Monday, May 9, 2016

Mac Gollehon and the Hispanic Mechanics

by Jeff Becker

Hard hitting Latin jazz and #EDM combined what?? Oh yes, and only from the master himself trumpeter extraordinaire Mac Gollehon.  Many of us in the jazz and Latin genres have had the pleasure of years of enjoyment from trumpeter Gollehon over the years from Smokin’ Section to Mac Straight Ahead to Odyssey of Nostalgia to the cavalcade of Latin jazz who’s who of La Fama.  But hold onto your hats brothers and sisters this is not for the faint at heart jazz lover, get your dancing shoes, your boogie attitude and your retro fashion out of the closet as this is hipster stuff that will sizzle your senses.

Gollehon has a new group the Hispanic Mechanics and they are going to give you a music tune up like no other.  Hold on there, purist – is there something for you. Oh, yes – blistering lines, high notes, solid jazz ideas and the power of jazz to the 9th power.  Gollehon is on fire and he is taking no prisoners in an unapologetic hipster vibe Mac Gollehon and the Hispanic Mechanics (True Groove Records) is a take no prisoners, funkin groove, laced with electronic beats, pushing themes and explosive playing. Gollehon is a pioneer not only on trumpet, but now especially in the genre of jazz. No wonder Miles Davis named him “chops.”

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Cuong Vu, The Making of History Meets Pat Metheny

by Jeff Becker

Watching the development of an artist over the years is probably one of the most gratifying aspects of being a jazz reviewer.  Trumpeter Cuong Vu started making a name for himself years ago, but it is only recently those seeds have begun to blossom. 

Formerly a former scholarship student at the New England Conservatory of Music where he graduated with a BM in jazz studies where he distinguishing himself in performance and made the jazz musician’s rite of passage by moving to New York in the mid-1990s and instead of getting lost in a whirl of schlepping for gigs in the time-honored fashion, he instead  recorded a large catalog of recordings as a leader, mostly in an modern leaning to at times avant-garde style that immediately connected with audiences.

The turning point moment was when Saigon-born Vietnamese American trumpeter became a member of Pat Metheny’s jazz-fusion super group the Pat Metheny Group, and appeared on Speaking of Now. The PMG was (now disbanded) an outfit who could garner big audiences in many countries around the world and who played challenging post bop rock-tinged pieced with ease and tenacity.
Vu has a new record out this spring, that features his trio “meeting” Metheny entitled Cuong Vu Trio Meets Pat Metheny, and it’s a record filled with mindfulness and adventure of exploration  There’s no posturing or peacocking in this offering, it features open structures, plenty of  improvising and a candor in the playing that is simply refreshing.  Certainly worth adding to your collection and definitely hours of enjoyment from a top-notch ensemble, highly recommended.

Carter Calvert, It Might Be A Man's World, but Calvert Has Coverted Me To A Woman's Point of View

by Jeff Becker

Carter Calvert is a bonafide vocalist – I say vocalist vs. jazz singer because there is pretty much nothing Calvert cannot sing.  Carter Calvert comes from a varied background of multi-principals, which is what makes this dynamic artist much more than your garden variety singer; she is a seasoned live performer and a dynamo in the recording setting. Calvert is a true vocalist, able to traverse any genre with skill and execution, but her heart and soul resides with jazz. Calvert has also enjoyed critical acclaim performing the title role in Always...Patsy Cline, starring opposite Emmy® award-winning actress Sally Struthers. She has captivated audiences across the United States recreating the music of this beloved American icon. Often reviewed for her six-star smoldering voice, Calvert is best known for originating her role in the Tony®-nominated Broadway musical It Ain’t Nothin’ But The Blues, alongside Grammy® winning jazz vocalist Gregory Porter. Calvert has also enjoyed opening for iconic performers including: Marilyn McCoo, Chubby Checker and The Temptations.

