Carmel DeSoto
JMA Jazz Reviewer ·
Registered more than 2 years ago · Last visit 3 days ago

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45 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
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

See all reviews/ratings

Jazz Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Post Bop 13 4.35
2 Fusion 7 4.21
3 Hard Bop 5 4.30
4 Post-Fusion Contemporary 5 3.90
5 Vocal Jazz 5 4.10
6 Soul Jazz 2 4.25
7 21st Century Modern 2 4.75
8 Big Band 1 5.00
9 Cool Jazz 1 4.00
10 Progressive Big Band 1 5.00
11 RnB 1 4.00
12 Latin Jazz 1 4.00
13 Latin Rock/Soul 1 4.00

Latest Albums Reviews


Album · 2023 · Fusion
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Hey there, music aficionados and fellow seekers of sonic adventure! Today, we're diving headfirst into the vibrant world of contemporary fusion with none other than Jeff Lorber's latest offering, "The Drop." Lorber has an insatiable appetite for groove sounds, and my hope is you will be inspired to explore them for yourself after reading this article.

Let's kick things off by exploring the playing on "The Drop." From the moment you hit play, it's abundantly clear that you're going to hear some seriously talented musicians. Jeff Lorber, alongside longtime collaborator Jimmy Haslip (bass), leads the charge with their trademark finesse and virtuosity. Lorber's keyboard work is mesmerizing, effortlessly gliding between smooth melodies and funky, rhythmic chordal grooves. Haslip's basslines provide a rock-solid foundation, locking in with the groove's feel with impeccable precision.

But the charmed sounds continue with the supporting cast of players on this album. From Gary Novak's dynamic drumming to the soulful saxophone stylings of Randal Clark, each musician brings their A-game to the table, elevating Lorber's compositions to new heights.

Speaking of compositions, Lorber truly shines as an architect of sound on "The Drop." Each track is meticulously crafted with a focus on texture and emotion, seamlessly interlacing together elements of jazz, funk, and R&B into a cohesive sonic chronicle.

Take "New Mexico," for example. The sultry horn hooks and Marc Lettieri's lead and rhythm guitar, anchored by Cornelius Mims' infectious bass groove, transport you to a smoky jazz club in the heart of the Southwest. Meanwhile, Lorber's nimble keyboard work dances atop the rhythm section with effortless grace, painting a vivid musical portrait that is exhilarating.

Turning our attention to "Hang Tight," the track unfolds with a laid-back groove that firmly nestles itself in the pocket, exuding a sensual allure that's hard to resist. Here, the percussive finesse of Lettieri's guitar lays a textured foundation, against which Lorber's keyboard melody and solos surge forward with dynamic vigor. Lettieri, with his exquisite touch, opts for taste over flash—his solos are melodic and prioritize depth of feel over flash. Haslip's six-string bass resonates with profound wisdom, anchoring the ensemble with its robust bottom end. His solo ventures into the upper echelons of his instrument's range, offering a glimpse into his versatile and agile musical mind. Each note and rhythm crafted by Novak, Haslip, and Lettieri interlocks with Lorber's vision, creating a sound that's inviting.

Elsewhere on the album, tracks like "On the Bus" and "Keep Moving" showcase Lorber's uncanny ability to blend intricate melodies with infectious rhythms, resulting in compositions that are equal parts cerebral and toe-tappingly infectious.

Last but certainly not least, let's talk about the chemistry between the players on "The Drop." Fusion music is all about collaboration and synergy, and Lorber and his crew have it in spades. The way they anticipate each other's moves, trading solos and riffing off each other's energy is enchanted.

Whether it's the interplay between Lorber's keys and Gary Novak's deep groove pocket on "Reception" or the dynamic call-and-response between horns and rhythm section on "Tail Lights," the chemistry between the musicians on this album is palpable. It's the kind of musical telepathy that can only come from years of shared experience and mutual respect.

"The Drop" is a tour de force of modern fusion music that showcases Jeff Lorber Fusion at the peak of their creative powers. With its stellar playing, captivating compositions, and undeniable chemistry, this album explores the possibilities of what's possible in groove fusion. So, grab your headphones and crank up the volume; trust me, you won't be disappointed.

