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jazz music reviews (new releases)

JEREMY MONTEIRO Jeremy Monteiro & Alberto Marsico : Jazz-Blues Brothers (2021 edition)

Boxset / Compilation · 2021 · Soul Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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js
All that modern abstract cutting edge cerebral jazz is cool and all, but sometimes you want to hear something that might inspire more of an extroverted party vibe, and that’s where an album like “Jazz-Blues Brothers” comes in. The Jazz Blues Brothers are Jeremy Monteiro on piano and Alberto Marsico on organ, two super hot blues and jazz keyboardists who really deserve more press and recognition than they currently receive. No less than Joey DeFrancesco has described Marsico as one of his favorite organ players. The rest of the band is top notch as well with Eugene Pao supplying rapid jagged bebop and fusion lines on the guitar, and also going full on rock star on a couple tunes as well. Shawn Letts is the required funky tenor player that is essential for soul jazz outings and Shawn Kelley holds down the groove on the drums. Powerhouse blues vocalist Miz Dee Longwood also joins for “I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water” and “I’d Rather Go Blind”, both recorded live with the band.

So many good tracks on here, “Opening Act” sets the mood with a classic hard bop swing and “Olympia” follows with some funky RnB. “Mount Olive” sounds like classic Eddie Harris and “Catastrophy” is rapid bebop that lets everyone show off their high speed chops. As mentioned already, there are also a couple of blues vocal numbers too. The real draw for this album though is the skill of the players. Marsico is easily one of the very hottest B3 players around, and Monteiro has a massive piano attack that recalls past masters like Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson. Add to that, Guitarist Eugene Pao, whose fiery guitarisms bring much to this funky affair.

MAHOGANY FROG In The Electric Universe

Album · 2021 · Jazz Related Rock
Cover art 3.52 | 2 ratings
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js
Mahogany Frog is a modern instrumental group that often gets lumped in with the contemporary prog rock crowd, but there is so much more to their music than what a simple genre label like that can describe. The Frogsters describe their music as a meeting of today’s electronica with 70s progressive rock, 60s psychedelia and 50s exotica. This isn’t too bad a description, especially if you add in movie soundtracks, particularly of the Italian persuasion. As far as the prog rock influence goes, we are not talking about the heavy-handed clichés that took hold post 1972, but more about all that great experimental music that ran from 1966 to 1972. Frog's latest outing, “In the Electric Universe”, took much longer to conceive than their previous albums and this shows in the very careful sound sculpting that takes place on here. Sounds, noises and sonic textures play a big part on this new one, and whether or not you think that emphasis has weakened their melodic content would probably be a matter of individual taste.

The opening track, “Theme from P.D.”, is like a suite with its many themes and developing sections. The next two tracks feature Frog's interest in late 60s psychedlic progressive rock filtered through an electronica lens. Follow up number, “CUBe”, is a heavy trip-hop/rock groove with a phat synth bass line. "Octavio" has a grand sound as it moves from modern RnB to cinematic glory rock. Album closer, “Sun Dog”, has a beautiful ambient melody that is slowly engulfed in noise only to finally emerge again. Much more than just a ‘rock band’, fans of electronic jam bands, classic exotica and movie soundtracks should give Mahogany Frog a chance. These guys are creating instrumental monuments that are hard to equal.

KERRY MOFFIT What Goes Around Comes Around

Album · 2021 · Hard Bop
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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js
Today’s entry in the ongoing series on musicians who deserve wider recognition goes to Kerry Moffit and his debut album as a leader, “What Goes Around Comes Around”. Kerry has been performing, arranging and composing for over 40 years, yet chances are you are not familiar with him. One reason for this is that much of Moffit’s career has been in working with US Air Force bands, both in the states and in Europe. The Air Force band program provides a great resource for musicians who need to be working steadily because they have a family to raise. Its just not practical for a struggling musician to take his family to a small cold water apartment in NYC while he searches for work, so the Air Force provides top notch professional gigs for those who choose that route. Since leaving the Air Force in 2015, Kerry has been working with top talent such as Chuck Mangione, Louis Bellson, Arturo Sandoval and more.

