Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mark Meadows, Something Good

by Jeff Becker

Meadows is joined on his sophomore recording Somethin' Good, with Brent Birckhead on alto sax, Eric Kennedy on drums, Eric Wheeler on bass, Paul Bollenback on guitar, Warren Wolf on vibes and guest vocalists Lena Seikaly and Christine Dashiell on a couple of tracks.   In addition to playing piano, Meadows also sings on four of the tracks, with a John Legend easy going vibe to his vocal style.  Meadows has a witty writing style, his compositions are fresh and enjoy a strong foundation in the tradition of jazz coupled with a reach into to contemporary sounds and inspiration. Meadows' lyrics are positive and are every bit as enjoyable as the music and playing, which makes this offering even more appealing. Seikaly and Dashiell's voices are used to sing non-lyric melodies and function as enhancement to the overall ensemble sound.

On four cover tunes Meadows shows his arranging skills, which include Michael Jackson's "Rock With You," Dizzy Gillespie's "Groovin' High," "Come Together" by Lennon-McCartney, and a solo piano rendition of Billy Strayhorn's "Lush Life." All four selections have been well-traversed over the years and many have used them as improvisational vehicles, but Meadows keeps it fresh by adding some truly creative touches without deconstructing the tunes into unrecognizable renditions. 

"Rock With You" is given a 5/4 groove intro that effortlessly segues to 4/4 feel for the verse.  Meadows displays confident singing and well-placed vocal harmonies by the chorus which adds just the right interest.  A return to a 5/4 feel with an interlude before Bollenback's solo, then is layered over a nice 6/8 feel. When reading this concept on paper one might think this will sound distracting, but Meadows seamlessly connects the details into a flawless flow. 

These two examples are only that; examples of the exemplary work and ideas of a composer, arranger and performer who reside in one very talented Mark Meadows.  His arranging skills are inventive, interesting and well beyond his young years.  His vocal style is a modern sound with an almost crossover appeal. The sound of jazz is growing daily, and the younger generation is trumpeting their sound, Meadows is at the forefront of that creative wave, definitely one to watch. 

Track Listing: Come Together; Just Imagine; Rock With You; Somethin’ Good; Once Upon a Purple Night; Less Catchy; Way Up Here; For You; Groovin’ High; Get Lost; Lush Life. 

Personnel: Mark Meadows: piano, voice; Paul Bollenback: guitar; Warren Wolf: vibes; Brent Birckhead: alto sax; Christine Dashiell: vocals (8,9); Lena Seikaly: vocals (2); Eric Kennedy: drums; Eric Wheeler: bass.
Record Label: Self Produced

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Terry Marshall, Arrival

by Icrom Bigrad

Composer/Pianist Terry Marshall has put together an enjoyable project entitled, Arrival featuring five original compositions and six well and not so well -known standards and arrangements by Marshall. There are four vocal selections featuring Iva Ambush on “Being Cool” and “Upside Down,” Kendra Johnson on “This Bitter Earth” and Johnson is joined by vocalist DeCastro Brown for “Moodies Mood For Love.”

For Arrival Marshall has a rotating cast of players, but all speak the same language so the overall effect is still a project that flows and has a consistent musical sound overall.  Marshall’s originals are catchy and fit in nice with the selected standards.  The project has a lot of straight eight selections, but the styles overall are varied and with the four vocal selections mixed in with the instrumentals the listener will always get the feeling of a cohesive project.  

 There is a plethora of groove on this recording, but it is not for a purist of any specific genre, instead it will appeal to a wide audience.  Marshall’s most impressive skill are his ability to do all of the writing and arranging and put a varied cast together that makes everything work; and of course his playing is especially concerned with inviting the listener into the musical moments that is Arrival.

Tracks: Teresa 4:32; Upside Down 4:22; This Bitter Earth 3:37; Being Cool 4:46; Nostalgia 6:24; Questions And Answers 3:57; Moodies Mood For Love 3:27; Speak To My Heart 5:08; Arrival 5:21; April In Paris 3:57; Blues 1:46. 

Personnel: Terry Marshall - Piano (all tracks); Alejandro (Ah-leh-hahn-dro) Lucini - Drums (tr.1,2,4,5,9); Harold Summey - Drums (tr.3,7); Tracey Cutler - Saxophone (tr.2,3,4,5,7); Warren Atiba (Uh-tee-buh)Taylor - Saxophone  (tr. 9); Muneer (Moo-nir) Nasser (Nae-ser) - Trumpet (tr.9); Kevin Williams - Guitar (tr.1); Ben Young - Guitar (tr.1,6,11); D.L. Watson - Guitar (tr.8); Iva Ambush - Vocals (tr.2,4); Kendra Johnson - Vocals (tr.3,7); DeCastro Brown - Vocals (tr.7); Leonardo Lucini - Bass (tr.1,2,4,5,6,9); Dave Marsh - Bass (tr.3,7,8,11); Donnie West - Bass (tr.10).