ETHAN IVERSON Technically Acceptable

Album · 2024 · Post Bop
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Ethan Iverson's second venture with Blue Note, "Technically Acceptable," is a sonic canvas that stretches across the broad landscape of jazz, marrying tradition with today's jazz in a way that only a musician of Iverson's caliber can. This set of thirteen songs shows his understanding of jazz's past, present, and path to the future, showcasing his skills as a pianist, composer, and curator of exceptional talent. Through the interplay of two distinct trios, Iverson navigates various jazz epochs, delivering a performance that celebrates the genre's rich investigation of sounds.

The album starts with the trio of Thomas Morgan on bass and Kush Abadey on drums, immediately grabbing your attention with "Conundrum." This opening track is an engaging blend of rhythmic precision, harmonic depth, and melodic uplift, peppered with classical flourishes towards its end. It clearly indicates the trio's synergy and Iverson's adeptness in crafting compositions that are as intellectually stimulating as they are emotionally resonant.

"Victory is Assured (Alla Breve)" embodies the essence of the West Coast jazz movement with its playful yet sophisticated approach, incorporating a traditional swing sensibility alongside Iverson's stride piano embellishments. This piece mirrors the spirit of artists from the West Coast scene, known for their cool, contrapuntal jazz flavors and a penchant for blending classical influences with jazz improvisation. The track's structure and rhythmic complexity pay homage to the era's characteristic blend of meticulous, elegant rhythm and spontaneous expression, marking an expression that resonates with the historical depth and artistic innovation of mid-20th-century jazz.

The title track, "Technically Acceptable," plunges into the heart of hard bop with a display of complexity and spontaneity. The trio crafts an intricate flow of rhythmic and harmonic lines while achieving a seamless blend of technical skill and expressive depth. This composition embodies the quintessential qualities of hard bop—soulful expression, dynamic interplay, and a robust bop and gospel rhythmic foundation. Through this track, the essence of hard bop's golden era can be heard in Iverson's fusion of virtuosic skill and melodic intensity that characterizes the genre's enduring appeal.

Meanwhile, tracks like "It's Fine to Decline" venture into avant-garde domains, echoing the adventurous and boundary-pushing piano styles that are hallmarks of the genre's most innovative artists. This piece demonstrates the trio's adeptness at navigating dynamic shifts in style and atmosphere, embodying the spirit of exploration and experimentation. The composition pays tribute to the legacy of pioneering pianists who blended a wide array of influences—from classical to bebop and beyond—into their playing, creating a sound that defies categorization. This track captures the essence of avant-garde jazz's freedom, showcasing a commitment to add avant-garde textures to a conventional jazz form with maximum musical expression.

The album's latter half introduces a second trio with Simón Willson on bass and Vinnie Sperrazza on drums, offering fresh interpretations of standards. Their take on "Killing Me Softly with His Song" is a balance of space and melodic expression, while the rendition of Monk's "'Round Midnight" is a standout, with Rob Schwimmer's theremin adding an ethereal dimension to the timeless classic. This second ensemble amplifies the piano's role, allowing Iverson to delve deeper into melodic development and showcase his exceptional range, as in the European jazz flavors of "The Feeling is Mutual."

Iverson's solo work on the three-movement "Piano Sonata" is a riveting conclusion to the album, blending blues, stride, and classical influences to showcase his virtuosity and creative vision. The movements navigate through tempos and textures with a narrative coherence reflecting Iverson's deep musical intellect and ability to transcend genre boundaries.

Throughout "Technically Acceptable," Iverson and his collaborators profoundly respect jazz's lineage while merging with today's jazz structures. The album is a vibrant dialogue between the past and the present, marked by introspection, exuberance, and sheer musicality. Iverson's playing is a bridge between eras, infused with a modernist spirit that respects tradition without being constrained. The contributions of both trios are indispensable, each bringing a unique texture and perspective that enrich the album's sonic palette.

DARDEN PURCELL Love's Got Me in a Lazy Mood

Album · 2023 · Vocal Jazz
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Darden Purcell's album, “Love's Got Me In A Lazy Mood,” unfolds as a project that is a meticulous assembly of jazz artistry. The eleven tracks finely exhibit Purcell's mastery as a vocalist and the collaborative spirit that jazz embodies. With arrangements and an original by Shawn Purcell, they present a vocal jazz set that reflects jazz's past elegance while carving out a contemporary program in sound and texture.