The music on “What Goes Around…” centers around contemporary hard bop plus some Latin grooves and a few impressionistic ballads. Moffit is a virtuoso on trumpet who mostly avoids gimmicks and ’sounds’ and instead plays clean and fast streams of notes. I suppose this would be a continuation of the Clifford Brown school of boppin trumpet. The rest of the band is equally adept at their instrument with special mention going to Seth Ebersole’s sweet and fluid alto sax that recalls Phil Woods and Cannonball Adderly. A big plus on this record are Kerry’s creative arrangements. Moffit treats his three horn front line like a mini big band with sectional trade off’s that recall Duke Ellington and other Moffit influences such as Sammy Nestico and Neal Hefti. My ears also hear a lot of 60s Quincy Jones, especially in the TV theme flavored “This I Dig of You” and “Katrina Ballerina”.Half the tunes on here are standards and the other half are Moffit originals. Some top originals include “Free for All”, which is high speed hard bop with an interesting Ornette styled stop-start opening theme, and “20-4” Jam”, which has a Latin fusion flavor and features simultaneous soloing from all the horns towards the end of the track.

SONS OF KEMET Black To The Future

Album · 2021 · Eclectic Fusion
Cover art 3.48 | 2 ratings
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snobb
Being a scene leader has its pros and cons. From the positive side, you are known, you have your followers and each of your new works is awaited. From the other side, there are expectations, a lot of them. And it's not an easy job to fulfill all of them. Some fans are waiting for another album of the music they know and like and any change in direction can disappoint them. Others are happy with what you already did but are not much interested in another "same" recording, so they are expecting from you something new. Doesn't matter what you do, some of your fans will be disappointed.

Shabaka Hutchings, who with no doubt is one of the leaders of the burgeoning London jazz scene, runs three different projects trying to solve above mentioned problems in a best possible way, and quite often he succeeds in it.

On "Back To Future" - the newest album from his most eclectic project Sons Of Kemet - is obvious continuation of quartet's previous work, extremely successful "Your Queen Is A Reptile", with some insignificant modifications.

On "Your Queen Is A Reptile", the band's debut on Impulse!, the quartet of sax player, tubist and two drummers went back to African roots, adding more percussive vibes with a big list of guesting additional drummers. Rapper/vocalist Joshua Idehen has been presented on the opener and closer, for the first time (both two early quartet albums were fully instrumental). On "Back To Future", Shabaka uses same formula, when Joshua Idehen opens and closes the show, but there are more guest vocalists on the album (incl. Angel Bat Dawid), as a result, whole recording sounds more as "singing music", rather than just instrumental. And Shabaka adds more brass instead of percussion too. From the musical side we have same Caribbean flavored marching semi melancholic tunes, just less percussive and slightly polished with electronics.

Shabaka obviously trying not to lose a successful formula of the previous album, only slightly modifying and refreshing the sound. As a result, we got an evolutional, not revolutionary work, still with easy recognizable Shabaka's sound.

MARIUS GUNDERSEN Arrangements For Guitar By Marco Pereira

Album · 2021 · Third Stream
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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“Arrangements for Guitar by Marco Pereira” is the second installment in a series of tributes to Pereira by guitarist Marius Noss Gundersen. Marius is a Norwegian who specializes in classical music and Brazilian traditions, which makes him a perfect fit to play the arrangements of Pereiera which walk a fine line between Brazilian art pop and contemporary classical music. Marco is a super star in Brazil, his career has found him working with top performers such as Antonio Carlos Jobim, Gilberto Gil and Milton Nascimento and he is well known for his arrangements, compositions and performances on classical guitar which have won him many awards and competitions over the years. On this new album, Gundersen has picked out twelve Pereira arrangements of art songs by well known Brazilian composers such as the previously mentioned Jobim and Nascimento, as well as Egberto Gismonti and Chico Buarque. Gundersen faithfully recreates Marco’s arrangements, which makes this very much like a contemporary Brazilian classical concert.

Every piece on here is a gem. Marius has technique to burn, but he never resorts to pure flash in his playing, consider him the exact opposite of a certain ‘elegant gypsy’ in that regard. These are, for the most part, melodic and somewhat somber or sentimental tone poems, but if you are looking for some fire, the demanding chart for “Frevo” should satisfy those looking for some burning Latin passion. Also “Modinha” and “Chega de Saudade” lean a bit in that direction as well. The Brazilian take on rhythm is present here, but don’t expect any cliché type bossa nova or samba, the tunes and arrangements on here lean in a more sophisticated and classical tradition. Quite simply, this is beautiful music performed by someone with commanding technique and complete mastery over their instrument.

