Monday, July 27, 2015

Glen Ackerman, Glenious Alien Landscape

by Jeff Becker

Five DELIGHTFUL Stars! Glen Ackerman composer, arranger, electric and double bassist’s latest release,  Glenious Alien Landscape, on Blue Bamboo Music, reveals the unique and personal sound and concept of his playing and composing.   The set consists of jazz-rock numbers, blues inspired selections, ballads, two reggae-ish tunes, several hip and respectful jazz fusion inspired tracks, and straight ahead blazing swingers. The interaction of the various ensemble players and the bassist produces a distinctive sound that is unique to the Glenious Alien sound, such as on the short and full of “Funcraft.” Elsewhere, Ackerman leave lots of room for saxophonist Woody Witt to solo and bring his invention, driven and hard hitting sound, that creates absolute musical energy.  Ackerman, often solos in a guitar-like manner in the upper range of his bass in an impactful manner as exhibited on, “Dead Moon Falls,” “Tyranotron” and “Funcraft Reprise.”

The “Flamethrower” begins with a stately on-the-beat drum machine figure with Ackerman playing solo bass with a wah-wah effect that leads to a reggae inspired groove.  “Pure Distance” then shifts to the hip hard-swinger that boppers would relish.  Ackerman’s lovely “Young Boy Daydreams…” is built on an infectious motif that is played as solo piano piece by pianist Matija Dedic. The group is interlocked in a tight six feel for “… On The Way Home” with Dedic playing an amazing solo followed by Witt’s extended soprano saxophone blow; sounding great as always. 

Elaborate compositions that effortlessly unfold with both familiar and surprising sounds are at the heart of this project, but the scorching guitar solos by Paul Chester and Witt’s flying notes of excitement really take this release to the realm of something special.  Get this project, even if you’re a hard core bopper expanding your collection – Glenious Alien Landscape will lead to many splendid musical discoveries. Highly Recommended! Five DISTINCTIVE Stars!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Bachelder and Bruns, Cherry Avenue

by Jeff Becker

Newport Beach vocalist Kevin Bachelder possess a soft focused tenor voice that is able to convey numerous emotions and convincing melodies from many idioms, from straight-ahead, blues, Latin, and pop.  Teaming up with drummer Jason Lee Bruns the two pull from a wide artistic range that is reflected on their new release, Cherry Avenue. Bachelder builds on Jon Hendricks' and Eddie Jefferson's scatting – styles. Bachelder embraces and illuminates John Lennon’s “Dear Prudence,” giving the melody a distinctive jazz inflection.  A rhythmically adventurous "Send in the Clowns," and the rarely-exulted cover of "Ain’t No Sunshine." Bachelder is able to sing to the heart of each song with many embellishments that always comes off as a perfect reference to the original melody.  The title track certainly is a testament to his skill as a vocalist! Highly recommended.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Beat Funktion, Mandy's Secret

by Jeff Becker

I am on a bit of Swedish tear it seems, with two reviews in one week from Swedish groups, entirely different from each other, yet uniquely on a chosen path.  Beat Funktion has transcended the confines of the region and burst onto the North American scene with vigor and resolve to dominate the funk/jazz scene.  Spending a collective of 52 weeks on the jazz charts with 3 releases in 2 years: Moon Town, Voodooland and Mandy's Secret, is certainly nothing to take lightly or shake as stick at.  So let's get down to the music.  It's pure, its retro, at times cinematic, it offers a refreshingly danceable quality not found in a lot of jazz overall, this could be what some call the magic to the recipe, except we cannot discount the musicianship is top-notch and the writing is superb, which to me is the unique and secret ingredient.

Overall, the music is instrumental with big production values, and soaring horn lines that offer complex rhythms and well-conceived writing ideas.  It is easy going, but deceivingly complex and rich in nature. Highlight cuts for me are: "I Am Summer," "Snap To It, " "On The Tiles," and "Rundfunk."

Each cut seemingly was a journey onto itself.  The title cut "Mandy's Secret" has the most filmic vibe of the outing, with a female voice narrating the storyline.  The companion "official video" offered up on youtube, drew me into the intrigue quite nicely.

This is a win folks, don't delay - pick up a copy today via iTunes, skip the designer coffee and support this group on the rise.

GuitCussion - Blue Congo

by Jeff Becker

Best described as fusion or maybe free jazz, with heavy metal propensities prowling in the background, that present themselves in quick running lines that delve into the shred zone.

Swedish group GuitCussion offers an intriguing sound. Consisting of two guitarists and two drummers, the group states it is their goal to create a powerful form of free music in a non-idiomatic fashion. GuitCussion creates interesting atmospheres and textures on Blue Congo, and can bring the fire when needed.
Blue Congo is trove of riches, with over 70 minutes of music, there is so much for the listener to indulge themselves with. A successful outing with many highlights to offer.

Personnel: Henrik Wartel - Drums; Stefan Thorpenberg - Electric Guitars;  Per Anders Skytt - Drums; Gunnar Backman - Fretless and Fretted 25 string Virtual Guitar, Live Loops.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Peter Liu, Bamboo Groove

by Jeff Becker

Peter Liu though new on the vocal jazz scene, has a unique sensibility to swing.  Backed by veteran pianist Peter Hum, bassist Normand Glaude, drummer Tim Shia and a new name to me Scott Poll on clarinet, create a convincing canvas for Liu to colorize.  Liu weaves his way through a songbook of well-known standards with enticing arrangements that give a certain sparkle to each cut.  A very special cut on the album is “Shanghai Tan” fashioned in a jazz swing feel – but sung in Chinese and “Gan Lan Shu” a beautifully introspective and spacious ballad with dramatic sweeps and fills handled by the backing musicians with sincere technique.  Liu has an easy going effervescence to his vocal style; it’s honest and organic in nature, a very pleasing listen throughout.  Of the 13 tracks adorning Bamboo Groove, it was “I Fall in Love Too Easily” that resonated for me, an almost Cincotti swagger emerges from this track.  Liu is onto something quite special with his international flair.  I truly enjoyed each track – the Chinese infused cuts and the overall nostalgia of his sound.