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

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All Reviews/Ratings

21 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
MAC GOLLEHON - Mac Gollehon & The Hispanic Mechanics Latin Rock/Soul | review permalink
REBECCA KILGORE - Moonshadow Dance Vocal Jazz | review permalink
CHRIS ZIEMBA - Manhattan Lullaby Post Bop | review permalink
SHERRI ROBERTS - Anybody’s Spring Vocal Jazz | review permalink

See all reviews/ratings

Jazz Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Post Bop 7 4.64
2 Hard Bop 3 4.50
3 Vocal Jazz 3 4.17
4 21st Century Modern 2 4.75
5 Big Band 1 5.00
6 Fusion 1 5.00
7 Latin Rock/Soul 1 4.00
8 Post-Fusion Contemporary 1 4.00
9 Progressive Big Band 1 5.00
10 Soul Jazz 1 4.50

Latest Albums Reviews

DIVA 25th Anniversary Project

Album · 2018 · Big Band
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Singularly the hardest working Big Band in the industry today, the DIVA Jazz Orchestra is lead by superwoman Sherrie Maricle, who not only is the drummer of the band but the collaborative ball of energy that drives the 15-piece group of highly qualified female instrumentalists. The inspiration for DIVA came from Stanley Kay, one-time manager and relief drummer for Buddy Rich. In 1990, Kay was conducting a band in which Sherrie Maricle was playing the drums. Stanley immediately picked up on her extraordinary talent and began to wonder if there were other women players who could perform at the same level. The search was on and through nationwide auditions, the foundation for DIVA was poured in June 1992, and what emerged is the dynamic musical force that holds forth to the present day.

Though DIVA holds dear the traditional jazz idiom, the release of 25th Anniversary Project includes original compositions by some of the members who are genuine, yet ingenious composers. Maricle explains; “the CD offers our listeners 10 original compositions by 9 remarkable composers, writing for 15 friends in 1 amazing band. It’s DIVA’s mission to continue to swing hard and grow, through the exceptional individual talent within the band and their extraordinary composers and arrangers.”

One such composition is by baritone saxist Leigh Pilzer, titled “East Coast Andy,” a romping tune with high flying horn hits, creatively conceived sections that add to the textural interest of the tune and a burning solo by Pilzer herself, as well as trumpeter Jami Dauber who has a penchant for stomping the gates with her high stepping style.

A beautifully written “Square One,” features alto and soprano saxophonist Alexa Tarantino in the writer’s seat. The tune is harmonically rich with soothing pastoral colorizations and emotional dips, that lead to emotive, conversationally based solos between Rachel Therrian on flugelhorn and Tarantino herself on alto saxophone. The elongated melody is stirring and memorable.

Maricle takes the album out with her original “The Rhythm Changes,” which is aptly titled as it refers to the rhythm of the motif and how it changes through the form of the composition. Soloists, Barbara Laronga on trumpet, Mercedes Beckman on alto saxophone, Noriko Ueda on bass and Maricle on drums create an interactive atmosphere for swing era stalwarts and jazz aficionados to savor. 25th Anniversary Project is certainly a keepsake, when taking stock of its measure, one asks; is it authentic to its source and performed with expertise and awareness, in this case a resounding yes can be heard.


EP · 2017 · 21st Century Modern
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Maria Grand is certainly becoming a well-known name in the modern and Avant Garde circles, with her affiliation to Steve Coleman, affording her a strong calling card of recognition. But it is with the release of TetraWind, Grand decisively catapults her creativity to the forefront.

A socially conscious offering that mixes elements of poetry, and almost ala-hip-hop sound at times, with raw and raucous saxophone sounds that are masterfully articulated in the hands of this well-schooled saxophonist. TetraWind additionally has a feminine quality to it, an almost heroine feeling, as Grand is not afraid of her voice, muscularity, and prowess of sound. Tunes like “South (Quantum),” are an exceptional example of this quantitative quality.

Where “East (Land of the Living),” gives a more international sound, integrating a full register of comprehensive colors. Grand is not afraid to utilize the upper and lower registers of her saxophone, while digging into the tonal qualities that her instrument has to offer. What struck me most about this young saxophonist was her emotional competence on her instrument, this is a quality that cannot be learned in school alone, it is normally gained on the bandstand through the interpretive interaction between musicians. It is clearly apparent that Grand has this maturity within her wheelhouse.