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SUN RA It Is Forbidden (at the Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival in Exile)

Live album · 1974 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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js
This review of "At the Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival in Exile 1974 - It is Forbidden" by Sun Ra and His Intergalactic Arkestra, is about the vinyl LP version of this album. The CD has a few more tracks, although a lot of those tracks are songs that have been recorded and released many times before.

A quick sum up of this album would be; an excellent live performance captured with a sub-par recording. The album cover notes don't say how they recorded this, possibly off of the PA sound board. Fortunately you can hear most of the instruments and the balance isn't too bad, but the sound is sort of flat and dull, a bit distant, but this is hardly the worst recording quality that you can find on a Sun Ra record.

Side one is mostly free jazz and is quite lively and kinetic as the band switches from full ensemble assaults to frantic solos. Sun Ra rarely has a guitar player, so Dale William's massive presence is a bit of a pleasant surprise. His huge wall of sound ultra distorted and processed guitar sounds like Hendrix, Sonny Sharrock, Pete Cosey and Thurston Moore all playing at the same time. Sun Ra picks up his influence and creates synthesizer attacks that sound like May Day! May Day!!! in the next century.

Side 2 kicks off with some swingin hard bop and shows a side of John Gilmore we don't often hear as he plays his best soul jazz riffs. Sun Ra subverts the rhythm and they all go off free form for a while. Next up is a not too long vocal chant and then longtime Sun Ra favorite, "Watusi". Its a great song, but better recordings of it exist elsewhere. Overall, a fairly good album for the Sun Ra fan, with its most unique feature being Sun Ra's and Dale William's use of larger than life electronics.

LARRY YOUNG Mothership

Album · 1980 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.04 | 7 ratings
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Steve Wyzard
TAKE A TRIP

"One thing about Larry Young is that he really is an organist. He knows that instrument, and furthermore, unlike some organ players in jazz, Larry never gets in your way. On the contrary, he keeps building in and around what you are doing while always listening so that his comping is always a great help." Mother Ship is a miraculous album, and due to its posthumous release has been continually underrated and underplayed. The above quote, from Grant Green (who does not play on Mother Ship) comes from this album's liner notes, which also take pains to portray Young as a Coltrane acolyte. That might be overselling the issue just a bit, but when you hear this album, you'll understand how the connection has been made.

Of course, the real problem with Mother Ship's reputation is that it will always live in the shadow of Young's Unity album, which the all-powerful consensus has determined is Larry's greatest. It's a real temptation to compare the two albums due to their common instrumentation: organ / trumpet / tenor sax / drums. Yet on Mother Ship, Lee Morgan's trumpet performance is much freer than anything else you've heard him play. Tenorist Herbert Morgan (no relation) and drummer Eddie Gladden are both compatriots of Young's from the Newark, NJ area. While far lesser-known than the legends who performed on Unity, both play up a storm on this album.

While a number of Blue Note's "LT-series" records are almost compilations of "odds and ends" from various sessions, Mother Ship is a full 41-minute album recorded in one day in 1969. The ground-breaking "Mother Ship", the bluesy riffing of "Street Scene", the 3-part long lines of "Visions", the epic (12:51) "Trip Merchant", and the sassy samba of "Love Drops" were all composed by Larry Young. If there's one extremely slight letdown to this album, it's the track sequencing. Whoever decided to follow up the boundary-pushing powerful chords and explosions of sound in "Trip Merchant" with the playful "Love Drops" was just being disrespectful. Wait until you hear Larry's and Lee's lengthy, mind-blowing solos on this track. Elsewhere Herbert Morgan may occasionally remind you of the one-and-only Wayne Shorter.

After Mother Ship, Young would leave Blue Note and go on to the Tony Williams Lifetime, the career move for which he's best-known today. Sadly, neither he nor Lee Morgan would live to see this album's release in 1980. While it's far less easy to find a copy of Mother Ship these days, I strongly urge anyone with an interest in Larry Young to pick this album up. The performances and compositions cry out for acclaim and deserve to be just as well-known as those on Unity.

