Jazz Sensibilities

Since 2008, a place to discover new jazz and beyond releases on the rise. New WEBSITE and New Contributors Adding. Stay Tuned. Until then, enjoy the blog, but check back often.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Come in From the Cold and Warm Up to Nothing but Blue Sky with Humphrey

Chris Humphrey, Nothing but Blue Sky
Cadence Jazz Records
Reviewed By: Jeff Becker

Chris Humphrey (vocals)
Matt Wilson (drums)
Martin Wood (bass)
Mark Shilansky (piano)
Chris Humphrey is a musician who is multi-faceted in his talents and accomplishments. A jazz vocalist, whose primary focus is the use of the voice as an instrument, he is an improviser and composer as well as an interpreter of songs. Chris teaches jazz piano at the University of Southern Maine. Additionally, Humphrey is the Director of Music at Cheverus High School in Portland, Maine. Previously Chris was the Director of vocal jazz at the University of Southern Maine, and the University of New Hampshire.

These experiences have continued Humphrey’s exploration and experimentation with complex harmony, rhythm and technically diverse vocal presentations clearly exhibited in his latest release Nothing but Blue Sky.

A popular hit from the 70’s “I Can See Clearly Now” is a song written and recorded by Johnny Nash originally, that hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 on November 4, 1972. Humphrey hits the emotional core of this cut, with moody and emotive colors that feature Humphrey surrounded by a pillow of rhythmic intensity provided by drummer, Matt Wilson and bassist, Martin Wind. Pianist Mark Shilansky provides dramatic lines and fantastic dynamics during his ensemble work, not over powering the bassist when he solos with over comping to detract from Wind. Humphrey uses a wide array of harmony choices with his interpretation of the melody. His lower register is strong and rhythmically precise, Humphrey lands in the pocket with each phrase.

Thelonious Monk created some of his most innovative music during the period in the early '50s when he recorded for Prestige, even then, few musicians could respond to Monk's challenging compositions and sharp-angled, dissonant comping. "Friday the 13th" is one of those tunes, now adding lyrics to the mix you really have a tongue twister. “(The Date Is) Friday the 13th,” is the compositional mastery of Monk, mixed with the lyrical acrobatics of Chris’ wife, Jenn Humphrey. Chris Humphrey (don’t get confused now) eloquently conveys the lyrical message with ease and on-point vocal control, in addition to, adding a well-rounded scat section that further exemplifies Humphrey’s vocal prowess.

Another Humphrey family affair is “Anna’s Song (Safe in My Arms).” Chris and Jenn Humphrey share the writing credits on this heart-felt tune. Bassist, Martin Wind opens the tune with a lyrical bowed intro. Humphrey shines on this cut, with a delicate and attentive inflection in his voice; it is evident that he is truly singing to his child. You can hear the sincerity in his voice, the type of sincerity only shared with a loved one. Wilson and Wind creatively, but softly, fashion a true lullaby appeal with this tune, truly showcasing their ability to thrive and listen sensitively in all musical settings.

That brings me to an important point. Nothing but Blue Sky is a well-conceived collection of songs that nicely create texture changes from cut to cut. It is apparent that Humphrey has spent many years on the bandstand because his album reads like a well put together set.

One of my favorite highlights of the CD is “Swingin’ Til the Girls Come Home.” An Oscar Peterson/Jon Hendricks tune that swings, sings and rings true. Humphrey starts the tune out with a bouncing scat that parlays into sassy lyrics and back into a swingin’ scat that keeps the flow working. The quartet works together like a well-oiled machine. Shilansky aptly reacts to Humphreys scat lines, with call and answer stabs to create a finely tuned interactive setting. Wilson holds it down and Wind again gives us a burning bowed solo. Wilson then takes the lead and shows us his fine work on the skins. The group trades eight’s and cooks the cut to a fever point. Humphrey again displays an exemplary rendition of a true technician in the vocal jazz genre.

Nothing but Blue Sky could be deceiving by its title to be a whimsical vocal CD, but make no mistake this is a disc for true jazz aficionado’s and a listener who truly appreciates the intricacies and difficult compositions Humphrey is portraying in this wonderful collection of storylines through jazz harmonies. This is a must have, for a jazz collection of any type.

