VOICES Notes and news on Contemporary Jazz releases
11 FEB 14 CONCORD MUSIC GROUP
Four-time GRAMMY winner Dianne Reeves has released Beautiful Life, her eagerly anticipated first album in five years. New to the Concord Records imprint, yet established as one of the classiest vocalists around, Reeves powerfully sustains her genre-defying tradition with elements of jazz, contemporary R&B, classic soul, modern pop, and vintage funk. Through her two sublime originals, "Cold" and "Satiated (Been Waiting)," along with covers by Marvin Gaye, Fleetwood Mac, Bob Marley, and Ani DiFranco, Reeves covers a lot of musical ground—and incorporates a lot of talent, too.
Beautiful Life features an A-list supporting crew, including production by Terri Lynne Carrington and musical appearances by Esperanza Spalding, Gregory Porter, Robert Glasper, and George Duke. A soulful and sophisticated rendering with a sweet, sexy, and celebratory underlying tone, Beautiful Life is an inspiring affirmation not to be missed.
26 DEC 13 ANNE FARNSWORTH
In 2009, I went to UCLA's Royce Hall to see Chick Corea and John McLaughlin's Five Peace Band in concert. With Kenny Garrett, Christian McBride and Vinny Colaiuto assisting, the two all-stars tore the roof off of the hall. Listening to Five Peace Band Live, the double CD they recorded during their European tour, always brings me back to that amazing show.
The combined talents of the five men were a juggernaut to the audience, driving the capacity crowd into frenzied roars and standing ovations before, during and after tunes for nearly three hours. Midway through, I seriously wondered how many layers of awesomeness can the human central nervous system withstand?
Fellow music critic Scott Yanow remarked to me during intermission, "When Kenny Garrett is one of the mere mortals on the stage...." Indeed, Garrett, an outstanding post-bop horn player who shares Miles alumnus status with Corea and McLaughlin, would be the focal point in any other combination. He often took a guitar part on the heads, doubling with McLaughlin the fast unison lines that are a hallmark of the guitarist's style. He drove his solos into the stratosphere, ripping themes apart as if he was channeling Ornette. McBride, Rolling Stone's Hot New Jazz Artist at 20, more recently was a member of SuperBass with Ray Brown and John Clayton. Best known for his straight ahead acoustic playing, he burned on a fretless 5-string electric. Colaiuto, a Frank Zappa alum, was also touring that year with another rock legend, Jeff Beck.
And the two old masters? Corea never disappoints, his ideas as complex and his technique are as sharp as ever. He played mostly a Rhodes sample with a lot of pitch bender, creating an evocative '70s-era mood. On the spacey "Hymn To Andromeda," he switched to the grand, tapping the strings inside the piano with a drum mallet as he 'comped chords with his left hand. Then 67-year-old McLaughlin has not lost a bit of his astonishing technical prowess. Playing a Godin guitar with fat Humbucking pickups and wearing an 'I've got a secret' smile, he tore through his extended solos with lines that were intellectually brilliant yet emotionally gut wrenching. He looks like a man with a steady pulse but this listener's heart was pounding.
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.”
BROWSE ARCHIVE OF CONTEMPORARY JAZZ VOICES