Archive for joey defrancesco

2015 Jazz Grammy® Preview #3 – Best Instrumental Jazz Album

Posted in 2015 Grammys with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 8, 2015 by curtjazz

In our third preview, we look at the nominees for the award that many consider the be the big prize in the jazz categories: Best Instrumental Jazz Album. As usual, the category is stocked with strong contenders but it is likely to come down to a race between two big names:

Landmarks – Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band (Blue Note)

Drummer Brian Blade’s Fellowship Band has recorded four albums in sixteen years. Each one of them has been outstanding. The deeply personal Landmarks, recorded mostly in Mr. Blade’s hometown of Shreveport, LA, is no exception. It’s stark in spots richly orchestral in others and very compelling. I wouldn’t mind to see them take home the award but I don’t think that it’s going to happen due, ironically to another project that features Mr. Blade.

Trilogy – Chick Corea Trio (Concord)

Chick Corea, Christian McBride and Brian Blade came together on this 3 CD live recording from their world tour. The program includes jazz standards (Monk’s “Work”), classic Corea compositions (“Spain”) and even their take on Russian classical music (Scriabin’s Op. 11, No. 9). The trio is in outstanding  form and the musical performances are universally first-rate. I know that I complain a lot in this space about the awards consistently going to the legendary names but I can’t fight it on this one. Chick is most likely to win. The only thing standing in his way could be a super group with a number of big names in it. Their work isn’t as good but their names are almost as big.

Floating – Fred Hersch Trio (Palmetto)

Fred Hersch is one of the finest pianists of our time and Floating is more recorded evidence of that fact. This album found Mr. Hersch, bassist John Herbert and drummer Eric McPherson back in the studio after a few live discs. It’s as intelligent as any release of 2014 and the trio operates as a single, living breathing musical organism. It was on my list of the Best Jazz Albums of 2014 and it’s my pick for this award. But as we know, I don’t have a vote so the likely winner will be one of the two albums that flank it on this list.

Enjoy The View – Bobby Hutcherson, David Sanborn, Joey DeFrancesco Featuring Billy Hart (Blue Note)

Bobby Hutcherson in his return to the label where he made some legendary recordings, accompanied by contemporary masters David Sanborn, Joey DeFrancesco and Billy Hart. I so badly wanted this album to be great when I first heard that it was coming out. Alas, it was only good. It has numerous high point but almost as many moments of mediocrity. Still, here it is, up for a Grammy today. Will it win? Very possibly, if the voters don’t do their usual rush to Corea, who is this case, is the better pick. Or maybe they will split the vote and leave an opening for Blade or Hersch…We will see…

All Rise: A Joyful Elegy for Fats Waller  – Jason Moran (Blue Note)

This is another album that I loved conceptually; that I wanted so much for it to be stellar and it turned out to be just “good”. Moran is a true student of the great Fats Waller and I love what he has been doing in trying to bring Waller’s music to a contemporary audience. Perhaps he was trying to do a bit too much for this record and something got lost in the translation. Oh well… Again, I would love to see Moran recognized for his musical contributions but giving him a Grammy for this album would be like when they gave Al Pacino an Oscar for The Scent of a Woman.

As for our unscientific and slightly cynical prediction:

Should Win: Fred Hersch

Will Win: Chick Corea

Up Next: Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album

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More Halloween Jazz (Still No Tricks, Just Treats)

Posted in The Jazz Continues..., Video Vault with tags , , , , , , , , on October 27, 2013 by curtjazz
"Musically Reclined" on visualparadox.com

“Musically Reclined” (c) visualparadox.com

This is a sequel to my Halloween Jazz post of a couple of years ago. Though to my knowledge no jazz artist has recorded an album of tunes related to this spookiest of holidays, there are some tracks whose titles, if nothing else, lend themselves to a celebration of All Hallows Eve. Here are four more:

“Be My Monster Love” – David Murray [From Be My Monster Love – Motema Records – 2013]

The title track to saxophonist David Murray’s latest album is pure scary perfection thanks in part to the creepy and witty lyrics by Ishmael Reed that are given a letter-perfect reading by Macy Gray. Ya gotta love a tune with a line like “Suck me until I’m anemic/Until I can’t get out of bed/Until the doctors give me up for dead”. And the tune swings like mad too, which adds to the fun. Ms. Gray has said that she dabbled as a jazz singer prior to embarking on her successful pop career. She sounds right at home here and we’d like to hear more. Marc Cary is right on the money on piano and Mr. Murray, known mostly for his avant-garde work, is terrific on this fairly mainstream number.

“Dracula” – Grant Green [From Green is Beautiful – Blue Note Records – 1970]

Another performance that celebrates a groovin’ Prince of Darkness. This one is from the great guitarist’s 1970 album Green is Beautiful. By now Green was firmly entrenched in the funky sound that would dominate his latter years. Written by organist Neal Creque this track is elevated by the first-rate solos of the sidemen, including Blue Mitchell on trumpet, Claude Bartee on tenor and Emmanuel Riggins on organ. Green doesn’t solo until about three minutes into the track and his statement is way too brief but it does demonstrate that the master still had plenty left in the tank at this point in his all too brief career.

“Frankenstein” – Jackie McLean [From One Step Beyond – Blue Note Records – 1963]

Now this is what I’m talking about! McLean was starting to dabble in free jazz by this point and those experiments inform this performance. He still hasn’t broken free of the conventional boundaries but his movement toward them is strong enough to give this track a bit of a scary vibe. It’s jazz with a nice infusion of the macabre. I would have loved to have heard this cut on the soundtrack of a really hip Frankenstein movie, with maybe Lenny Bruce as The Doctor and Godfrey Cambridge as The Monster. Nice solos from McLean, trombonist Grachan Moncur III (who wrote the tune) and Bobby Hutcherson on vibes.

“Thriller” – Joey DeFrancesco [From Never Can Say Goodbye (The Music of Michael Jackson) – HighNote Records – 2010]

The most prominent jazz organist of our time dropped a tribute disc to the music of “The King of Pop” a couple of years ago. It was honestly a hit and miss affair but quite a bit of it worked, such as this track. My only quibble is that I would have perhaps liked a guest vocalist instead of Joey D on the Vincent Price “rap” but hey he was in the groove and it was his date so who was going to stop him. Besides, his organ solo is a killer, which is no surprise. A lot of fun and a Halloween no brainer.