Album review: Contemplation – Richard Michael. Self-released. As appeared in London Jazz news webzine today, 4/9/19.
Self-released on the occasion of Richard Michael’s 70th birthday, what a wonderful gift this solo double album is to himself, his family and those of us who love a gorgeous melody.
Honorary Professor of Jazz at St Andrew’s University, long-term leader of the Fife Youth Jazz Orchestra, educator, composer, pianist, organist and famed improviser, Kirkaldy-based Richard Michael is, yes I will say it, a national treasure. And this long immersion in jazz has resulted in a real stunner of an album. Continued here: London Jazz News
PJ’s Donut Club – The Allan McKeown Quartet
Allan McKeown (g), Paul Harrison (org), Stuart Brown (d), Steve Foreman (per). Rec. 2017 (PIN records)
This has to be the perfect jazz album for a 1960s – themed party. Lovely arrangements of Standards and other well-kent tunes, played impeccably – what’s not to like?!
Inspired to make this album by the classic soul-jazz organ groups of the 60s – Dr Lonnie Smith and Brother Jack McDuff spring to the mind of this not particularly well-informed writer – guitarist Allan McKeown is known in Scotland for his long-standing involvement in evolved pop band Hue and Cry, as guitarist in festival-pleaser Rapido Mariachi and also in full-throttle funk band The Dt6 (listen to their superb instrumental ‘Don’t Doubt Me’ on Youtube).
Indeed, the interestingly monikered PJ’s Donut Club brings all these elements together then moves deeper into the jazz zone. On Hammond C3 organ Paul Harrison delivers his usual immaculate performance, whist righteous drummer Stuart Brown, similarly omnipresent on the Scottish jazz scene, supports the deep swing and propulsion equally.
The fifth member of the band is US star, composer and percussionist Steve Forman. His heft completes a rock-solid team, who despite having taken a mere afternoon to record the whole album, don’t put a foot wrong. Nowadays teaching at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, veteran Forman has written soundtracks for major films such as ET and Star Trek and percussed with everyone from Pink Floyd and David Bowie to Stan Getz and Sarah Vaughan.
The seven-track album opens with Stevie Wonder’s 1969 ‘My Cherie Amour’, with some crisp and lovely soloing from McKeown, complemented by Harrison’s delightful Hammond organ including a charming pattering coda. This is followed by the R & B-style title track, thereafter a swoonsomely swinging version of Cole Porter’s 1930 ‘Love For Sale’. Both tunes showcase McKeown’s attractive, extremely clear guitar style, heard beautifully too on ‘Rue Ste Catherine’.
McKeown’s Mexican leanings are evidenced by the hugely swinging, percussion jam – packed ‘The Hip Hat Dance Of Mexico’, whilst next track, Consuelo Velazquez’ gorgeous song ‘Besame Mucho’ is beautifully done. The final tune, Duke Ellington’s ‘Caravan’ is especially successful in showcasing Brown and Forman’s masterful and highly compatible percussion.
This highly-polished, modern take on 1960s soul-jazz is sure to trigger memories for those of us of a certain age, but may also find favour with a wider demographic, given the present widespread up-swell in nostalgia. It most certainly is the sleekest 60s – style soul-jazz this listener has come across in a long time. Released just last month it is available on all major streaming platforms and on vinyl.
Album review: Okan Ersan – “NIBIRU”. Self-produced. As appeared in DooBeeDooBeeDoo – New York today, 31/7/19.
Genre: Jazz Fusion
Release Date: 15 August 2019
Music available at: CDBaby, iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon, Tidal, Google Store and major streaming platforms.
On 20th July fifty years ago, Apollo 11 landed the first two people ever to stand on the moon: Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. It is therefore timely that respected jazz fusion guitarist, Nicosia, Cyprus – based Okan Ersan is this summer releasing his third album, the space-themed concept album, NIBIRU.
Though born and bred on Cyprus, Ersan’s early musical studies took him to Marmara University in Istanbul, Turkey, since when he has demonstrated a notable non-insularity in his music -making. Continued here: DooBeeDooBeeDoo – New York
Album review: Zhenya Strigalev & Federico Dannemann – “The Change “. Rainy Days Records. As appeared in London Jazz News webzine on 4/7/19.