“Love's Got Me In A Lazy Mood” is an album that captures the essence of vocal jazz's power as Darden's vocal contributions bring strong melody singing and her ability to use her voice as an instrument. Darden's agile voice serves as the guiding light through this journey, with a warm and commanding tone. Her ability to navigate the complexities of jazz singing, from the blues-infused narratives to the lyrical delicacies of the Great American Songbook, is delightful. Her interpretations of the melodies are grounded in the lineage of jazz, with a strong West Coast vibe, but all with a keen ear for precise jazz rhythms and articulations.

The album starts with "Willow Weep for Me," where Shawn's cleaver arrangement immediately sets a tone of rhythmic exploration. Joe Locke's vibraphone and Shawn's guitar both add texture and energy to the music, which is lyrical and forward-moving. Darden's vocal delivery on this track demonstrates her unique and organic jazz phrasing and emotive storytelling of the lyrics, capturing the listener's imagination and setting the stage for the album's narrative arc. In "Love's Got Me in a Lazy Mood," we are treated to Darden's vocal versatility as she imbues the song with a sense of effortless grace, while navigating its angular intervals with a deep understanding of jazz's expressive jargon.

The rendition of "A Cottage for Sale" is a moment to enjoy Darden's grace as a balladeer. Her breath control and emotive accents add to the song's narrative essence and melodic flow. The arrangement supports her every step, allowing the listener to fully immerse themselves in the storytelling as the harmonic support from Shawn's and Todd Simon's piano cradle every nuance.

"Estrada Branca (This Happy Madness)" stands out with Purcell's fluency in the Latin jazz genre. Her vocal agility, combined with the Brazilian groove laid down by Jeff Reed's bass and Todd Harrison's drums, creates an enchanting musical moment. The bilingual delivery adds layers of texture and depth, further showing Purcell's extraordinary range and sensitivity.

"Chatterbox," an original composition by Shawn with lyrics written by Darden, is a perfect balance of Darden acting as an instrumentalist and vocalist. The style of this vocalese has its spirit in the hard-bop tradition. Here, Darden's lyrical ingenuity shines, supported by the ability to sing these bop lines with a compelling 'horn-like' approach with clear diction, which is excellent. The track is a vibrant celebration of jazz's enduring vitality, with each musician bringing their unique voice to the collective conversation.

"Taking a Chance on Love" encapsulates the album's essence, blending the historical with the contemporary. The arrangement's nod to the iconic styles of George Shearing and Marty Paich, combined with Purcell's playful and sophisticated vocal interpretation, serves as a fitting culmination to this musical odyssey.

“Love's Got Me In A Lazy Mood” has a balance of vocal jazz tradition and innovative exploration, highlighting the evolving role of a vocalist within the genre. Darden Purcell's exceptional vocal artistry, combined with a symbiotic relationship with her ensemble, weaves a compelling narrative that honors and expands vocal jazz's boundaries. Through inventive arrangements and a carefully curated selection of songs, the album invites listeners to delve into vocal jazz's many textures and complexities, seamlessly integrating past and contemporary elements. “Love's Got Me In A Lazy Mood” propels the conversation of the role of a jazz vocalist, ensuring its relevance and vitality in the jazz canon.


Album · 2023 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
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In contemporary jazz, few artists in their early twenties—or any age, for that matter—have encapsulated the essence of innovation, technical fluidity, and emotional depth as Joey Alexander. With his offering, "Continuance," Alexander's seventh studio album, Alexander shows his evolving artistry and indelible influence from the broader span of music, achieved at the tender age of 20. This album provides a precise listening experience of emotional narratives and complex musical ideas with a maturity that belies his years.