Have I Got Good News

Patrick Flynn, Good News
Silverado Records
Reviewed By: Jeff Becker

Patrick Flynn (vocals, guitar, keyboards)
Leonard Gill (bass guitars)
David Rokeach (drums)
Kelvin Dixon ( drums tracks 1,3,10)

In 1995, Patrick founded Silverado Records, an independent record label, as well as Maple Station Music, a music publishing company. Since that time, Patrick has secured national distribution for the label and produced more than a dozen CDs, including five of his own; Relativity and Spontaneous Combustion from the Father Son Band, and Buried Treasure, Late Bloomer, and Good News, as a solo artist.

Good News, Flynn’s latest CD is a potpourri of sounds and textures. “Good News Blues” slides into home base with a pickin’ and grinin’ original blues that instantly puts a smile on your face the minute you hear the first notes. Flynn’s guitar is sweetly toned and his gritty full bodied voice brings a message looking for world change and begging for positive vibrations. Ron Thompson’s slide guitar work on the cut gives the track a swampy feel that is authentic and truly spicy. Drummer, Kelvin Dixon provides a solid backbeat and support for the group to catapult from. Flynn’s ability to convey uplifting lyrics in a genre that normally focuses on the bluer side of life is a welcomed addition to the blues canvas.

“Don’t Take Your Love Away,” takes a stroll along the classic rock side of the 70’s, reminiscent of the Eagles. This cut features organically driven melodies with introspective lyrics of the deeper meanings of everyday life. Violinist, Mardell Stickley weaves rich harmonic lines of beauty and intensity, while Leonards Angels Choir adds perfectly in sync backing vocals to complement the heart-felt Flynn lyrics. Bassist Leonard Gill is completely in the pocket, creating appropriate and poignant nuances to this magical track. Flynn’s voice is laced with yearning angst that completely sells the lyric and message of the outstanding well-crafted cut.

Back in the blues buggy, Flynn again takes us for a ride in the positive blues vehicle with “Money Don’t Matter”… “If you have love and your heart goes pitter patter.” A consummate lover of life conveyed in all of Flynn’s originals, it is his lyrics that are a true cornerstone to the genuine message of Good News. “Money Don’t Matter” and Good News the project, embodies overall continuous positive messages needed in today’s times. Drummer, Kelvin Dixon, again guest spots on this cut groovin’ and rompin’ with precision and soul. Harmonica icon, Charlie Musselwhite, adds a searing solo over the meat and potatoes groove. Musslewhite jabs and stabs under the vocal adding even more grit and spit shine.

Next is a stop in the Doobie Brothers mixed with Jethro Tull land, births “Take the Spirit and Run.” This throw back to the 70’s adds another layer to the multi-compositional vision of producer, song-writer, label owner and vocalist Patrick Flynn. Flutist, Mel Martin is responsible for the Jethro Tull timber, spicing the track with hard hitting flute that has verve and strength in each note. Hammond is added by Flynn, creating a groovy Doobie sound. Leonards Angels Choir adds depth to the track with a call an answer section on each chorus, a concept lost in today’s recordings.

Good News is a treat for those of us who remember the days of creative, adult album alternatives of the 70’s when music and creativity, instead of bottom lines were the focus in creating music product. Flynn captures that concept and takes it to the next step in evolution with impeccable production, iconic guest artists and a befitting tribute to the late Leonard Gill featured on bass as the core group bassist. Flynn has created a multi-genre release that is focused on good music and a Good News message, which frankly our music industry could sorely use. Each musician on this release brings years of experience and knowledge to the project, but it is Flynn, who through his song-writing and arranging talents pulls together a cavalcade of stars and creates a fitting reminiscent tribute to the great music of yesteryear, coupled with the messages we need today. I recommended this disc to anyone who truly enjoys great musicianship and great song-writing.

Special Guest Line Up:
Charlie Musselwhite (track 3 harmonica)
Ron Thompson ( tracks 1,12 slide guitar)
Mel Martin (track 5 flute/alto flute)
Mardell Stickley (tracks 2, 4 violin)
Hubert “Herb” Gibson (track 8 vibraphone)
Kirk Joseph (track 9 sousaphone)
Michael Rinta (tracks 9, 10 trombone)
Ekik Jekabson (tracks 9, 10 trumpet)
Rob Barics (tracks 9, 10 clarinet, tenor sax)
Dick Shuster (tracks 8, 9 tenor/alto sax)
Tressies Wells (track 7 vocal)
Darryl Webb (track 9 banjo
Leonards Angels Choir (tracks 2, 9, 10 vocals
Tressies Wells , Mz. Dee, Kelvin Dixon, Larry Vann and Patrick Flynn).track 10) horns arranged by Michael Rinta