VOICES Notes and news on Contemporary Jazz releases
22 APR 13 JONATHAN WIDRAN
To paraphrase the Go-Gos, over decades after launching one of contemporary urban jazz’s most storied careers, Boney James has still got The Beat -- the name of his new disc on Concord marking a dynamic return to the label, which previously released Shine (2006), Christmas Present (2007) and Send One Your Love (2009).
In the years since he recorded Antonio Carlos Jobim’s iconic “Aquas De Marco” on Shine, James had been flirting with the idea of recording a full-on Latin and Brazilian-themed collection. As he built a playlist of classic tunes he might consider covering, one that kept coming back to him was “Batucada (The Beat),” originally recorded by Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66.
Re-imagining it as a funk tune, James added a backbeat, updated the male-female vocal dynamic via sax and trumpet with Rick Braun and turned the piece into a dynamic hybrid -- “a samba,” he says, “as if the Ohio Players were doing it.” Another key track which connects to the world music flow is the spoken word hip-hop tune “The Midas (This Is Why).” It features UK poet and musician The Floacist (Natalie Stewart), best known as one half of the Grammy-winning neo-soul duo Floetry. The versatile saxophonist’s fluid, grooving sound has led to four certified gold albums and three Grammy nominations.
One of his trademarks on each recording is his interaction on several cuts with top R&B vocalists. The Beat’s first Urban AC single “Maker Of Love” grew out of a conversation that James had with singer Raheem DeVaughn on Twitter.
09 APR 13 JONATHAN WIDRAN
True to the title of her latest Telarc release, versatile pianist/composer Hiromi has been constantly on the Move since assembling a new trio (contra-bass guitarist Anthony Jackson and drummer Simon Phillips) and releasing their debut album Voice in 2011.
When she calls the subsequent touring with these two "the biggest fun I’ve ever had in my life musically," that’s a major statement; her ten year Telarc career includes seven previous recordings, three live DVDs and major performances and recordings with legends Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke. She began composing for Move, a 9-track set she calls "A Soundtrack for a Day," while on the road with the trio, based on her intuitive responses to the beauty of their playing and their unique musical characteristics.
Because many of the songs had been road tested, Hiromi and her trio were able to record quickly with Grammy-winning producer and engineer Michael Bishop once they hit the studio. The collection is driven by the theme of time, from the rumbling alarm clock vibe of the title track through the eloquent and reflective greeting of the "Brand New Day" and the busy old school funk of "Endeavor." Rolling easy before making dramatic dark chord pounding transitions, "11:49" is an 11-minute romp designed to mark the transition from one day to the next.
The centerpiece of Hiromi's "day" is the three part "Suite Escapism," broken into three distinct moods: a whimsical, vibrant "Reality," a dreamlike "Fantasy" and frenetic "In Between." All that, and Hiromi and her trio still have time to enjoy a festive "Margarita!" between all the other activities.
02 APR 13 JONATHAN WIDRAN
At the age of 28, Netherlands-born, Los Angeles-raised, NYC-based pianist Gerald Clayton is proudly carrying on the jazz traditions of the famous family he grew up in, making his Concord Jazz debut with Life Forum, which he says may be his “most ambitious album yet.”
Though being the son of Grammy Award-winning double bassist John Clayton and the nephew of renowned saxman/flutist Jeff Clayton may have come with certain expectations, the multi-talented composer and performer never felt his dad “cracking the whip” to stick with one style or another as he developed his own voice. Clayton, the second prize winner of the 2006 Thelonious Monk Institute Jazz Piano Competition, has won three Grammys since releasing his 2009 debut Two Shades.
On Life Forum, he continues to work with his core trio (bassist Joe Sanders, drummer Justin Brown) but expands his musical palette to accommodate a powerful ensemble of eight musicians, including saxophonists Logan Richardson and Dayna Stephens, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, vocalists Gretchen Parlato and Sachal Vasandani and poet Carl Hancock Rux.
Rux’s spoken word performance throughout the moody opening track “A Life Forum” includes a string of phrases which capture the spiritual and musical mission of the project: “This is the map, old paths to new dangers, a place for passion reserved, for brief touches, for remembering love diminished, for freedom…” Highlights include the fiery, percussive “Future Reflection” -- a showcase for Clayton’s playful interaction with his horn section -- and “When An Angel Sheds A Feather,” a dreamy closing reflection performed as a duet (with Clayton’s piano) by Parlato and Vasandani.
18 MAR 13 JONATHAN WIDRAN
Since it’s been six years between The Source, the debut album by the renowned jazz drummer and his group Kendrick Scott Oracle, and their upcoming Concord Jazz debut Conviction, a little background check is in order. Before finishing high school, Scott won numerous Downbeat Magazine student awards as well as the Clifford Brown/Stan Getz Award from the International Association of Jazz Educators and the National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts. After majoring in music education on scholarship at Berklee School of Music, he toured with The Crusaders before becoming part of Terence Blanchard’s band for most of the last 10 years. Blanchard encouraged Scott to record his debut, which the drummer now dubs a “potluck project.”
Calling the Oracle’s new CD Conviction is a reflection of Scott’s desire to make it a true band statement. Said ensemble currently includes saxophonist and bass clarinetist John Ellis, guitarist Mike Moreno (the only holdover from The Source), pianist and labelmate Taylor Eigsti and bassist Joe Sanders. Guest vocalist and guitarist Alan Hampton adds touches of hypnotic liquid soul to avant poster Sufjan Stevens’ “Too Much” and the dreamy “Serenity.”
One of the album’s unique conceits is running the eleven tracks as a continuous stream of music without breaks, which creates a vibe that’s more of an overall single sweeping soundscape than a gathering of individualized musical statements. Scott and his cohorts set the tone by digging into his gospel roots for a traditional prayer. This swings quickly into the whimsical, old school soul-jazz flavored “Pendulum,” driven by Ellis’ colorful sax jaunts.
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