATL area. A vocalist since the age of 13, Ms. Noronha counts Sarah Vaughan, Stevie Wonder and Joao Gilberto among her influences, which is not surprising, since her infectious sound includes elements of all three of those legendary performers.

3:30 PM – Strings

Born in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti in 1959, guitarist Jacky Ambroise was introduced to music at a very early age when his father Jean-Jacques D. Ambroise played the classical flute at family gatherings and his mom sang folk songs. Tragically, he lost both of his parents at the age of 6, due to Haiti’s political turmoil. Fascinated by Spanish music as well as the rhythms of his homeland, Jacky Ambroise taught himself to play the guitar at age 8 and a few years later, he was one of the most popular artists in his homeland. The group Strings, which Ambroise formed with another guitar playing friend, Philippe Augustin, plays a style they call “Tropical Flamenco”, which successfully blends their musical influences. Having now fully recovered from major brain surgery in 2009, Mr. Ambroise will join Mr. Augustin and the other members of Strings as they fill the AJF International Stage with pure musical joy.

5:30 PM – Emrah Kotan

Atlanta resident Emrah Kotan is a classically trained percussionist who came to the United States from his native Turkey and received a Master’s degree in Jazz Studies from Georgia State University. His debut album, The New Anatolian Experience, is a collection of original compositions and arrangements that fuse world music and jazz, creating stylistically sophisticated vibes and a genuine model of personal artistic expression. Aside from performing, Emrah is an enthusiastic music educator who has conducted master classes and has taught many students over the years, some of which who have been awarded music scholarships by the colleges of their choice. Emrah teaches students of all ages privately and is the Director of the Jazz and World Percussion Ensembles at Agnes Scott College.

7:30 PM – Arturo O’Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra

We’ve told much of Arturo O’Farrill’s musical story above. So now, we’ll let the two-time Grammy winner speak for himself.

Music by these artists and many other AJF38 performers can be heard on our 24/7 Live365 streaming jazz radio station, Curt’s Cafe Noir, from 5PM – 7PM, daily between now and May 31.

For more information about the 2015 Atlanta Jazz Festival, visit their website: http://atlantafestivals.com

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015 Preview: Sunday (5/24) on the Locals Stage

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015, Who's New in Jazz with tags , , , , , , on April 29, 2015 by curtjazz

Tony Hightower

Tony Hightower

On the 2015 Atlanta Jazz Festival stage devoted to ATL area artists, the festival’s final day, Sunday May 24th, will feature more of a traditional jazz schedule than Saturday. You’ll have your pick of a big band, a smooth jazz saxophonist, a classic jazz quintet and an up and coming vocalist. All are first-rate representatives of the best the ATL jazz scene has to offer.

 

 

12:30 PM Joe Gransden and His Big Band

Joe Gransden is a veteran trumpeter/vocalist who has often been compared to another trumpet master who also sang a little, Chet Baker. A New York native, Mr. Gransden has 14 albums to his credit, including his latest Songs of Sinatra and Friends. Atlanta residents know Gransden from his appearances on  the 1st and 3rd Mondays of each month at Cafe 290, with his big band. That same band will get AJF38’s Sunday off to a great start, with swinging charts, hot trumpet solos and cool vocals.

2:30 PM Mastery

An all-star group composed of some of Atlanta’s top jazz veterans, Mastery features the original compositions of bassist and leader, Mamaniji Azanyah.  If straight ahead jazz in the style of Bird, Miles, Trane, Mingus and Monk is what you seek, then Mastery is where you will find it. When these cats hit the stage, expect no gimmicks and nothing cute, just hard-driving, swinging, classic jazz – Straight, No Chaser.