The album title, The Change, is apt. After a decade based in London where he has gained a significant following, saxophonist non-conformist Zhenya Strigalev has returned to live in his native St Petersburg, this being his first recording since his homecoming. Meanwhile a change for Argentina-born master guitarist Federico Dannemann might be his return to performance, having spent many years teaching in Santiago, joining Strigalev’s Never Group in 2016.
However, this album is also a jazz masterclass in constant change and thus a valued gift for those jazzers who may have a low boredom threshold.
Continued here: London Jazz News
Album Review: Herschel 36 – “ASTROPHYSIK – Music for the film Wunder Der Schopfung”
Paul Harrison (p, electr), Stuart Brown (d, electr). Rec 2016.
On 22 June, Scottish improvising avantronic duo, Herschel 36, release their debut album, ASTROPHYSIK (Astrophysics), a mostly improvised live soundtrack for the proto-documentary silent film, Wunder Der Schopfung, (The Wonders of Creation), a ground-breaking 1925 German film which sets out to illustrate all that was known at that time about the cosmos.
Commissioned in 2016 by the Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema, the album consists of recordings from four live performances. The release date coincides with a further live performance at the Planetarium of the Glasgow Science Centre, as part of this year’s Glasgow Jazz Festival.
First up is ‘Uncharted’, a blippy, initially mostly electronics piece with a deep groove. Following this, ‘Hobgoblins’ musique concrete opening gives way to a beautiful, hoarse electronic oboe-type soundscape, Harrison’s keys rippling against Brown’s breakbeats.
‘Firmament’ is a delicate snippet of simple keys figures and filigree percussion, preceding the stately ‘Star Of The Day’ with its mutating, minimalist acoustic percussion.
Centrally placed in the album is the substantial ‘Moon Vessel’. Atop another lovely groove, an ascending keys figure repeats. Accelerating, spacey figures eventually come to a full-stop, before resuming with avengeance with racing drums and inventive piano, finally de-escalating to a bubbly, rumbling coda. Wonderful stuff.
‘Almost Weightless’ offers a bouncy, swirling electronics amuse bouche, preceding the meaty ‘Meridian’ which happily includes some winning theremin-like weirdness.
‘Primordial’s musique concrete opening evolves into insect-like scrabbling, this mildly entomophobic listener finding the relentless, echoey skittering quite unsettling. Finally, the apparent chaos of the fun ‘Shall Be Shaken’ ends peacefully, as does the lovely last track, ‘Furthest Stars’.
Unlike some psychedelia, ASTROPHYSIK in no way lacks in depth, and whilst the performance in Glasgow later this month will doubtless be a great success, this is an album that most definitely can stand alone on its own strengths.
CD Review: Daniel Tarrab “Otra Mirada”. As appeared in DooBeeDooBeeDoo – NY on 14/6/19.
Music available from: Silva Screen Records; Amazon; Spotify
Buenos Aires based, award winning film composer and double bassist Daniel Tarrab composed, conducted and played on this short (25 mins) but sweet album of tangos, Otra Mirada (meaning Another Look). Composed for tango trio and channelling maestro Astor Piazzolla, esteemed bandoneonista Nestor Marconi is prominent throughout. However, Tarrab (double bass and piano) with Pablo Agri (violin) are superbly cohesive co-conspirators, further aided and abetted by sumptuous string orchestra.
Continued here: https://doobeedoobeedoo.info/tag/review-daniel-tarrab/
CD Review: The Ebony Hillbillies ” 5 Miles From Town”. As appeared in DooBeeDooBeeDoo – NY on 11/3/19.
Artist: The Ebony Hillbillies
Title: 5 Miles From Town
Label: EH Music
Genre: String Band
Music available on: itunes, Amazon and major streaming sites
This fifth and latest release from spirited septet The Ebony Hillbillies (TEH), is a corker. Renowned and beloved for their particular take on “Hillbillie” music, leader, violinist and vocalist Henrique Prince and his colleagues once again successfully juxtapose cheerful, even celebratory jazz-informed American country and bluegrass music, mostly traditional pieces rearranged by TEH, with up to the moment, in-your-face social commentary.
