This album sounds more like a long-lost David Axelrod album circa 1969 than just a casual jazz album, not sure of it’s Aldo Romano‘s Italian sensibility or just having a different perspective on things. What I love about Origine (Dreyfuss) is its understand of space and pacing. One of the things I love about obscure Italian soundtracks is not only how distant (read “foreign”) it sounds, but how it seems to know what I want to hear, even though it has never met me. This is one of those albums that you wish every jazz fan knew about or owned. It will become the jazz album you will introduce as someone’s first entrance into jazz. This will become the fodder of hip-hop producers in twenty years. This is the sound of the magic in jazz you thought was lost.
Yes, I do realize the title for this is After-Birth Of Cool, as in “oh, this is after Birth Of Cool“, but no matter what I think, it’s as if this is the Afterbirth Of Cool. If this was a Peter Brötzmann album, I could understand the reason for it. Misguided title aside, the Chris Graham Trio create the kind of jazz you enjoy hearing on albums by The Modern Jazz Quartet, as the vibraphone is the focused instrument and you can never go wrong with that. It’s a short album (7 tracks clocking in at 28:51) but one that packs a lot of strength into it, I wished they could have at least added another 16 minutes to it to be a more robust album. What it may lack in length, it makes up for in musicianship, and this is what Graham, drummer Oliver Hunt, and bassist Alex Austin show in music that is meant to show the influence of that Birth Of Cool, and how being in its presence doesn’t mean hiding behind its or anyone’s shadow. Songs like “Salt ‘N Ice”, “1957″, “Punchin’ Trout”, and “471 Lb.” just bring to mind those cherished albuns and musicians people will battle about to this day, but done with today’s mentality. That doesn’t mean it tries to update or upgrade, it’s just played with a knowledge of the music’s own history, and you hear the acknowledgment exchange throughout. Bob Katz mastered this album, so if you’re familiar with his previous works, you will get chicken skin with this one.
This is one of those massage albums that you’ll want to be sure to remain moist for throughout its duration, for anything less would mean chapped hands. Reflection (self-released) is a brilliant album from trumpeter Michael C. Lewis, who at times plays with the unfiltered smoothness of Miles Davis, but he is at his best when he puts the Miles hat on the side and just plays in the key of Lewis. The album is a nice mixture of smooth jazz with some of that quiet storm you know and love, mixing up soulful tones with a solo and walls of synth madness that immediately brings up that vibe you’re looking for in a romantic situation.
Arguably, one can just let this album go in the background but I think his playing is worthy of your attention, for while he is more than capable of putting himself on automatic, he doesn’t do that. There are a few mid-tempo songs but in this setting they’re not as good as the slow jams, yet I would love to hear how he plays in an uptempo setting with capable musicians. The mid-tempo songs only bring forward the fact that the drums and percussion are programmed. I have nothing against them, but with Lewis’ style of playing he needs genuine drums to work off of. A necessity, of course not, but this is what I would like to hear, perhaps in future projects.
If it’s romance you want, Reflection is the perfect album to suit your needs. If it’s fine musicianship from a trumpeter who knows what he’s doing, Lewis is your man of the hour.
The moment the music hit on Chris Colangelo‘s Elaine’s Song (C-Note), I knew this would be really good, and fortunately my instincts are still working for me. Bassist Colangelo, along with pianist John Beasley, drummer Steve Hass, and saxophonists Bob Sheppard, Benn Clatworthy (who also plays flute) and Zane Musa create brilliant jazz that is most certaintly influenced by some of the best jazz musicians in the music’s history. While two of the songs make claim to this (“Like Kenny (For Kenny Garrett)” and “Watts Important (For Jeff “Tain” Watts)”), you can simply hear their shared love of music throughout each of these songs, sounding as if the time machine stopped somewhere in the mid-70′s or early 80′s, and ECM Records were the jazz lords.
Most of the songs on this album are Colangelo originals, and one could imagine what these songs would be like if explored further in a live setting, especially the Coltrane-ish beauty of “Like Kenny”. Coltrane’s own “Straight Street” is moved into the 21st century with the help of Sheppard’s soprano sax work, and you feel like you’re walking on that exact street, trying to steer yourself away from the incoming traffic because of how crafty these guys are. Elaine’s Song is a very fine album, from the choice of songs and track order, to the way it was recorded, don’t ignore this one.