On “North (Self. Real Power),” Grand evokes another instrument into the mix, her vocals – that convey a sense of mother nature. Which Grand attests to the inspiration of this creative release. Grand explains; “For this project, I also wanted to supplement the musical meaning with actual words, to allow the listener to hear another angle as well. Some of the lyrics are more abstract, and the last track is more political. Music cannot be divorced from the times and from whatever is happening socioeconomically at any given moment.” Speaking of the last track, “West, (Shut Shun)” is filled with tension notes, almost conveying the struggle of the times we are in as the age of Aquarius is once again upon us, which is the eleventh sign of the zodiac, which is now controlling the cosmos, which means we're entering a period of revolution fueled by invention, social media brazenness and free sexuality, say astrologers. Grand has her own take on the reasoning behind this track, she explains “It’s really important that conditions change and improve for everyone right now, we need to treat our Earth and each other a lot better. There’s a lot of greed going on, and a few people are holding on to most of the wealth; I’m not sure exactly why we’re letting this happen, but things have to change. Racism is a plague, sexism is a plague. I want my music to speak on those issues.”

Overall, TetraWind is a compelling listen, from a technically engaging journey, to a rebirth of creative ideas, Grand has captured a sentiment musically, and thematically that will leave a lasting telling piece in her creative catalog of continued depth.

DANIEL DICKINSON A Gathering Foretold

Album · 2015 · Post Bop
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A Gathering Foretold is an extremely melodious release from New York-based alto saxophonist Daniel Dickinson. Even though this is his debut outing, Dickinson plays with maturity and merges the historical language of jazz and all the right elements of modern jazz music. Dickinson has assembled a prodigious crew of musicians that play off each other, finding common ground between all the parts and creating an organic hybrid that plays to what sounds like a longtime working ensemble, yet is a well-organized session. A portfolio of Dickinson’s own compositions and arrangements, including original compositions by Christian Sands (Voyage to Somewhere) and Michael Dease (Cry of the Wolf).

Dease’s composition and the opening "Cry of the Wolf " takes its time building and then rises to the five horns playing the melody to create a beautiful sound. Dease stands out with a solid improvisation that utilizes the upper register of the trombone. The interplay between Bowlus’ piano comping figures and Ulysses Owens, Jr.’s drum pattern is a fine example of groups listening and melding to form a musical motif while Dease shapes his lines to a simmering boil.

The title track is composed by Dickinson and is an impactful track that displays both his compositional skills and his able improvisational skills. Dickinson finds inspiration during his solo in Owens’ drum rhythms, making him more than just support here, but the two work together to build and shape the solo statement and that communication is integral to the integrity of this fine album.

Even though everyone in the ensemble is a talented soloist, the emphasis is on listening to each other. “Voyage to Somewhere” features Christian Sands at the piano and as the composer. A relaxed likeable mid-tempo selection with a haunting piano figure is enhanced by Owen's drums and Dickinson’s nimble alto solo. Dickinson’s lines match Sands chordal colors and his creative rhythmic palate serves as a durable launching pad for creative explorations as a soloist.

“Darn That Dream” is the standard on the date and features Dickinson on clarinet. His tasteful clarinet playing has subtle elements of the blues and bop, all conveyed with unbridled swing. His relaxed soloing style is sure in melodic motion, strong in time and impressive in overall flow.

Although Dickinson is the leader and composed most of the material, A Gathering Foretold is by any measure a group effort, with each member given ample room to extemporize and the group works together to accentuate the various melodies and soloists. The respect and friendship between the players is indispensable, resulting in a splendid date with much to offer even the most demanding jazz aficionado and sensitive audiophile.

SIMON SAMMUT Crossing - A Visual and Music Experience

Album · 2017 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
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As humans, we have been enamored with acts of crossing, be it literally of figuratively, since the beginning of time. There is always a point where a person crosses into something, into a field or mindset of adventure, leaving the known limits of the world of point “A” and venturing into an unknown and dangerous realm or mindset where the rules and limits are unknown to get to point “B.” Bassist and composer Simon Sammut uses the crossing as a point of inspiration, to bring meaning to the act through music. Using specific events in history and mythology, Sammut focuses his musical mind by using visual art by Anthony Catania that depicts the events related to crossing, to form the mechanics of his compositions. His new project is entitled, Crossing and it marks the combining of music and visual art, forming beauty and color. Both music and paintings expressing emotions and ideas, and in this project work together to create something truly striking and unique.