The music throughout the album lightens the heart with its toe-tapping and danceable cheer, this reaching a pitch on instrumentals such as the title track, with its infectious pattering, stomping and slapping. Traditional instruments such as bones and washboard are prominent. Likewise, instrumentals “I’d Rather be A Nigga Than A Po’ White Man” and opener, “Hog-Eyed Man” with leaping violin and thumping rhythms evoke dance parties of years past.
However, a key part of TEH’s message are the lyrics. Those on “Another Man Done Gone/Hands Up Don’t Shoot” prove almost too hard to hear, but the repetitive, call and response structure gives no possibility of missing the unfolding, horrific narrative: “They shot him in his car… He said he couldn’t breathe… He didn’t have a gun… They shot him anyway.”
Pulling the heart-strings in a more sentimental way are the lyrics of the lovely Bonnie Raitt song, the Scottish air-sounding “I Cann’t Make You Love Me”.
Though they may have started by playing on the streets of Manhattan, TEH have in recent years appeared in such august establishments as Carnegie Hall and the Lincoln Centre, New York City. Indeed 5 Miles From Town is an album which has an urban feel, yet also sounds as though it has sprung from the countryside. Similarly, if feels simultaneously old and very much of our time. Such originality, rawness and integrity deserve to be heard and surely can only benefit those who here it.
CD Review: Pablo Aslan “Contrabajo. Works For Bass and String Quartet”. As appeared in DooBeeDooBeeDoo – NY on 19/2/19.
Artist: Pablo Aslan
Label: Soundbrush Records
Available on: cdbaby, Discogs, itunes, Amazon and major streaming sites.
This uplifting and luminescent new album from Argentinian born, Brooklyn based double bassist Pablo Aslan, is a real find.
Chock-a-block with riches, it is highly produced yet has a very personal feeling. Most tunes are newly composed by Aslan, his teacher Gabriel Senanes (who with Aslan co-producers the project) and his friends Spanish Bassist Alexis Cuadrado and US Pianist Roger Davidson. Together they skilfully push the envelope as to what might come under the rubric of ‘tango’.
Throughout Aslan’s double bass takes a foremost role, including taking clear lead in driving the tempo, whilst members of string Cuarteo Petrus and esteemed guests Cuban Paquito D’Rivera (clarinet) and Uruguayan bandoneonist, Raul Jaurena complete the listing of players.
Though there are no weak tracks, this reviewer relished perhaps most of all the outstanding bounty of Senanes’ concerto, “Riendo Suelto”. Opening with great drama, it switches suddenly to mellifluence, the intense lyricism and varying complex rhythms reminiscent of an old Hollywood soundtrack. It packs an enormous amount in to its 9 minute 34 seconds.
Another highlight is Davidson’s “Te Extrano Buenos Aires”. Arranged by Senanes, its gorgeous sweep of strings enhances glorious melody, whilst Cuadrado’s “Reflejos” opens hesitantly then builds over strings ostinato, his jazz background showcased against Aslan’s bass solos, and never quite throwing off an oppressive darkness.
Indeed such is the wealth of musical reference points there would be enough material for several PhDs, yet the internal consistency is such that it feels like an authentic presentation of Aslan’s maturity and wide interests over the years around tango, western classical and jazz – and an abundant demonstration of his and his friends’ evolved composition, arranging and musicianship skills.
Contrabajo is a beautiful album, played expertly and with heart. Cutting across musical labels the drama, lyricism and brio will appeal to fans of tango, western classical and jazz, and to adventursome listeners who appreciate a highly successful mixing of these genres.
CD Review: Trikala, by Simon Thacker’s Svara-Kanti, which appeared in March 2019 Songlines magazine.