4:30 PM Jeff Sparks

In the tradition of Grover Washington, Najee and Gospel Jazz groups such as Allen and Allen, Jeff Sparks work on the soprano and alto saxophones combines R&B, smooth and classic jazz into a joyous mixture that has been pleasing Atlanta crowds for over 20 years. Listeners of all ages are uplifted by Mr. Sparks sound and leave his performances feeling better than when they came in. You can take some of that good feeling home with you on Sparks’ album Love.Life.Soul

6:30 PM Tony Hightower 

Tony Hightower is known to many in the Atlanta area for his performances in many of Tyler Perry’s stage productions. As an R&B singer, Mr. Hightower worked with Lionel Richie, Outkast and Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, among others. But it has always been Hightower’s dream to be a jazz vocalist in the style of the great Nat King Cole. So, when Mr. Hightower decided to record his first jazz album, The New Standard, he went right to the source, accepting advice and tutelage from Atlanta resident, Cole sibling and a great jazz vocalist in his own right, Freddy Cole. Tony Hightower shows a great deal of promise on the album, with several compelling tracks. I’m sure he will bring those gifts to the stage in his live performance.

Tracks from many of the artists performing at AJF38 may be heard daily from 5 PM – 7 PM on our streaming jazz radio station, Curt’s Cafe Noir, from now through May 31.

For more information about the Atlanta Jazz Festival, visit their website http://atlantafestivals.com 

 

 

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015 – Saturday (5/23) on the Locals Stage

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015, Who's New in Jazz with tags , , , , , on April 25, 2015 by curtjazz

Jessie Davis

Jessie Davis

In spite of my best intentions, I have almost always found myself in a breathless rush to the finish to complete my annual Atlanta Jazz Festival preview posts. I’ve sometimes finished a preview literally minutes before the music begins. This year it will be different! Because we are starting a month before AJF38 begins, we should have plenty of time to do each stage justice and at the same time provide you with the info you’ll need to decide where to be if you plan to be in Piedmont Park this Memorial Day Weekend.

The Locals Stage was a new idea to last year’s Festival, giving those artists who spend most of the year playing in the ATL area a chance to gain a bit more exposure than they regularly receive. It will continue this year with a rather eclectic but talented group of performers. Here’s a look at what Saturday, May 23rd, on the Locals Stage will look like:

 

12:30 PM –  Tri-Cities High School Jazz Band

The Bank of America Youth Jazz Band Competition allows young jazz musicians from all over the ATL metropolitan area the opportunity to showcase their talent. The second place winners this year and recipients of a $750 contribution to their music program, was the Tri-Cities High School Jazz Band. These fine young musicians will get a chance to show their stuff as they kick things off on The Locals Stage.

2:30 PM – Jessie Davis and the Nebraska Jones Experiment

 How this Brooklyn-based vocalist and her group got to be considered for the AJF’s Locals Stage, is a geographical mystery. But, Ms. Davis is a cool and interesting vocalist and their sound is fresh and hip, so damn the map and dig their music. Ms. Davis has described her sound as “Future Soul”.  She started the “The Nebraska Jones Experiment” as a one woman show on a subway platform. The “NJE” is now a collective of musicians from all over the world.   Their jazz includes, soul, hip-hop, pop and even a little turntable. They will definitely be bringing a little slice of Brooklyn cool to the ATL.

4:30 PM – Kenosha Kid

How does a cat from Athens, GA come to be known as “Kenosha Kid”? Good question. I’ll let his AJF38 page tell the story: “In Thomas Pynchon’s novel Gravitys Rainbow, the Kenosha Kid is a maddeningly ambiguous figure: it might be a cowboy, or a dance, or a Sodium Amytal-induced hallucination (or all of the above). Guitarist/composer Dan Nettles (who, by the way, has never been to Kenosha, WI) conceived his namesake band with similarly uncategorizable intentions. This Kenosha Kid might be an indie rock band, could be a modernist jazz ensemble, can probably be considered a jam band, and most definitely is all of the above”

There you have it. Kenosha Kid also has a new album out, called Inside Voices. Check out the album and Dan Nettles at 4:30 PM.