As much as I claim that I don’t like smooth jazz, there is something oddly appealing about hearing people not quite giving it their all, but making to make an effort to say that they are dedicated musicians. How can it not be music for profit? Then I begin to think: am I wrong in putting this music down?
I don’t know about “wrong”, but there is an honest appeal to the simplicity of the music that at times is far better than anything I hear on Top 40 radio these days, and I hear this “better” in Dream Life (That Other Label/Pacific Coast Jazz). “Tell Me A Bedtime Story”, with his luxurious flute solos, sounds straight out of the late 70′s, mixing it up Kalapana, Seawind, or Hiroshima style, and for me it brings me back home to Hawai’i for a few minutes. The title track is slathered with a dated Soul II Soul beat but the guitar work drives the song into another direction, the synthesized/sequenced percussion does a number to you, and it becomes something else that I did not expect once the saxophone moves in for its solo. Then you have the sugary-sweet R&B ballad groove of “For You I Will”, a cover of the song made famous by Atlanta R&B vocalist Monica, and with enough of a push it could actually become a hit on its own merits.
If this music is meant to describe and/or define life in a dream state, it’s mellowness at its best. Smooth jazz is my guilty pleasure, for while I enjoy the experimental, avant-garde, and abrasive jazz, I’ve always enjoyed the cool vibe by countless jazz artists, and while some might expect for me to hate this, I do not. It’s smooth jazz, take it or leave it, but for fans of jazz who may dabble in the delicate side of their music, Fingerprints will definitely leave a trace on you.
The first word that came to my mind after the first guitar strum was “Americana”, and yet what exactly defines Americana? Yet somehow the distant echoes of Pearl Jam and Wilco combined together to create the sounds that Red Wanting Blue create on their album These Magnificent Miles (Fanatic), and what I liked about it is that while it may have an Americana feel, it’s also an album you’ll want to play if you’re taking those long drives along highways unknown, as their experiences described in song become your own.
The only song that failed for me was “You Are My Las Vegas”, which sounded as if it was trying to cash in on the Juno phenomenon, at least musically, although the lyrics about not wanting to be along and looking for Las Vegas-like thrills in life could easily be turned into any style and still be effective. I loved the Herb Alpert-esque trumpet solo in the song, which shows a great pop sensibility that is explored a bit these days but not in a mainstream fashion. Maybe it’s meant to be that way. “Where You Wanna Go” travels on that smokey, bluesy feel The Black Crowes are known for, with a bit of country flavor that could help them crossover. “Finger In The Air” is immediately reminiscent of The Rolling Stones‘ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”.
Fans of Creed and Bon Jovi will find a lot to enjoy about Red Wanting Blue, and if these guys plan things out well, they could be with us 10 to 20 years from now. With luck, the words These Magnificent Miles will be a way for these guys to describe their musical voyage in 2030.
Vocal jazz eats up my ass, for real. Occasionally when a singer creates an album with their husband or boyfriend, it stirs up trouble in my mind, or the kind of trouble which is my way of saying “this is crap”. Fortunately in the case of Davis And Dow‘s Loverly (self-released), it is not crap.
Harsh words aside, I think what works to their advantage is the chemistry heard not only in Julie Davis‘s vocals, but Kelly Dow‘s guitar work, both of which I find to be playful and sly at times as they go through songs like “Underneath The Apple Tree”, “Reaching For The Moon”, and “You’re My Thrill”, it’s the kind of intimate peepers seek but rarely actually touch unless they obtain it for themselves. Backed by a band who are in control of those jazz kegels, they keep it tight and intense without being selfish, and that too is nice, especially bassists Paul Shewchuk and Don Coffman as they interact with drummers Lenny Steinberg and Tony Morello. What was also a plus is the violin work of Federico Britos, whose playing in only three of the album’s eleven tracks comes off like a mediator or seductive interpreter, as if Davis’ and Dow’s guitar work wasn’t seductive enough.
The music isn’t complex or difficult to listen to, play it while having wine with your significant over or a moving butfaluck session, if it doesn’t help stir up the proper mood, I don’t know about you. To sum it up, there’s seduction in Davis And Dow’s music because there’s an obvious chemistry that they do not hide or deny, and once you’re caught up in their own personal language, you may want to take off your clothes and share within their dance of the overloaf. As someone who isn’t fond of too many vocal jazz albums, I found myself not only enjoying this, but playing it a number of times. I probably wouldn’t be able to do a review if I had a significant other, so ladies…