Simon Thacker’s Svara-Kanti
Slap The Moon Records (138 mins)
One wonders whether in a past life Simon Thacker was a Bengali itinerant Baul mystic musician or perhaps a South Indian master of mridangam. Such is his grasp of the techniques and spirit of India’s disparate musical styles.
With extensive liner notes, this strikingly packaged double album is a mix of new Thacker compositions and “re-imagined” traditional pieces. Cutting a swathe across India, CD1 presents Hindustani, Carnatic and Punjabi forms, whilst CD2 has a Baul focus.
Trikala is Sanskrit for the three tenses: past, present and future, as whilst Thacker’s starting point might be Western classical and Indian traditions, his music is progressive, creating from all the strands something rather new. The album is further enriched by Thacker’s choice of master musicians to play, sing and improvise together in various constellations.
Highlights include on CD1, Thacker’s ‘Nirjanavana’ (“enchanted forest”) in which magical, echoed layers suddenly detonate into out-there jazz avant-garde-style high-jinks, before closing softly.
On CD2, the song ‘Ekla Chalo Re’ is a lovely setting of Rabindranath Tagore’s poem; (the exquisite lyrics are provided).
Replete with gorgeous melodies and shifting rhythmic complexity, Trikala is a highly successful syncretism, a major statement in the co-evolution of Indian and Western music.
TRACT TO TRY Nirjanavana
Keywords: Classical guitar, Indian classical music, Punjabi folk song, Baul music
CD Review : Fusiolicious, by Oytun Ersan. As appeared recently in DooBeeDooBeeDoo – NY.
Artist: Oytun Ersan
Genre: Funk-heavy Jazz Fusion
CD available on : CDBaby, iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon, Tidal, Google Music Store, and major streaming sites.
Review by F Mactaggart
In all seriousness, fasten your seatbelts for bassist Oytun Ersan’s high energy, sometimes Zappa-reminiscent, funk-heavy jazz fusion new release. It’s a blast, and you may need a lie down after.
Nicosia based Turkish-Cypriot Ersan is renowned on his home island for his composition, teaching and playing, notably in the International Nicosia Municipality Orchestra which plays both Western classical and regional music.
In this entirely self-penned second album, the material is perfectly interpreted by an international group of 13 top-level musicians whom Ersan has gathered together – names such as Dave Weckl (drums), Eric Marienthal (saxophone), and Gary Husband (keys). With the addition of esteemed producer Ric Fierabracci, it is no surprise that the end product is so successful.
Whilst most tracks start tranquilly and sparsely, Ersan is not to be held back. Inevitably the rest of the band soon break from their leashes, racing off in formation into beautifully executed, lusciously funky jazz fusion.
The entire album is uniformly strong so it is hard to pick standouts, however particular mention can be made of ‘Rise Up’, with its lush piano entrance, joined 50 seconds in by Karen Brigg‘s violin. At 2 minutes the rest of the crew leap in, culminating in some spectacular drumming from Weckl in the final 2 minutes.
Meanwhile ‘Rooms’ opens with some lovely, gentle guitar over a smir of keys, the breaks soon coming off for some scorching sax from Marienthal, again during the last 2 minutes.
An interesting choice for the end piece is vocalists Simge and Aytunc Akdogu, sparely accompanied by Husband’s keys and Briggs’ violin. This brief finale is wistful and slow, with an eccentric central section which sounds like the tape played in reverse.
This quality of music deserves to be heard live so it is to be hoped that Ersan and colleagues will be able to tour with it. Festival programmers out there, take note!
CD Review: Emergence, by Sam Bevan. As appeared recently in DooBeeDooBeeDoo – NY.
Artist: Sam Bevan
Buy from: CDBaby, iTunes, sambevan.bandcamp.com (release date August 2018)
Review by F Mactaggart.
The free-flowing fluency of bass player Sam Bevan’s music is remarkable given the complexity of his compositions, and speaks of his wide-ranging musical background and the quality of the musicians he has chosen for this, his fourth CD release as leader. The buoyant feel, the numerous cheerful melodies, the asymmetries and quirky changes, and the confident organisational and rhythmic clarity offered by Bevan’s bass, makes this a standout jazz release of this year.