6:30 PM – Wolfpack ATL 

I can promise you this: When these Atlanta legends hit the Locals Stage, everybody in Piedmont Park will know it. Wolfpack ATL is loud, it is funky and it is probably like nothing else you’ve heard before. Think Sun Ra, meets Dirty South Hip Hop, meets Clark ATL Marching Band. Wolfpack ATL is the brainchild of Grammy award-winning saxophonist Kebbi Williams. They have performed all over the Atlanta area, winning hearts and moving butts. If you want to find them, get to the park at 6:30 and just listen for the funky tubas.

Our next AJF38 post will feature the artists who will play the Locals Stage on Sunday May 24, the final day of the Festival.

For more on the Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015, visit their website http://atlantafestivals.com/

 

 

Maureen Budway – I Wish I Had Known…

Posted in In Memoriam, Under The Radar, Unsung Women of Jazz, Who's New in Jazz with tags , , , , , , on April 3, 2015 by curtjazz

maureen budwayAs I opened the most recent issue of Downbeat magazine, looking, as is my wont when a fresh copy arrives, for new and interesting projects from artists who are unfamiliar to me, I came across an ad for Sweet Candor, the debut album from a vocalist named Maureen Budway. I grabbed a few tracks from an online resource and began to listen. I was immediately impressed by her easy swing, her tone and the pure soulfulness of her voice. And she totally won me over with a vocal version of “Del Sasser”, the Sam Jones tune made famous by Cannonball Adderley. I thought “I like this lady” and put her in my mental category of hidden gem vocalists who deserve wider recognition. My next thought was “I can’t wait to hear more from Maureen Budway”.

Sadly, there will be no further recordings by Ms. Budway, who as I found out when I read the glowing review of Sweet Candor later in the issue, passed away on January 12, 2015, at age 51, after a 20 year battle with breast cancer. She recorded the album last fall and had gotten to hear the finished product around Christmastime, a scant few weeks before her death.

I knew nothing of Maureen Budway until a few days ago, so any attempt by me to eulogize her would be fairly absurd. I will state a few of the facts that I’ve learned from my reading: She was a longtime part of the Pittsburgh area jazz scene and a respected and beloved vocal teacher at her alma mater, Duquesne University. Her brother David, is a fairly well-known jazz pianist (who performs on her album). She began singing professionally at age 18 and continued to do so, despite her illness, until just a few months before her death. And she has left us with one impressive album in Sweet Candor, which features guest appearances by trumpeter Sean Jones and flute legend Hubert Laws, among others.

In my younger days, I spent quite a bit of time in Pittsburgh, having a jazz musician close friend who lived there for a number of years. During those trips to the Steel City I dropped in to a number of its jazz spots so it’s possible that I crossed paths with Maureen Budway. If so, I wish I had known then what I know now; that Maureen Budway was a rare and beautiful jazz vocalist. She deserved to have a recorded catalog that was deep and wide. Nevertheless, we are grateful to MCG Records for ensuring that she can never be forgotten.

Best Jazz of 2014: Hot Tone Music

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2014, Under The Radar, Who's New in Jazz with tags , , , , on January 12, 2015 by curtjazz

(l to r) Camille Thurman; Mimi Jones; Shirazette Tinnin

(l to r) Camille Thurman; Mimi Jones; Shirazette Tinnin

A few years ago, bassist Mimi Jones recorded her first album, A New Day. Working on the sessions for the album provided Ms. Jones with a great deal of priceless experience in the ins and outs of the recording process. She became a de facto adviser  for many of her colleagues, who would come to Mimi seeking guidance on every phase of the business; such as promotion, artwork and the other little things that novices often leave to chance. Ms. Jones realized that as major label deals for most jazz artists have disappeared, the development and direction that big labels provided, have also dried up.

When she was ready to record Balance, her second album, Ms. Jones decided to take things into her own hands. Part of doing that was a gutsy decision to start her own label, Hot Tone Music. The idea being to give gifted musicians a home and the direction that they sometimes lack. As Ms. Jones said during an interview with Bret Primack (aka “The Jazz Guy”) “With Hot Tone Music… we try to support our artists. If they… show signs of great talent we make a space for them and we teach them how to take care of themselves…and then [we] present a platform from which they can get exposure through publicity and marketing…”

In addition to Balance, Hot Tone released two other albums in its first year, 2014:  Origins by saxophonist/vocalist Camille Thurman and drummer Shirazette Tinnin’s Humility:Purity of My Soul.  All three projects strong, complex and thoroughly absorbing ; grounded in the post bop and modal tradition but also rich with the influences that the artists have adopted outside of the jazz mainstream. And oh yes, in case you haven’t noticed all three leaders just happen to be women.