At the heart of "Continuance" lies Alexander's command of the piano, a skill that intertwines effortlessly with his compositional contributions tone. The album, featuring a mix of five of his original compositions alongside transformative renditions of "I Can't Make You Love Me" and "Great Is Thy Faithfulness," showcases Alexander's maturity as a performer, composer, and arranger. His ability to phrase melodies like stories through harmonies is particularly evident in "Blue." Here, Alexander employs a staccato riff as the foundational motif, which blossoms under his touch into a captivating narrative, enhanced by Kris Funn's bass and John Davis's drums, with Theo Croker's trumpet melodies adding a layer of warmth. Alexander's solo is a musical narration marked by dynamic contrasts and a fluent, elegant groove that speaks volumes of his emotional intelligence as a musician.

"Hear Me Now" is another composition that underscores Alexander's finesse in melding textures and tones. The addition of the Mellotron introduces a classical dimension to the jazz quartet, creating a space that feels familiar and fresh. Alexander's exploration of harmonic textures and mood shifts in this piece highlights his compositional development, offering a sonic experience as rich in emotion as technical sophistication.

His rendition of "I Can't Make You Love Me" has a balance of harmonic complexity and emotional appeal. Alexander's dual performance on piano and Fender Rhodes injects a fresh vitality into this pop-rock hit, supported by Funn's resonant bass and the cohesive dynamism of Davis' drums. This arrangement bridges pop-rock and contemporary jazz, infusing new life into a well-loved melody with an artistic vision.

"Continuance" is a strong presence in Alexander's discography, marking a phase of artistic variability and creative maturity. This album emphasizes storytelling, textural richness, and rhythmic sophistication. The synergy between Alexander and his rhythms section and Theo Croker's contributions elevates the album to a conversational and engaging performance. The ensemble's cohesion and the intuitive interplay bring Alexander's compositions to life, making "Continuance" have a narrative of growth, exploration, and depth of styles.


Album · 2023 · Fusion
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Today, jazz lovers, we are talking about contemporary jazz, Australian-born guitarist and composer Nic Vardanega, and his album, “New Beginning,” presented in a guitar, bass, and drums trio format. Through eight original compositions, Vardanega, alongside bassist Ben Allison and drummer Allan Mednard, craft a set of music with a distinct identity that explores the nuanced interplay of a trio deeply in sync.

“New Beginning” is anchored by Vardanega's robust guitar abilities. His playing combines precision and patience, seamlessly integrating catchy melodic lines with colorful chordal structures. The opening track, "New Beginning," exemplifies this balance, weaving Latin rhythms with the folk-jazz essence, creating a lively piece endowed with lyricism. Vardanega's solos shine brightly on the project, particularly in tracks like "Side Effects" and "Glass Moon," where his ability to construct complex melodies with expressive rhythmic depth is fully displayed.

Compositionally, Vardanega's work on “New Beginning” is the root of the trio's sound. Each piece is a distinct narrative chapter, reflecting his personal and musical growth. The album's thematic coherence is rooted in the idea of renewal, mirroring Vardanega's life transitions, including his recent fatherhood. This personal touch imbues the album with authenticity and emotional resonance, particularly in the reflective "M's Lullaby" and the vibrant "Summers."

The trio's interaction is another highlight of the album. The synergy between Vardanega, Allison, and Mednard is palpable, creating a dynamic and responsive musical conversation. This is evident in the playful interchange of "Inner Episode" and the soulful dialogue of "Looking Back." Allison's bass lines provide a solid foundation, while Mednard's drumming adds texture and momentum, allowing Vardanega's guitar to express the song's intricacies freely. Their collective empathy enhances the album's overall feel, making each composition a shared expression of virtuosity and vision that combines to form a cohesive whole.

The album navigates through a spectrum of moods and styles, from the buoyant rhythms of "Cardenas" to the cinematic narrative of "Looking Back." "Inner Episode" is a modern jazz composition showcasing the trio's ability to blend modern harmonic colors with a fluid swing. Inspired by jazz legends like Joe Henderson, Vardanega infuses his playing with a modern jazz vocabulary informed by today's jazz structures and deeply rooted in the tradition of bop and post-bop.

“New Beginning” is a solid outing for the jazz guitar trio. Vardanega's compositions reflect and enable his musical identity, enriched by the rapport and versatility of his collaboration with Allison and Mednard. The album has a fresh influence from Australian folk music with contemporary American modern jazz sounds. “New Beginning” is a tasteful set with musicality and a trio that is cohesive in its interplay, making “New Beginning” an exciting listen.

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