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.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Pecolia Fitts Serves Up a Goodie Bag of Treats

Review By: Jeff Becker

Pecolia Fitts was born in Kenly, North Carolina but grew up in New York City. Her interest in music began in the first grade when a music teacher heard her sing. Recognizing Pecolia’s innate abilities, she soon had Pecolia singing in all the school plays and concerts throughout her elementary years. Her support and belief in Pecolia’s talents encouraged Pecolia to enter into singing contests and as a result she won contest after contest, which further cemented her interest in performance.

Her journey towards becoming a professional singer included training at Star Time Studios with a vocal coach who had trained vocalist Connie Frances. Like most musicians it was time for Pecolia to pay her dues, so her real-life training began by joining a band and performing in local nightclubs and jobs in and around Queens. Eventually she became a solo act performing in clubs and at concerts. She had the esteemed pleasure of being the opening act for the Chi-Lites and for Blue Magic at the Manhattan Center. These performances led to an invitation to France where she performed at countless French venues.

I will warn you in advance, when you take a listen to Lots of Little Goodies, you will either adore it, or hate it completely. A utterly eclectic listen all the way through, covering R&B, soul, jazz, and hip hop, the only message that is weaved throughout the disc, is hope, and the desire to rise above. Even the titles of the songs will take you aback.

Today we will explore a couple of those quirky songs; “Sexy Homeless Lady” brings to the disc a song of independence and longing combined with a bouillabaisse of drum and bass beats. Fitts sings her song of R-E-S-P-E-C-T. I might additionally add that Fitts is obviously in the latter half of her career, and sports a vocal quality of Macy Gray and or Billie Holiday, but I have to give her Kudos for still desiring to shake and stir it up a bit. “Pink Beautiful Whisky Bottle” is a jazzy ballad that addresses the heart-ache that love, at times can bring. Though the cut is somber in nature, Pecolia offers the listener a glimmer of hope lyrically.

So in closing, if you enjoy Macy Gray or are a big Billie Holiday fan, this might be a quirky addition to your collection for times when you need an Andy Warhol moment.

Beat Kaestli Sends Out His Invitation

Review by:  Jeff Becker

The Great American Songbook is the “Bible” for jazz vocalists, regardless of origin or birthplace. Vocalist Beat Kaestli was born in Switzerland, but he made New York his home after arriving to attend the Manhattan School of Music in the early 1990s. Since that time, his music has touched on everything from gospel and R&B to musical theater, but he has really narrowed his focus to jazz since his exploration of standards on Happy, Sad and Satisfied (B&B Productions, 2005). The follow-up, Far From Home (B&B Productions, 2009), touched on European songwriters, but Invitation brings him back to standards territory.
This is Kaestli's debut for Chesky Records, while Chesky might be marketing to audiophiles—SACD Multichannel Hybrid Disc—the technology is superb, but once you arrive at Kaestli's voice that is when the presentation starts to crumble. Though his presentation is unpretentious and organic, something I do enjoy, its lack of depth and many moments of “pitchiness” is the factor that sours the presentation overall.

Let’s explore “It Could Happen to You.” I have to say I was immediately tainted by the well known version stuck in my head, performed by Karrin Allyson on her album Collage. Kaestli’s version had certain formulaic similarities, but the tempo was a major distraction, which was actually the theme of his entire album, with songs ranging from tranquil to extremely slow.

The tune that best suited Kasteli was “Day in Day Out”; overall this was the highlight of the CD, until the slightly out of sync ending which again was a distraction from the momentum I had hoped the CD would have offered. Especially since this was not Kaestli’s debut release.

Track listing: Day In Day Out; It Could Happen To You; Invitation; My Foolish Heart; The Island; My Romance; The Nearness Of You; Moonlight In Vermont; I've Got You Under My Skin.

Personnel: Beat Kaestli: vocals; Billy Drummond: drums; Jay Leonhart: bass; Paul Meyers: guitar; Joel Frahm: saxophone; Kenny Rampton: trumpet.

Antoinette Montague, Behind the Smile

Behind the Smile
Antointte Montague
Review By: Jeff Becker
In the Groove Records

Vocalist Antoinette Montague explores a 13 song collection of songs that all thematically embrace the concept of a smile and the story behind it.

A native of Newark, New Jersey, Montague has performed at a variety of venues, including Jazz at Lincoln Center's Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, Jazzmobile's Summer Breeze concert series and the Zebra Room in Harlem's Lenox Lounge. Accompanying her on this effort are woodwind player Bill Easley, pianist Mulgrew Miller, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington.

So let us explore the title rack from her latest CD Behind the Smile.

"Behind the Smile," penned by Montague with musical notation by Bertha Hope, is a blues-flavored selection as many of the cuts on this release are. Saxophonist Bill Easley lays down a solid solo followed by Miller—who follows with a solo only Mulgrew Miller can deliver. The lyrics "I love your style; you stole my heart," Montague sings, with a weathered horn like sound, my only complaint is she doesn’t quite dig down deep for the low notes, though he blue notes create interest her lack of reaching completely to the bottom is what you desire to hear in a jazz/blues cut.

Now in her defense the lineup she has assembled is top notch, which can at times bare the indiscretions on tape with a blaring light. Another recent recording that demonstrates my point is the recent recording put out byStraight Ahead Soul

saxophonist Paul Carr on his own label. His CD, Straight Ahead Soul, features guitarist Bobby Broom, pianist Allyn Johnson, bassist Michael Bowie and drummer Lewis Nash, which completely over shadows Carr as a player, exposing his rhythmic issues.

Behind the SmileTrack listing: Behind the Smile; I Hadn't Anyone Till You; Give Your Mama One Smile; Ever Since the One I Love's Been Gone; What's Going On; The Song Is You; I'd Rather Have a Memory Than a Dream; Lost in Meditation; Get Ready; Summer Song; Somewhere in the Night; Meet Me at No Special Place; 23rd Psalm.

Behind the Smile Personnel: Antoinette Montague: vocals; Bill Easley: saxophone, flute, clarinet; Mulgrew Miller: piano; Peter Washington: bass; Kenny Washington: drums.