Carmel DeSoto
JMA Jazz Reviewer ·
Registered more than 2 years ago · Last visit 1 day ago

Favorite Jazz Artists

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50 reviews/ratings
SCOTT REEVES - Portraits & Places Progressive Big Band | review permalink
GENE ESS - Absurdist Theater Fusion | review permalink
COREY KENDRICK - Rootless Post Bop | review permalink
TROY ROBERTS - Tales & Tones Post Bop | review permalink
DANIEL DICKINSON - A Gathering Foretold Post Bop | review permalink
MARIA GRAND - TetraWind 21st Century Modern | review permalink
DIVA - 25th Anniversary Project Big Band | review permalink
TONY LUSTIG - Taking Flight Hard Bop | review permalink
LARRY CORBAN - Corban Nation Hard Bop | review permalink
GREG HATZA - The Greg Hatza ORGANization : Diggin up My Roots Soul Jazz | review permalink
CAROL MORGAN - Post Cool Vol. 1: The Night Shift Post Bop | review permalink
BILLY CHILDS - Rebirth Post Bop | review permalink
LEIGH PILZER - Strunkin’ Hard Bop | review permalink
TAL COHEN - Tal Cohen & Danielle Wertz : Intertwined Vocal Jazz | review permalink
ALEX WEITZ - Luma Post Bop | review permalink
ANTONELLA CHIONNA - Antonella Chionna Meets Pat Battiston : Rylesonable 21st Century Modern | review permalink
JEFF RICHMAN - XYZ Fusion | review permalink
TROY ROBERTS - Green Lights Post Bop | review permalink
MAC GOLLEHON - Mac Gollehon & The Hispanic Mechanics Latin Rock/Soul | review permalink
REBECCA KILGORE - Moonshadow Dance Vocal Jazz | review permalink

See all reviews/ratings

Jazz Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Post Bop 15 4.33
2 Fusion 8 4.19
3 Hard Bop 5 4.30
4 Post-Fusion Contemporary 5 3.90
5 Vocal Jazz 5 4.10
6 21st Century Modern 3 4.50
7 Soul Jazz 2 4.25
8 Progressive Big Band 1 5.00
9 RnB 1 4.00
10 Big Band 1 5.00
11 Bossa Nova 1 4.00
12 Cool Jazz 1 4.00
13 Latin Jazz 1 4.00
14 Latin Rock/Soul 1 4.00

Latest Albums Reviews


Album · 2023 · Bossa Nova
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Kicking off our review of Sarah McKenzie's "Without You," we're diving into an album that intertwines the diverse styles of vocal Brazilian jazz. With her love for Brazilian music, McKenzie brings us an enchanting setlist as she journeys through Rio de Janeiro, which is filled with encounters with Brazilian music legends.

McKenzie, a pianist and vocalist, anchors this sonic voyage with elegance and precision. Enter Jacques Morelenbaum, whose cello weaves layers of depth with his warm tones, and Romero Lubambo, whose guitar exudes the authentic spirit of Brazil and its romance. The rhythm section, led by the versatile Peter Erskine on drums and Geoff Gascoyne on bass, pulses with vitality, creating a foundation where melodies dance with Brazil's dreamy rhythms. Rogerio Boccato's percussion adds intricate and authentic rhythms—the heartbeat of Brazilian music—while Bob Sheppard's flute and saxophone elevate the compositions with impassioned solos.

At the heart of "Without You" lies McKenzie's homage to Antonio Carlos Jobim's repertoire. "I've always loved the music of Brazil, Tom Jobim, Elis Regina, and of course Astrud Gilberto," says Sarah McKenzie. "What I especially love about Jobim is the simplicity and clarity of his melodies, songs that one can remember and sing." Her renditions of "Gentle Rain" and "Corcovado" pay homage to the rich heritage while showcasing her unique vocal and piano style.

McKenzie's originals—"The Voice of Rio," "Mean What You Say," "Quoi, Quoi, Quoi," and her lyrical addition to Lubambo's "Without You"—reveal her vivid imagination as a composer and lyricist. Rooted in Brazilian rhythms and harmonic patterns, these tracks bear McKenzie's unmistakable signature, offering fresh and innovative contributions to the genre. Each track that features Lubambo exudes an aura of class and romanticism, hallmarks of his masterful playing, but it's McKenzie's unique touch that truly sets these songs apart.