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Donna Singer, Destiny, Moment of Jazz

by Icrom Bigrad

Destiny, Moment of Jazz is a fine outing by jazz vocalist Donna Singer with longtime collaborator bassist Doug Richards. Destiny, Moment of Jazz, is a collection of seven standards (one of which is just the Doug Richards trio instrumentally -“I’ll Remember April”) and two originals by Carole Belle and Roy Singer- “This Moment of Now” and “Sweet Destiny.”

Singer has a varied program of styles and there is certainly something for every musical taste.  “This Moment of Now,” “Our Love Is Here To Stay,” and “Where or When” are medium tempo swinging toe tapers,  as well as “What A difference A Day Made” that has a rubato gospel intro that develops into relaxed swing.  “Sweet Destiny” and “Time After Time” are given a Latin treatment and “Yesterday” and “I Believe I Can Fly” are straight eight gospel/pop infused selections.

Singer offers the listener a varied program with old style flair.  Her vocal style employs ample vibrato reminiscent of the 40’s, with updated material underpinning the proceedings, an enjoyable listen that employs the walk down memory lane feeling.

Personnel:  Donna Singer (vocals); Doug Richards (bass); Billy Alfred (piano); Mike Cervone (drums).

Special Guests: Jeff Otis (guitar); Chris Pasen (flugelhorn); Nancy Wegrzyn (viola); Bobby Tee (percussion/drums).

Tracks: This Moment of Now 3:35; Our Love Is Here To Stay 3:53; Sweet Destiny 3:33; Yesterday 4:04;  I’ll Remember April 4;36; Time After Time 3:43; What A Difference A Day Made 3:02; I Believe I Can Fly 3:32; Where or When 2:39.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

MoFrancesco Quintetto, Maloca

by Jeff Becker

Well-crafted and swinging, bassist Francesco Valente presents bits of hard bop mixed with contemporary refrains, coupled with musicianship that sparkles with each track.

Maloca has a very western feel arising from its Italian composer. Valente's playing feels like a combination of classic Ray Brown, balanced with a more contemporary Christian McBride.  "Tchap" and "Maloca" both present an effervescent of youthful expressionism.   Lucena and Gaspar have searing exchanges throughout the beginning of the piece, while Valente creates a calm and reserved energy allowing his bandmates the room to stretch out on the proceedings. 

"Maloca" is infused with a hint of Latin flavor, but is not a total cop to the latin vibe, the piece is focused on stretching out with subtle chord changes by Gasper and Moreira with Valente patterning a  groovy and infectious pad, that still carries an air of understated resplendent. 

Valente's re-interpretation of Bela Bartok's "Romanian Folk Dances" is a beaming interpretation, a fierce piece to perform with skill within the classical cannon.  The piece originally featuring a violinist who must be in top form to navigate Valente re-interprets the piece into a delicate and wonderfully emotional romantic march.

The closer "Soul" written by trumpeter, Johannes Krieger, is a burning number with excellent individual lines and deeply rooted rhythms; the excitement immediately catches you up in the moment.  Maloca is an invigorating session that holds strong within tradition, while still exploring and creating a new individual sound, a solid debut from Francesco Valente and his MoFrancesco Quintetto. Highly Recommended.

Patrick Battstone and Richard Poole, The Last Taxi

by Jeff Becker

The Last Taxi sports two apt leaders at the helm.  Pianist, Patrick Battstone began performing music professionally at the age of 14, playing in various rock, blues, and R&B bands in South Western Ohio. By the time he was 18, he had received lessons from Stan Kenton and Gary Burton, had been mentored by Oscar Treadwell (Oska T.   In 1973, he attended Berklee College of Music and soon after became a student of both Mme Chaloff and Charlie Banacos. One of his bands, which featured hometown friend Grover Mooney, opened the fabled 1369 Club in Cambridge in 1976. During the 80’s, Patrick studied the works of Scriabin under the renowned Serge Conus. In 1986, he resumed jazz studies with Joanne Brackeen in NYC for a period of six years.

Richard Poole is a composer, collaborator and performing musician.  On this project he command the vibraphone and drum chair.  After attending Berklee in the early 1970’s, Richard moved to Miami, Florida and studied Music Composition (scholarship) at Miami International University, graduating in 1976. As a composer and collaborator, Richard has worked with many of the 20th century’s great jazz artists, including: Paul Bley, Mark Eagen, Don Bradon, Ira Sullivan, Curtis Fuller, George Garzone, Rebecca Parris, Johnny Walker and Jaco Pastorius.

Battstone and Poole have a history of creating deeply moving chemistry with their previous collaborations, Through an Open Door and Mystic Nights were both deeply rooted in a chamber jazz moniker.  On this effort, it was refreshing to see the two did not reinvent the wheel and kept firmly rooted in the essence of their “chamber jazz” while expanding the overall textural sound with the addition of Chris Rathbun on bass and Todd Brunel on bass clarinet.  The result was a cohesive yet invigorating conversation that ebbed and flowed with rich dialogue and enthralling discovery. 

The spontaneity of each improvisation keeps the outing fresh and filled with surprise around every corner.  The Last Taxi is meant to be savored, like the moments you spend with a longtime friend you have not seen in years; enjoy the moments and revel in the memories.  Certainly a must add to any creative improvisational or avant library.  Highly Recommended!!