HERBIE HANCOCK In Concert Volume 2 (Stanley Turrentine, Freddie Hubbard, Jack DeJohnette, Ron Carter, Eric Gale)

Live album · 1974 · Fusion
Cover art 3.76 | 3 ratings
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Although the first installment of the CTI In Concert series comes across more like a Freddie Hubbard release, 'Volume Two' belongs to Herbie Hancock. The first side features his working quartet at that time, and on the second side they are augmented by Hubbard and Stanley Turrentine. This was an interesting one time only ensemble Herbie gathered for these live dates that apparently took place after he disbanded his Sextet, and before he assembled his new Headhunters group. The big plus here is Jack DeJohnette on drums. The free-form jazz rock jams of the early 70s were DeJohnette's domain, his fierce driving style that mixed hard rock, groovin swing and avant-garde freedom into every blistering phrase had already driven other masterpieces of that time including Miles' legendary sets at The Fillmore. On side one DeJohnette and Herbie push each other relentlessly as Hancock does an extended work out on the static avant-garde funk groove of 'Hornets'. Always known for his delicate beauty and harmonic innovations, this album shows Hancock in a harsh and energetic mode as he rivals Jon Lord and Sun Ra for sheer sonic power and pushes his distorted Fender Rhodes through dissonant Echoplex settings while building sheets of syncopated dissonant chords and angular scales. Although this album may seem a bit dull to many music fans, to fans of really intense keyboard soloing, this is a must have.

Side two brings on Hubbard and Turrentine on horns as the band launches into a side long agro-bossa hyper groove that borders on free jazz during it's long course. It's really interesting to hear Stanley Turrentine, the king of smooth RnB jazz, go off like Bennie Maupin channeling Coltrane. The always fiery and intense Hubbard takes an extended ride before they break down for some quiet spaciness and then onto one more psychedelic Fender Rhodes onslaught from Hancock. In the tradition of Mahavishnu's 'Between Nothingness and Eternity', King Crimson's 'Earthbound' and Miles' 'Live at the Fillmore', this is a rough and tumble live album that favors raw energy over slick production. I would highly recommend this to fans of live early 70s jazz rock jams, and it also contains some of the most intense Herbie Hancock solos ever recorded.

REZ ABBASI Unfiltered Universe

Album · 2017 · 21st Century Modern
Cover art 3.50 | 2 ratings
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snobb
Pakistani-born US-based guitarist Rez Abbasi is better known from his jazz fusion works, often with a touch of Southern Asian tradition. Here on "Unfiltered Universe", he leads an international band containing such stars as pianist Vijay Iyer and sax player Rudresh Mahanthappa among others.

Differently from his many previous recordings, Abbasi concentrates more on composition here, while still maintaining his high energy sound known from his fusion works. Electric/processed guitar sound is on the front together with Mahanthappa's sax soloing. Drummer Dan Weiss (who has been active in the metal scene) adds more drive and heaviness to the album's music too. It's a pity Iyer's piano is often somewhere on the second plan with just a few solos.

Being a competent work of true professionals, "Unfiltered Universe" lacks compositional expressiveness. Even though they include some elements of Indian sub-continent music here and there, the songs often still sound as a bit dry and too formal and formulaic guitar fusion, not composition-oriented modern jazz.

YES Big Generator

Album · 1987 · Jazz Related Rock
Cover art 2.77 | 10 ratings
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Prog Zone
Review - #24 (Yes - Big Generator)

Big Generator is the twelfth studio album by Yes which was released in September of 1987 by Atco Records. After completing a worldwide tour in support of their previous album, 90125, the band began working on their upcoming album, Big Generator. The band's previous album saw them change directions towards a more pop-oriented and commercially accessible sound when compared to their previous progressive works. That change in sound only continues on this album. Big Generator has been said to not have been an easy album to make; recording began at Carimate, Italy, but internal and creative differences resulted in production to resume in London. Trevor Rabin has said this remains to be one of the most difficult albums he has ever made due to the creative differences he had with vocalist Jon Anderson about the direction the band was moving in. Eventually, the album was completed in Los Angeles in 1987 by Trevor Rabin and producer Paul DeVilliers after Trevor Horn left as the role of producer. Big Generator received several mixed reviews from music critics when it was released, and the album reached number 15 on the Billboard 200 and number 17 on the UK Albums Chart. In April of 1988, the album was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America for selling one million copies in the US. Similar to 90125, the album was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Group with Vocal. The line-up on the album is exactly the same as 90125, it contains Jon Anderson on vocals, Alan White on drums, Trevor Rabin on guitar, Tony Kaye on keyboards, and Chris Squire on bass. This album featured more contributions from the entire band when compared to 90125 such as keyboardist Tony Kaye having an influential role in writing numerous tracks. However, releasing three years after 90125 this album does not reach the same heights as its predecessor. Nevertheless, there are some truly brilliant moments found here which are mainly discovered on repeat listens.