Erskine, Gascoyne, Boccato, and Sheppard bring a level of musicianship that complements McKenzie's vision as synergy and unified purpose shine through. Boccato's percussion and Erskin and Gascoyne provide a vibrant backdrop to McKenzie's lush vocals as she navigates these melodies with an acute focus on Brazilian rhythms and precise accents and articulations. Sheppard's solos, as in "Quoi, Quoi, Quoi," bring a fiery elegance to the project.

McKenzie's melodic approach showcases her musical intelligence. Her ability to phrase melodic lines with clear diction while tapping into the emotional essence of the lyrics allows her to explore new dimensions within the music. Like in "Dindi," "Bonita," and "Fotografia," featuring Morelenbaum's arrangements, she takes us on a journey through the familiar melodies, but with a twist of new phrasing, keeping us engaged and excited.

"Without You" is a heartfelt homage to Brazilian music, where McKenzie honors the giants of the genre while carving out her own unique space within its rich textures. This tribute showcases her deep respect for the music but also connects us, the listeners, to the rich heritage of Brazilian jazz.


Album · 2024 · Post Bop
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On "Green Lights," saxophonist and composer Troy Roberts embarks on a unique musical journey, illuminating the corridors of modern jazz with his vivid compositions and dynamic playing. His music draws a rich, emotive line through the map of his musical and geographical migrations, inviting the listener to connect with his personal experiences. This album, released under Toy Robot Music, reflects Roberts' artistic and personal journeys and marks the first time this gifted ensemble has recorded together under Roberts' leadership.

From the opening track, it's clear that "Green Lights" is based on conversational jazz between musicians who enjoy and respect each other. Roberts, alongside guitarist Paul Bollenback, bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Jimmy MacBride, establishes a seamless dialogue that sounds telepathic. The ensemble's responsiveness and mutual intuition are the bedrock upon which this album is built.

"Green Lights" opens the album with a flourish. The synergy among the musicians is palpable, marked by Roberts' robust, expressive saxophone and the ensemble's crisp, fluid interaction. Bollenback's guitar, with its rich Fender Rhodes-like tone, and Patitucci's growling bass lines create a lush, rhythmic tapestry, setting the stage for an album that feels both explorative and grounded.

"The Question" and "By Your Side" are prime examples of the band's versatility, showcasing contemporary harmony and rhythm and a traditional jazz waltz, respectively. In "The Question," the ensemble skillfully navigates through the well-written composition, allowing Roberts to display his deft control over the tenor saxophone during his impressive solo. Meanwhile, "By Your Side" offers an emotive contrast, emphasizing lyrical solos and traditional jazz aesthetics. This diverse range of musical styles keeps the listener engaged and excited throughout the album.

"Solar Panels" is an up-tempo swing, based on a standard that allows the ensemble to weave through the progression with finesse and fervor. "Harry Brown" and "Jive Dumpling" further highlight the ensemble's chemistry and interactive playing. "Harry Brown" delves into modal jazz, while "Jive Dumpling" mixes modern and contemporary jazz for a playful, rhythmically intricate track that will surely put a smile on your face.

"Up To No Good" and "The Scotsman's Ballad" each offer different feels for the ensemble to express through. The former showcases modern jazz sensibility meshed with tight compositional structure, and the latter is a tender, profoundly emotive ballad highlighting Roberts' sensitivity and control. Ending with "Stretch Armstrong," the album revisits the roots of jazz in a straight-ahead swing that allows each musician to shine individually and, as a whole, bring the album to a compelling close.

"Green Lights" is an album built on camaraderie, resulting in an auditory journey that resonates with anyone who appreciates the beauty of skilled jazz musicianship and the stories it can tell.