So now that you get the picture, what about the music.  That is where the greatness begins.  Her follow up recording to her debut entitled Carter Calvert and the Roger Cohen Trio, brings in a couple of jazz heavy hitters, Grammy® award-winning Ulysses Owens, Jr. (Producer/Drums) and Grammy® award-winning Laurence Hobgood (Arranger/Piano), the team takes hits originally made famous by iconic male artists, re-imagined and sung from a woman’s point of view. The result It’s A Man’s World, yet somehow it feels much more like a powerfully placed woman’s world and rightly so – the arrangements are smart, they offer a sensitivity when needed and a jazz muscularity when called for. Calvert is what I call the sweet and spicy sauce on the well-balanced gourmet meal.  She is tasty, seasoned, and articulate and has an instrument in her voice that is un-matched, and I don’t say that lightly.  She is soulful; her blues is gritty, digs deep and is no more evident that on “I’m in the Mood.”  Jesus this woman has chops and is drippy with honey laced brown sugar that will tickle your cockles and delight your soul.  Whew, I am SOLD!

Modern jazz, well it’s here too – the title track “It’s a Man’s, Man’s Man’s World” arranged by Laurence Hobgood is what makes Hobgood stand head and shoulders above most vocal arrangers.  Some of Kurt Elling's best arrangements were created by Hobgood, and that element shines through on this track like a beaming star.  Again, Carter’s voice is commanding – and your truly believe it ain’t nothing without a woman or a girl.   What is the salt of every GREAT vocalist is the way they treat a ballad, a spacious and open rendition accompanied by piano only of “Can You Be True,” displays the fragility that is most beautiful in Carter’s voice, rounding out the deep notes, tender on the top notes and the delicateness of her top notes take flight like an angel.

Carter Calvert is a powerfully potent vocalist, able to convey any style of song with the utmost of presence and execution from soulful blues, to agile modern jazz pieces to the most tender of ballads with every note exposed, she is masterful and poignant. Equal to the power and range of Celine Dion (yes, I know not jazz but anyone can certainly recognize a masterful vocalist in any genre), and the soulfulness of Koko Taylor, along with the ability to convey a ballad -  well – I have to say, she is truly in her own class of perfection.   Pick up a copy of It’s A Man’s World and see why I have flipped for this album so hard.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Chris Ziemba, Manhattan Lullaby

by Jeff Becker

The winner of the 2011 Jacksonville Jazz Piano Competition, pianist and composer Chris Ziemba is becoming an active presence on the New York City jazz scene. He made his debut in the national jazz spotlight in March 2009 as a guest artist on Marian McPartland’s famed NPR radio broadcast, “Piano Jazz.” Since moving to NYC in 2011, he has been involved in a wide range of musical projects. He has performed and recorded with some of the leading voices on today’s jazz scene, including: Ted Nash, Ron Blake, Marcus Printup, Hans Glawischnig, and Ryan Truesdell’s Grammy-winning Gil Evans Project. Ziemba also leads his own trio and quartet to lend a voice to his own compositions. 

On Manhattan Lullaby, Chris Ziemba teams with fellow jazz innovators Michael Thomas, alto saxophone, and bass clarinet, Hans Glawischnig, bass, and Jimmy Macbride, drums for a set of highly original and forward thinking jazz.  From the opening notes of the jaunty “Josie” to Harry Warren’s harmonically rich “I Wish I Knew,” this group is always listening and creating musical conversation that is captivating to listen to and enjoy. Ziemba’s sense of melody and harmony are excellent, from the haunting sounds of “The Road Less Traveled,” the sprightly swinging “Little T,” Ziemba always digs deep for that surprising chord or turn of melody that draws you into the music.  The title track is simply beautiful and Ziemba’s playing is outstanding, Thomas’ bass clarinet is very fitting for the selection and his playing is top shelf.  “Escher’s Loop,” is a wonderful contrafact that will make any jazz aficionado’s toe tap. This is an excellent debut release from an insanely musical pianist and is highly recommended.  Don’t miss the opportunity to check it out.