VOICES Notes and news on Contemporary Jazz releases
17 SEP 13 JONATHAN WIDRAN
The colorful cover art on Chick Corea's latest jazz fusion opus The Vigil shows the 20-time Grammy-winner helmeted, fully armed and armored, charging up a hill on a horse ready for battle. As he has throughout his illustrious five-decade career, he's facing these challenges backed by some mighty musical cohorts.
In his early years, these were collaborators like Blue Mitchell, Miles Davis, Herbie Mann and Stan Getz. His explosive new band (also named "The Vigil") follows in his grand tradition of leading groundbreaking bands like Return To Forever, the Elektric Band, the Akoustic Band, Origin and Five Peace Band.
Though his band mates may not be household jazz names, they all have deep performance history with Corea that makes their interactions effortless, spirited and -- judging by adventurous and stratospheric titles like "Galaxy 32 Star 4" and "Planet Chia-transcendently "out of this world." Tim Garland (tenor and soprano sax) has played with the keyboardist since joining Origin in 2000 and won a Grammy for orchestrating The New Crystal Silence. In 2007, Hadrien Faraud (bass) took part in Corea's Five Trios Project, while 25-year-old drummer Marcus Gilmore -- carrying on the legacy of his grandfather, Roy Haynes -- and Charles Altura (electric and acoustic guitars) each boast a few Corea dates on their growing resumes.
Beyond the glorious birth of a rhythmically and melodically diverse new ensemble, The Vigil boasts the soaring soprano voice of Corea's wife Gayle Moran Corea on the dreamy, rhythmic "Outside of Space" and guest appearances by Stanley Clarke and Ravi Coltrane on the ambitious 17-minute live track "Pledge For Peace," fashioned as a dedication to John Coltrane.
23 JUL 13 JONATHAN WIDRAN
This Spring, just after finishing the recording of Summer Horns with his friends and fellow urban jazz sax stars Mindi Abair, Gerald Albright and Richard Elliot, Dave Koz went on a spirited “Eat Pray Love” styled month-long sabbatical to India. One of the highlights was jamming with an authentic Indian ensemble in Rishikesh, famous for being the place The Beatles visited.
Perhaps less exotic but no less energizing, Koz and Friends’ collective session -- helmed by two-time Grammy-winning producer Paul Brown -- takes the veteran saxophonist and his cohorts back to the love of horn bands he developed growing up in the '70s after buying his first album, Tower of Power’s Back To Oakland. Fueled by dynamic arrangements by former Tower of Power arranger Greg Adams, sax great Tom Scott and Grammy-winner Gordon Goodwin, the four put contemporary twists on brass-fired classics by Sly & The Family Stone (“Hot Fun in the Summertime”), Chicago (“25 Or 6 To 4”), Earth, Wind & Fire (“Reasons,” EWF’s arrangement of The Beatles’ “Got To Get You Into My Life”), James Brown “I Feel Good (I Got You)” and TOP (“So Very Hard To Go,” featuring Michael McDonald).
There are also versions of Herb Alpert’s instrumental hit “Rise” and a four sax and standup bass twist on Dave Brubeck’s iconic “Take Five.” Summer Horns also includes guest appearances by trumpeter/flugelhornist Rick Braun, trombonist Brian Culbertson, Jeffrey Osborne and Jonathan Butler. Summing up the spirit of the project, Koz said: “All of these groups were seminal bands from our childhood and the soundtrack of our lives.”
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.
BROWSE ARCHIVE OF CONTEMPORARY JAZZ VOICES