RANDY BERNSEN Heart, Mind and Soul

Album · 2023 · Fusion
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Randy Bernsen, a figure whose roots extend from the quiet corners of Needham, Massachusetts, to the vibrant musical mixing pot of South Florida, has carved a niche for himself within the jazz fusion genre. His latest album, "Heart Mind and Soul," released on June 16, 2023, under Jerico Jams, is a 32-minute journey through six glowing compositions. The sounds in this project showcase Bernsen's virtuosity and the collective genius of the various bands joining him, including luminaries like Bob Mintzer, Jimmy Haslip, and others.

The album's opener, "With You Always," encapsulates the essence of Bernsen's musical philosophy: a blend of emotional depth and technical cleverness. The relaxed fusion groove of "Prodigal Son" then sets a sophisticated scene, with Bernsen transitioning seamlessly between electric and acoustic guitars, underpinned by a richly textured backdrop provided by Haslip's bass and the Nizri brother's piano and drums. This song, in particular, illustrates Bernsen's musical language, which weaves engaging musical ideas into emotionally resonant phrases.

"Shepherd's Heart" shows Bernsen's compositional skills are also built on soul-stirring melodies. Here, his acoustic guitar sings over a backdrop of rich synth sounds, with a bassline that converses eloquently with the melody, highlighting Bernsen's flair for creating music that touches the soul. Including Mintzer's warm saxophone tones adds a layer of color and energy, enriching the song's texture.

Bernsen's exploration of different tonal landscapes is evident in tracks like "Abba Father" and "Billy Gate Blues." The former is characterized by stylized melodic musings against a backdrop of graceful keyboard lines, and the latter by its gritty blues tone married to a bopping jazz fusion beat. "With You Always" has a balmy atmosphere, created through Bernsen's melodic guitar riffs that soothe and invigorate equally.

As a guitarist, Bernsen is a master of expression, utilizing his formidable technique not for display but as a tool for musical storytelling. His ability to meld various styles—blues, funk, jazz, or Latin jazz—into a cohesive whole speaks volumes of his playing skill and deep understanding of the fusion genre.

"Heart Mind and Soul" is a tone narrative woven through the strings of Bernsen's guitar, each note a word, every melody a sentence, telling hip musical stories. The ensemble's chemistry is palpable, and each musician's contribution is vital to the album's overall impact. This album is a fun listening experience. A maestro of the modern jazz fusion genre, "Heart Mind and Soul" is a solid addition to the collection of any discerning fusion listener.

RANDY NAPOLEON The Door Is Open : The Music of Gregg Hill

Album · 2024 · Post Bop
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The essence of great jazz is an ensemble that can articulate a collaborative effort. “The Door is Open: The Music of Gregg Hill” by Randy Napoleon successfully creates such an environment. Napoleon's guitar work is deep within the jazz tradition and Hill's a composer of versatility, whose life experiences range from steering the wheel of a big rig to orchestrating the finances of a tech giant. Together, they infuse the album with an adventurous spirit that is delightful to listen to and experience.

“The Door is Open: The Music of Gregg Hill” is nine tracks built on the symbiotic relationship between composer and interpreter. Hill's compositions, delivered to Napoleon with minimal directives, become a canvas for expression, akin to poetic muses that beckon the ensemble into nuanced musical discussions. This dynamic interplay culminates in a sound that transcends the sum of its parts, creating a collective musical consciousness that resonates with the spontaneity of a Ouija board game, where the music flows through the musicians rather than from them.

The core ensemble featuring Rick Roe, Rodney Whitaker, Quincy Davis, and Aubrey Johnson, with Lucas LaFave stepping in for Whitaker on select tracks, embodies the essence of chemistry that can only be forged through deep musical and personal connections. Roe's piano artistry, a cornerstone of the Detroit bebop lineage, and Whitaker's bass playing anchors the album. Davis' forward-leaning drumming and Johnson's diverse vocals add layers of texture that are at once innovative and timeless.

Napoleon's guitar playing stands out for its lyrical beauty and technical finesse. His solos throughout the album, notably on "The Lost Tune" and "Escape to Cat Island," showcase a musician intensely rooted in the jazz tradition yet constantly pushing towards new horizons. His ability to meld with the ensemble while shining as a soloist exemplifies the album's collaborative spirit.