Sammut’s artistic pallet is vast on both the upright and electric bass. On the electric bass especially, his use of chords possesses a color pallet that far exceeds the usual spectrum of a bassist. He cites Jaco Pastorius as an influence, and like Jaco, Sammut’s ability to convey complex harmonies using chordal movement on the bass, is dynamic and adds a great deal to the music. Sammut additionally uses orchestral colors of voice, guitar, melodica, keyboards, percussion, electronics, brass and woodwinds. “The Tin Soldier’s Last Dance” displays this ability perfectly. Sammut’s chordal work on the bass is wonderful. The tune has a strong melody and a form that keeps the music marching forward.

On “Promethean Man,” Sammut’s inspiration is that we are not alone in our journey, but ultimately guided by a higher intelligence that is involved in our Crossing and change, the process brought to us through the world. Sammut’s upper register melody on the bass starts the melodic journey. Developing into programmed drums with keyboard swells and backing, Sammut continues to take the lead melodic role. Sammut’s bass solo is tuneful, with lines the build a story and again he uses chords in his solo in a inimitable way.

Sammut’s compositions are focused and provide a sonic delight for Crossing, taking the listener on a journey into the magical world music. The bassist’s impressionistic soundscapes contribute to the album’s success as well. Crossing is a consistently musical and entertaining listen from beginning to end. Highly Recommended, and an enlightened melding of art and sound.

ANTONELLA CHIONNA Antonella Chionna Meets Pat Battiston : Rylesonable

Album · 2017 · 21st Century Modern
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An international collaboration between Boston based pianist, composer and creative “improvator” Patrick Battstone and Italian based phenom Antonella Chionna who began her career at the young age of 12 as a performing professional musician brings to the table a delightful ringing of epic proportions for the creative modern and avant-garde purveyor.

Rylesonable contains twelve tracks, recorded live in the studio to create a highly improvised sound and to capitalize on each musician’s improvisational in the moment skills. The result is breathtaking. The rapport is immediately evident with a collection of nine improvised tunes and two standards, and an original Gabriele di Franco tune with lyrics by Chionna.

“Under a Persian Sky” conjures improvisational qualities of a finely tuned instrument in the two lead musicians, both interacting, listening, and creating. Chionna evokes elongated notes for a dramatic effect, while bassist Kit Demos and Battstone provide a stately underpinning for Richard Poole on vibraphone to colorize with just the right amount of panache.

Tunes like “Sophisticated Lady,” offer a more percussive approach vocally, this is what is most striking about Chionna, her ability to utilize her voice as a full-fledged instrument, not afraid of bends and sharp-edged sounds. Like a fine weathered horn, she truly exhibits her talent as one of the instrumentalists versus a standards vocalist in the mix.

I must say Fender Rhodes is one of my all-time favorite instruments and when used in a jazz setting it becomes an even sweeter experience. Inspired by Plutot La Vie, the Rhodes brings “Rather Life,” to animation. Chionna and Battstone are brilliant together, more than performances, this is genuine emotions in play.

In finality, the selection “Lover Man/Nature Boy,” is poignant, dark and at times evocative. Battstone lays down a silky yet delicate accompaniment, as Chionna conveys in a moody darkened horn-like vocal approach, with a relaxed ala Miles phrasing approach. If you were to imagine Chionna as a horn, you truly would connect with the true message she is laying down. Her vocal has a playful Billie Holiday vibe, but resonates in dark chocolatey colors. Demos, Battstone and Poole adorn with respectful interaction, not overpowering Chionna for an engaging result. It’s wonderful when a vocalist phrases like a horn player, and Chionna certainly connects to this ideal. Supported by seasoned veterans certainly helps the effort tremendously for a cohesion of result.

A wonderful cross-continental collaboration, one I hope to hear again very soon, and with anticipation.

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