The album opens with Rhythm of Love which commences some interesting vocal harmonies. Not too long after, the song shifts into a more straightforward pop-inspired track. While still nice, it doesn't go too far beyond that. Rhythm of Love contains some solid vocals and a driving rhythm section in addition to some pleasant keyboards from Tony Kaye. The next track, Big Generator, is surely one of the weakest moments found on the album. I wonder why they chose to name the album after one of the weakest tracks. I guess titles like Holy Lamb or Love Will Find A Way don't roll off the tongue as well. This is one of the album's three tracks credited to the whole group. It developed from a riff by Squire and Rabin, originating from a specific tuning Squire had on his 5-string bass which helped to create the song, which involved contributions from Alan White on drums. Besides the dreadful chorus, there are actually a few nice moments uncovered on this track. The transition found at the three minute and eighteen second mark is something I always happened to appreciate. In addition, the enchanting vocal harmony at the three minute and fifty five second mark is quite well composed. However, it doesn't go on for nearly as long as I would have hoped. Shoot High, Aim Low is up next and practically clocks in at seven minutes. It is the second group composed track and was one of the songs recorded in Carimate. It features reverb that was captured naturally around a castle's acoustics, rather than reverb added electronically in the studio. Both Trevor Rabin and Jon Anderson complement each other incredibly with is exceptionally tranquil track. Alan White's drumming is sparse yet impactful. The track contains a few progressive rock tendencies and is an overall solid moment on the album. Definitely the best found on side one of the album. Almost Like Love begins with a solid enough instrumental section but deteriorates considerably when Jon Anderson's vocals are introduced that are almost like rap. This track feels as if the band needs to take a breather and consider what they are actually doing. Trevor Rabin once said that the track did not quite work as well as he wanted and in the end, he wished it was not included on the album.

Love Will Find A Way begins side two and is solely credited to Trevor Rabin. He had initially worked on the music and lyrics with singer-songwriter Stevie Nicks and was close to recording it with her. However, Alan White heard the song and suggested Yes record it for Big Generator. This is a terrific pop-influenced track that takes the listener on a journey back to the 80s. I truly feel like this could have been an even bigger hit then it already was. It begins with strings and eventually transfers to Trevor Rabin playing a riff on his guitar. The melodies are exceptionally catchy and contain wonderful vocals from Trevor Rabin. Not to mention, Trevor Rabin's guitar throughout is somewhat straightforward at times but fits effortlessly. Final Eyes is yet another lengthier track that nearly reaches the six and a half minute mark. Trevor Rabin has stated that he enjoyed working on the production and arrangement for this track, but deemed it a remarkably challenging song to make due to the numerous changes found throughout. The vocal harmonies are actually fairly beautiful while Tony Kaye's keyboard work is simple yet brilliant which adds a bright atmosphere to the track. Final Eyes is without a doubt one of the highlights of the album in addition to the upcoming track, I'm Running. I'm Running begins with a Caribbean style arrangement that is full of energy. It is the last of three group-written pieces and contains numerous transitions into very diverse arrangements. In addition, the track goes past the seven and a half minute mark which makes it the longest piece on the album. After the five minute and twenty second mark the music presented is truly up the par with anything Yes made in the seventies. The arrangements are complex and without a doubt progressive with a breathtaking vocal buildup near the end. Unquestionably the highlight of the album! The last track, Holy Lamb, is a terrific closer. Jon Anderson's vocals are beautiful as ever and still give me the same stunning impression as when I first heard it years ago. In addition, Trevor Rabin provides some wonderful guitar playing which builds up especially near the end. I sincerely wish they would have extended this song which fades out right when it's getting good. However, it does seem to be a bit out of place on an album which feels so eighties throughout. Nevertheless, it is a solid track which ends the album wonderfully.

Big Generator is an overall solid Yes album that seems to be overly criticized due to its undeniably eighties sound. However, the somewhat weak side one brings down the album from receiving anything higher than good, but non- essential. There are several superb moments found all through the album, but they are interspersed with moments of questionable quality. A mixed bag, but still recommended for any Yes fan who enjoyed their previous album. There... in the heart of millions!

- 𝘛𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘳𝘦𝘷𝘪𝘦𝘸 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘰𝘳𝘪𝘨𝘪𝘯𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘸𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘯 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘗𝘳𝘰𝘨 𝘈𝘳𝘤𝘩𝘪𝘷𝘦𝘴 (http://www.progarchives.com/Review.asp?id=2545079)

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