The inclusion of a horn section on several tracks adds another dimension to the album, with contributions from young talents such as Andrew Kim, whose trombone playing belies his youth, and seasoned pros like saxophonist Walter Blanding and trumpeter Anthony Stanco, who bring their unique voices to the ensemble. These arrangements reflect Napoleon's affinity for crafting soundscapes that envelop the listener in a rich, auditory embrace.

"Motel Blues" and "Skyline" illustrate the album's range, moving from gospel-infused swing to a poignant ballad that speaks with emotion and finesse. Whether delivering heartfelt lyrics or engaging in wordless interplay with the ensemble as a frontline instrument, Johnson's vocals are our guiding light through these varied emotional landscapes.

“The Door is Open: The Music of Gregg Hill” is a celebration of musical fellowship, compositional brilliance, and the boundless possibilities that arise when artists of such high caliber join forces. This album invites listeners and musicians alike to open the door to their own creative explorations.

CONNOR O'NEILL The Same Changes, Vol II

Album · 2023 · 21st Century Modern
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Ah, the task at hand beckons us to delve into the soulful and intricate world of Connor O'Neill's latest offering, "The Same Changes, Vol. II." This album will interest jazz fans and those with an affinity for the six-stringed instrument, especially those with an ear for a melodic performer with a gift for well-penned compositions.

O'Neill, a beacon in Philadelphia's creative music scene, brings his virtuosic guitar skills honed through years of academia, performance, and production. His educational background, with accolades from the University of the Arts, sets a sturdy foundation for his artistic endeavors. However, it is his life experiences, particularly those challenging moments of doubt and introspection, that breathe life into "The Same Changes, Vol. II."

The album is a journey of contemporary jazz, with each track acting as a vignette into O'Neill's musical dialect. The ensemble accompanying him—Alex Delcourt on bass, Steven Perry on drums, Morgan Walbridge on vibraphone, Mervin Toussaint on alto saxophone, Jessica Cantone with her voice, and Micah Graves on piano—creates a cohesive ensemble that excels at collaboration.

"Disordinance" kicks off the album, setting a mysterious aurora with its harmonious blend of counterpoint between the guitar and vibes. Walbridge's vibraphone keeps the sense of suspense while Delcourt solos. Walbridge's solo is melodic and well-paced. O'Neill's guitar, ethereal in its tone, speaks within the chords, spinning motifs that resonate with today's jazz sounds.

"Another Moment Reconciled" shifts gears, presenting a contemporary jazz ballad that weaves through fusion and modern rhythmic structures. Here, O'Neill's guitar sings with a warm clarity, supported by the translucent vibes of Walbridge and the rhythmic backbone of Perry and Delcourt. The track embodies the ensemble's dynamic synergy and shows their collective artistry and collaboration.

In "Gears," the addition of Toussaint's alto saxophone builds a new color and energy. The track's gentle swing and post-bop influences showcase O'Neill's ability to easily compose a memorable melody through complex time changes and harmonic landscapes, painting a sonic picture that's modern and rooted in the jazz tradition. O'Neill's soloing is expressive as he digs into the swing feel, painting with a balance of legato and staccato articulations. Toussaint's solo is imaginative, blending modern, gospel, and avant-garde textures that bring out the expressive qualities of O'Neill's composition.

"Singularity" features Micah Graves, whose piano interplay with O'Neill's guitar creates a plane of cool modal jazz that exemplifies the album's thematic focus on introspection and evolution. O'Neill's guitar solo is lyrical and rhythmically centered, with each note and rhythm painting a larger picture of personal expression. Graves' solo brings in soulful elements of the blues, modal jazz, and contemporary jazz. He is an excellent player, and his interactions with Perry's drumming add a new dimension to the creative expression of the composition.

“The Same Changes, Vol. II” is a six-song narrative woven through the strings of O'Neill's guitar and the collective voice of his ensemble. As a listener, one can't help but feel a part of O'Neill's journey, invited to find solace and understanding within the notes. This contemporary jazz album showcases O'Neill's technical skill as a player and composer of emotional depth and artistic integrity.

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