Bevan learned piano from a young age, in Salt Lake City, later adding vocals and double bass to his skill set. Moving to the San Francisco Bay area in 1999 he pursued a wide experience playing, composing and teaching. He has experienced multiple musical genres which can be detected in his own music, working with a variety of names such as Joe Locke, Joshua Redman, Zigaboo Modeliste, and the Bjorkestra. “Emergence” was recorded immediately prior to his most recent relocation to New York in 2016, his quintet including esteemed musician friends such as drummer Eric Garland and alto saxophonist Kasey Knudsen, at times augmenting the band for this album with several guests. Thus the final head count is ten.
All nine self-penned pieces on “Emergence” are beautiful, boisterous and uplifting, referencing various jazz greats. It is hard to choose favourites amongst them. The first track, ‘H & A’ seems to reference Thelonious Monk, from an apparently simple and dramatic drum start, developing and brightening in mood almost organically as Knudsen’s sax floats above Bevan’s jaunty bassline.
The massively swinging ‘Sleepless in Suresnes’ meanwhile could be seen to reference the Adderley brothers, with its numerous satisfying and often unusual changes, over the super – solid, forward charge of Bevan and Garland’s rhythm section.
‘Grass’, following a peaceful start, showcases the group’s hard bop credentials, whilst the most obviously chord – free ‘Blues for Cm’ clearly evokes the spirit of Ornette Coleman.
Special mention should be made of the through-composed ‘Parallel Falcon,’ again sounding very free, yet dense, and referencing African and Afro-Cuban rhythms. However almost two minutes in, the sounds fall away into mere fragments inter-relating across meditative spaces, before the piece segues into a completely new statement, with earlier and later sections ultimately joining near the end. A lovely and satisfying piece on many levels.
As for the quality of playing, this is uniformly excellent, laden with swoonsom solos, however the prize for gorgeousness of tone might well go to the bass clarinet players, Cory Wright and Patrick Cress, their contribution adding to this album’s singular overall sound. Just listen to Wright on the final track, ‘Nellowee’s Walz’.
Bevan has composed and delivered a highly accomplished, ‘modern jazz’ album which is a joy to listen to and is surely one of the most successful US jazz albums to come out this year.
CD Review : Two Hands To Tango, by Hakon Skogstad. As appeared recently in DooBeeDooBeeDoo – NY.
Artist: Hakon Skogstad
Title: Two Hands To Tango
Label: Avantango Records
Review by F Mactaggart.
Based in Trondheim, Norway, Hakon Skogstad is a pianist specialising in Western classical and Argentine tango. His May 2018 solo piano release, ‘Two Hands To Tango’, proves that neither relative youth nor living a great distance from the home of tango, need impede the production of a careful and sensitive tribute to Argentine tango and to the Argentine concertina, the bandoneon, which contributes so much to tango’s distinctive sound.
Throughout, Skogstad’s feeling for the flowing, joyous drama of tango is evident, as is his classical pianism.
Highlights include the lovely ‘Sentimento Tanguero’ with its dramatic coda, ‘Norte’ with its beautiful melody and stately pace and ‘El Marne’ with its light, almost coy touch. However for this reviewer the final piece, ‘Tristezas De Un Doble’, long at 10 minutes, 36 seconds, was alone worth the price of the CD. Its multiple reference points and absolute sureness of touch strongly suggest that this young pianist might, if he so chooses, move into other musical demesnes, which on the evidence of this beautiful CD can only be welcomed.
CD Review: Birdsongs, by Diane Moser. As appeared recently in DooBeeDooBeeDoo – NY.
Artist: Diane Moser
Label: Planet Arts
Buy on: Amazon, CD Baby and iTunes
Review by Fiona Mactaggart.
New Jersey – based jazz pianist, composer and educator Diane Moser has just released her seventh CD, Birdsongs. Moser has diverse musical interests and experiences, is passionate about social issues and is a member of New York – based Musicians for Musicians, the non-profit musician advocacy organisation. She is perhaps best known in New York City and much of the USA for her work with the Diane Moser Composers Big Band (still an unusual role for a female jazz musician), The Diane Moser Quintet and The Diane Moser Trio. Such rich musical experience, together with an almost life-long interest in birdsong, feed into her new release, Birdsongs.