The fact that these albums were so good created a dilemma for me as I put together my Best Jazz Albums of 2014 list. The exceptional music from Hot Tone was easily among the best of the year. But the fact that these three albums all came from a brand new jazz-centered label and that this jazz-centered label was started by a woman musician, and at this point featured all women musicians, was such an impressive story that I didn’t want to potentially bury it inside of a list of 25 albums. So, I decided to wait a week or so and create this separate entry, celebrating Hot Tone Music and its 2014 releases.

Balance – Mimi Jones – This album was my introduction to Hot Tone Music, as I was assigned to review it for Jazz Inside Magazine. It’s a confident blend of original compositions and covers of tunes that are well know but not done so often that they’ve become clichéd. Guest appearances by Ingrid Jensen, Luis Perdomo, Marvin Sewell and Ms. Jones’ two Hot Tone label mates, help take things to the next level. It was a long, long time before I moved this disc out of my player. Read my Jazz Inside Review HERE.

Humility: Purity of My Soul – Shirazette Tinnin –  On her debut album, this North Carolina native displays impressive skills on the kit and proves to be a fine composer, having written seven of her album’s nine selections. The two covers? McCoy’s “Passion Dance” and Eddie Harris’ “Freedom Jazz Dance” (Nothing like going for broke!). She pulls each off in a big way with Ms. Tinnin’s hard-driving beat and labelmate Camille Thurman’s smokin’ tenor powering “Passion Dance”. On the Eddie Harris classic, Ms. Jones adds an insistent island-funk bass line to Ms. Thurman’s searching sax and Ms. Tinnin’s authoritative drumwork. It’s now one of my favorite versions of the piece. As far as the originals go, check out “Aunt Sissy”, with the ladies of Hot Tone joined by pianist Rachel Eckroth for a ballad that grows from a whisper to a shout on Thurman’s muscular tenor. Also dig “Jazzmine”, a pretty ballad with a reflective vocal setup from Thurman, followed by Eckroth’s gentle electric keyboard and some solid scatting by Ms. Thurman.

Cindy Blackman-Santana, Teri-Lyne Carrington, Sherrie Maricle, Allison Miller…The small sisterhood of outstanding female jazz drummers of our time must make room for a new member: Shirazette Tinnin.

Origins – Camille Thurman – She’s a saxophonist, a flutist and a vocalist so accomplished that she was the runner-up in the 2013 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition. Camille Thurman places all of these skills on full display on Origins, her second album. With first-call pros such as Luis Perdomo, Rudy Royston, Enoch Smith, Jr. and label mate Shirazette Tinnin along for support, Ms. Thurman has created a rich, multifaceted work of art that is never boring and is at times, outstanding. Like Jones and Tinnin, Ms. Thurman is also a first-rate composer who has contributed a number of fine pieces to the project. Among them are the title track, which is a Shorteresque up tempo workout; “In Duetime”, a joyous tune with a cool Brazilian influence, evincing Ms.Thurman’s proficiency on the flute as well as her facility as a scat vocalist; and “Pursuit With a Purpose” a melodious jazz waltz that gives plenty of solo room to all, with a terrific piano turn by Mr. Smith. There is also a compelling cover of Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz”, with Ms. Thurman throwing down on a delightfully staccato tenor lead. Because her musical gifts are so wide-ranging, Ms. Thurman’s album is the most diverse of the three and that perhaps gives Origin a very slight edge.

Hot Tone Music is a great concept, a great business model and most important, it has started off with three great albums. Congratulations to Mimi Jones and company. We’re looking forward to more exciting things from you in 2015 and beyond.