Birdsongs began during a residency in 2018 at MacDowell Colony, the artist’s colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire and developed over the subsequent ten years in formats as varied as big band and solo piano. This considered release is in trio format, Moser joined by long-standing colleagues Anton Denner (flute and piccolo) and Ken Filiano (double bass). Birds have inspired many and disparate composers from Messiaen to Hidden Orchestra, and Moser’s Birdsong is a worthwhile addition to the list.
Nine tracks run to a generous 76 minutes, all but two of the tracks penned by Moser. Wrapped around these are Moser’s own compositions, starting with ‘Birdsong for Eric’, that is for the late, great jazz alto saxophonist Eric Dolphy. Lovely arco bass and flute evoke soaring and fluttering, Moser’s piano increasing harmonic development, elaboration and increasing rhythmicity. Following a gently ascending motif, as if flying high into the distance, the piece ends quietly and calmly.
Following this is MacDowell’s Woodlands Suite, Part 1: Morning and Afternoon, the first piece in this part being ‘Hello’. This opens with a hello – sounding motif, the piano and bass repeating this whilst flute adds lilting melody atop. Subsequent gentle probing and playing with the melody by all three musicians demonstrates the cooperation and sensitivity of an improvising trio at the top of their game.
Photography by Scott Friedlander
Next listed is ‘Dancing with Sparrows’, one of the more up-tempo and obviously jazzy pieces. With bass now playing pizzicato, then piano and bass walking together between outbursts of activity, this piece successfully evokes the rapid–fire nature of sparrow song and movement.
This is followed by ‘If you’ll call me, then I’ll call you,’ chirpy snippets evoking birdsong, with fluttering flute excitement in the middle, then an improvised feel, before quieting towards the end and returning to the repeating motif. Throughout Moser’s underpinning piano provides a highly secure base, as always.
The final piece in Part 1 is ‘Won’t you come out to play’. The admirably slow start seems to offer the composer, musicians and listeners a welcome space to ‘play’, then around the 2 minute mark a cool jazz feel develops, with vamping piano and ever changing melody, evolving into an energetic, fun and complex piece.
Moser commissioned a mentee, Kyle Pederson to provide The Intermission in the middle of the release. His ‘The (Un)Common Loon’ is a nod to his home state of Minnesota, and delicately and lyrically (and at times humorously, as in the skittering bass) mimics the loon’s sounds and behaviours.
MacDowell’s Woodlands Suite, Part 2: Evening consists of three solo piano pieces and opens with the only other piece in the release not composed by Moser: Amy Marcy Cheney Beach’s 1921 ‘A Hermit Thrush at Eve’, reportedly also inspired by the birds at MacDowell Colony. This charming, old world piece is respectfully transformed and enriched by Moser’s Latin jazz style variations.
The second last piece, ‘Folksong’ showcases Moser’s delicate yet strong and precise pianism and lyrical and spacious composing. A four note motif is repeated quietly and insistently, resolving with great harmonic beauty. Similarly the final piece ‘When Birds Dream’ has a feeling of space, simplicity and calm, in this case enhanced by what sounds like the use of the sustain pedal to add an ethereal sheen.
This is thoughtfully curated, beautiful music, demonstrating a mature, dare one say quintessentially female jazz voice. Complexity is presented with a light touch. Moser has stated her wish that this music might feel uplifting to the listener and at this she has amply succeeded. A timely treat for all lovers of fine jazz and supporters of women in jazz.
Forthcoming CD Release Concerts:
14/04/18 Diane Moser’s “Birdsongs” CD Release Concert in Catskill, New York at Beattie-Powers Place.
22/04/18 Diane Moser’s “Birdsongs” CD Release Concert, The Central Presbyterian Church of Montclair, 46 Park Street, Montclair New Jersey 07042, USA